Strangers

unReport #7

Katalin Hausel

unMonastery Athens hallway

My first week in Athens. The day after my arrival we had an Open Dinner at the apartment. Mellow, useful conversations, good food, last guests sent away at 12.30. The next days were occupied by CommonsFest, where the unMonastery was presented by two events: Lauren led a workshop on OSCE Days; and I gave a small presentation on the unMonastery, followed by a round table conversation on how to contribute to the commons as strangers.

OCSEDays workshop at CommonsFest
Strangers workshop at CommonsFest

This seems to me one of the real challenges of the unMonastery. The original idea implies bringing strangers together to build a small community, which will then work together with the local community: a group of strangers trying to be useful. How can strangers contribute to the commons? A couple of interesting points emerged: thinking about unMonastery in a local context as keeper of a “found object” that can be claimed and must be returned at any moment, without hesitation. The place we live, the projects we help with or develop, all do not belong to us and need to be ready to be given back as soon as someone local wants it. Another interesting concept that came out of the discussions is “in exchange” — it comes through as suspicious to approach people saying we want to help. It works better to offer an exchange. This requires a knowledge of local context and potential needs, so the scoping report should include a list of potential ‘in exchange’ ideas.

The workshop ended with a question, asking people to imagine that an unMonasterian shows up at their door and offers her help, what would be a tangible task that she could help with. A few small projects were collected, and immediately followed up. One of them is already finished: the municipal gardens in Kaisarianis are threatened to be demolished, and Philipe, who attended the workshop, asked if I can help saving it by making a website and creating some visibility. I went for a visit on Tuesday, took some photos, and together with Luisa we made a logo, a poster, and a website for them.

Kaisarianis Municipal Gardens

Now there will be a community event on Sunday to raise awareness of the importance of the 30 lots that produce vegetables all summer, its material and community value. Working with George from ADDMA, we helped the Kaisarianis gardens to draw up a roadmap of self-organising, reaching out to other community gardens, and getting some political leverage by becoming visible. I see this small project as a prototype for “Progettini” — discovering existing initiatives and ongoing projects; identifying concrete needs; offering missing skills (website work, event organisation, network); assisting all the way until delivery. I got some freshly dug up potatoes in exchange for visiting, and Philipe promised some more vegetables when I am back (leaving Athens for some days). Bartering in action — we need to eat.

Another project I have been working on is a skill exchange meeting in Athens. I invited Marc, an unMonastery Matera veteran, to come and talk about CoderDojo in Matera, visited Stavros at The Cube to follow up on their struggling CoderDojo program, and talked to Penny, as Marc is very interested in learning about Django Girls, her initiative to teach women coding. Wrote to Aggeliki at ADDMA, in the hope to connect this meet-up with schools, so that Marc can actually talk to IT teachers and maybe give a demonstration workshop, in order to scale the project fairly quickly.

The unMonastery in Athens is doing well. With some exceptions, we managed to create a rhythm that fits everyone’s needs. Jeff and Penny are working on the next immigrant community cooking event, a larger scale version of Senait’s kitchen including chefs from 6 countries. James is working on developing our network and ideas for CLSTR****, our inHouse collaborative working agency. Lauren is organising OSCE Days, and Juliana replanted the unGarden. Luisa and I continue to work on websites for various projects.

By the way, we decided to move by the beginning of July to a larger apartment or small house (200 sqm), preferably in Kypseli — if anyone reading this blog has any leads, please drop us a line: athens (at) unmonastery.org.