* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
After six years of recession the Greek economy in 2016 shows signs of recovery. Greece’s Prime Minsiter, Alex Tsipras writing recently in the Financial Times claims that unemployment in Greece has contracted from 26.5 per cent in 2014 to 24.9 per cent today, and tourism over the same period has broken records bringing in €15.5bn in revenues.
And a few weeks ago a report by the OECD predicted growth by 1.9 percent in 2017 after contracting 0.1 percent this year.
The numbers are encouraging and inspiring. But what does a contraction of unemployment by 1.6 per cent mean to the almost 3m Greek unemployed?
Working on the ground underneath the complex macroeconomics of Greece’s recovery programme and the international financial institutions working with the Government on the bailout are a battalion of the social entrepreneurs and organisations resolving Greece’s massive unemployment problem with innovation one job at a time.
One such organisation is Partners for Youth Employment (PYE), supported by Ashoka’s THIS WORKS initiative. PYE is taking that idea of empowerment and bringing it to where it’s needed most – the youth population.
With its Creative Community Model, PYE offers proven facilitation training directly to the people who teach, mentor and support youth using a powerful blend of creative facilitation, experiential learning, and arts empowerment techniques. PYE helps educators build community and nurture leadership skills including creativity, empathy, and teamwork in order to prepare students for the new world of work. Over the last 9 years PYE has reached 1 million youth in 10 countries around the globe. But they will not stop - their goal is to radically change the way we experience learning in today’s society.
In September 2014, PYE presented it’s format to local educators in Thessaloniki. This interest materialised into a €30,000 investment in local activities, aimed at scaling PYE’s Creative Community Model in Greece. Since then, PYE has run seven training events in the country, reaching over 185 practitioners of which 110 were teachers.
Athens teacher Nikoleta Foti is a perfect example. Just a few weeks after her training, she reported, “I have already implemented many tools. My students wrote poems, performed, played ‘magic word’ and ‘yes…and’ and they loved it. I loved it too because I found out that ‘weak’ and ‘indifferent’ students not only participated but stood up and even found the answers. Their voices were finally heard!”
“I now realize that I am someone of great value, and can make things happen.” Ugandan Youth Participant – Age 14
Integration is a challenge at Foti’s school where there is a high percentage of migrant youth. But she’s noticing a shift: “I am trying to build a team spirit in a class with many problems. Of course, we have a long journey, but we have found a common base.”
By engaging youth in the learning experience, students learn to take initiative, hone essential soft skills like teamwork, effective communication and problem solving, begin to enjoy classes and bond with their teachers which decreases early drop-outs and raises academic achievements.
At the request of local partners, PYE is currently planning a new phase of training programs in 2016 and are assessing the launch of the first Creative Community Camp in Greece, engaging local trained teachers and youth workers.
The EU has seen the value of this program; together with the University of Macedonia, PYE is also part of a EU-funded project through which they will be able to further boost their scale-up plans. Greece’s recovery is not dependent just on high-level nation fiscal reform, but it relies also on pro-active social entrepreneurs like PYE who are innovating and creating new tools and methodologies to solve Greece’s unemployment problem from the ground up.
This post was written by Jennifer Neuner and Julian Philips, Pro Bono Storytellers for Ashoka, and is part of “THIS WORKS” series produced by Ashoka in the context of the initiative with a homonymous title. Read more about THIS WORKS program here and register now to THIS WORKS SUMMIT taking place in Brussels on June 29.