Here's the problem: Greece's ongoing financial instability has taken its toll on the country. A government debt crisis, exacerbated by Olympic-driven public-investments, created significant economic destabilization. Subsequent austerity policies, bailouts, debt restructuring, protests, riots, strikes, and leveled livelihoods have, together, reduced residents' faith in the national government. How can citizens organize themselves through alternative economies in order to meet their collective needs?

Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons

Here's how one organization is working on the problem: In 2013, Amalia Zeppou, a documentarian and activist, approached the mayor of the city to promote self-organized solutions that had evolved to address the challenges facing Athens. Inspired by her vision, the mayor hired her as an adviser on civil society networking for the city, and she spearheaded the creation of a platform called SynAthina to connect all the local projects, to each other and to the city, as per a story in Citiscope. Soon after, Zeppou became Athens' Vice Mayor for Civil Society.

SynAthina is an online community platform intended to engage civic projects across Athens. It allows citizens to map their activities, post events, and connect with volunteers and funders. Citizens or organizations can submit ideas for city improvements — from enhancing municipal services to changing city policies — and they can partner with the relevant civil servants, businesses, and nonprofits in order to implement innovations.


  • In just the first phase of SynAthina, 120 grassroots groups listed over 500 projects and activities.
  • In 2014, SynAthina was among the winners of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge.
  • By 2016, more than 1,000 projects were posted on SynAthina by over 200 of these self-organized civic groups. To share their innovations beyond Athens, SynAthina implements an evaluation mechanism, wherein the top 10 activities of each year are documented and translated into tool kits that any community can use.

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This case study is adapted from our latest book, "Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons." Get a copy today.

Header image of a screenshot of SynAthina homepage provided by SynAthina

Ryan Conway


Ryan Conway

Ryan is a political economist and community organizer with a passion for the democratic self-organization and ethic of stewardship found frequently in the establishment and endurance of community commons.  As

Things I share: Time, tools, food, seeds, information, strategic analysis, methodological perspective, writing coaching, concepts of resilient municipal infrastructure, and social network connections.