Contemporary urban life is challenging with the lack of a strong community spirit. The limited interaction between those living in the same urban spaces results in the lack of community participation. Issues such as segregation, alienation, and polarization exacerbate this phenomenon.
Issues such as segregation, alienation, and polarization exacerbate the lack of community cohesion.
As people become less active in their communities, cohesion within the community also decreases. 2019 Detroit Fellow Sofia Avramopoulou realized that active citizenship is necessary to build more sustainable communities within contemporary urban environments. During her Fellowship in Detroit, she learned that community building can play a pivotal role in a city that faces multiple challenges. Sofia decided to use this knowledge and experience to tackle the problem at home, in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Sofia observed similar issues with urban life in her work with “the Neighborhood’s Room” project in the Municipality of Thessaloniki. This project is a pilot program run by the nonprofit PERA and supported by the Center for Business and Cultural Development (KERA). It introduced a network of municipal community spaces, providing people from multiple neighborhoods the physical space and access to craft materials. This project involved organized activities for neighbors to meet each other and work together on craft projects. Although people seemed interested in the projects, there was a clear lack of confidence when it came to being active in interacting with other participants.
Sofia approached the issue with a two step plan. The first stage consisted of a two day workshop where participants were introduced to the methodology and process of storytelling before splitting up into smaller teams to go out into the neighborhoods and collecting stories. After this initial outreach and collection, there was an open invitation for anyone to visit the Neighborhood’s Room space to contribute their own story.
Sofia hopes that the spread of oral histories will help create and sustain urban memory.
The second stage of her project involved processing the collected material. Sofia compiled a pamphlet from those stories and distributed them in an open event. After this event, where even more community members shared stories, Sofia published a magazine with the extended stories. This magazine was in both digital and printed format so that it could reach more people.
Sofia also aimed to explore the reciprocal relationship between the individuals and the evolution of the space that they inhabit. She decided to focus on oral histories because they can help inhabitants learn about personal histories and relate to the space. She hopes that sharing oral histories will help create and sustain urban memory and the formation of a sense of community.
You can read the full magazine in Greek here: Making Community Stories
This project was done with the help of:
- The Neighborhood’s Room
- PERA NPO (Parina Vasilopoulou, Iannis Kandyliaris, Sofia Avramopoulou)
- Center for Business and Cultural Development (KEPA)
- Stavros Niarchos Foundation
- Youthnest NPO (Thalia Rizou, Chrysa Petala)
- Sakis Gioumpasis- photography