M2M Solidarity

Shared notions of solidarity from Komotini in Greece and Barcelona

Is there a culture of European solidarity? Yes, if you look at the local level. Experiments with new forms of democracy have transformed many local communities in Europe.

For people in Komotini (Greece) and Barcelona (Spain), solidarity means community and taking action, especially in times of crisis. Engaging in politics at the municipal level allows communities excluded from society to make their voices heard and, most importantly, to empower themselves and improve their lives. Under the umbrella of M2MSolidarity both municipalities have elaborated a joint photo essay that shows inspiring stories of trust and resilience. By exploring their visions of solidarity they identified three themes that conceptualize how they have taken action: Solidarity to combat social isolation, Solidarity to help save the planet and Solidarity to combat poverty.

This photo essay is an outcome of the M2M Solidarity project initiated by the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. The project brought 11 European community-based projects together in groups of two or three with a brief to each to produce an expression of European solidarity.

Theme 1: Solidarity to combat social isolation

Komotini – Independent Living Training Center for People with Disabilities (KEADA*)

The Association “PERPATO” was founded in 2002 in the city of Komotini with the goal to organise and educate people with kinetic impairments to improve their living conditions and transform Komotini into a completely accessible living environment.

In 2012 “PERPATO” founded the Training Center for Autonomous Living of Persons with Disabilities in a building owned by the Municipality of Komotini. The center provides training services to 21 beneficiaries with mobility disabilities in order for them to participate autonomously in as many areas of life as possible.

Barcelona – How are you?

How do older people in the city feel in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic? To answer this question, the “How are you?” project was launched. The initiative involved 70,000 calls to people between the ages of 70 and 84 who were not users of any municipal service to find out first-hand about their emotional state, identify possible situations of loneliness or emotional suffering and inform them about support resources. In cases where the need was detected, the regular call protocol was activated by a specialised psychological service. “How are you?” made it possible to attend to and accompany the city’s elderly to alleviate, above all, the loneliness, sadness and grief caused by the pandemic, and also to extend the reach of municipal services.

Theme 2: Solidarity to help save the planet

Komotini – Ecology Group of Rodop

This is the slogan of Ecology Group of Rodopi, of which we are members and which has been active since 1990. For the past 22 years, apart from the environmental issues that concern us (composting, recycling, environmental protection, wild animals treatment etc), we have been successfully active in our campaign against gold extraction and mining that is going on in our region through ongoing struggles.

Barcelona – We protect the schools

Protecting schools aims to open up the city to children to care for their physical, emotional and cognitive development. Barcelona is transforming the areas around schools to free them from traffic, noise, fumes and pollution, and to expand and improve public space with new green and community spaces. Since its launch in 2020, Barcelona’s children have already gained more than a hundred spaces in which to play and learn in safety and breathe clean air.

Theme 3: Solidarity to combat poverty

Komotini – Santa RUN

The 2008 crisis left a lot of our co-citizens in need. In 2012 volunteers with the slogan “Santa is late” invited the whole city into a game of care. A game aimed at collecting food provisions, where solidarity for our fellow human beings was the winner!

Through this initiative, the organizers of the action were able to bring together, local authorities, businesses, cultural and sports clubs, conveying the message that people in vulnerable situations around us need our support throughout the year.

With covid-19 pandemic the main goal is that people’s needs are not in “lockdown” and we have to find  new ways to help.

Barcelona – Community Kitchens

The community kitchens of the Alimenta Project are spaces that promote access to decent, sustainable and healthy food for people in vulnerable situations. They are open to citizens to cook, eat, cultivate, establish social links, educate themselves and find guidance in the field of employment. Their aim is to promote a new model of social care that overcomes welfare, de-stigmatizes situations of economic or housing poverty and encourages local consumption, personal autonomy and self-organisation in food purchasing, such as collective purchasing.

About the participant organisations

Barcelona en Comú

Barcelona en Comú (Catalan for “Barcelona in Common”) is a citizen platform launched in June 2014 that is currently governing in minority in the City of Barcelona. Its policy agenda includes defending social justice and community rights, promoting participatory democracy, introducing mechanisms to tackle corruption, and developing a new model of tourism for Barcelona.

To understand the principles of Barcelona en Comú and how they came about, visit: https://barcelonaencomu.cat/sites/default/files/win-the-city-guide.pdf

Komotini Municipality

The city of Komotini is a unique cultural entity in Greece. It is a patchwork of different cultures, formed due to its key geographical location, with its inhabitants coexisting peacefully over the years. Its turbulent history endowed it with “multiple” identities, which can be seen in its monuments and neighborhoods. In Komotini we share a common vision. Through collective efforts, we promote social cohesion, and we advocate for the right to live with dignity and to have equal access to our services. With these two pillars we are facing the consequences of the economic crises of recent years – and of course Covid -19- with the ultimate goal of improving quality of life.

To learn more, visit https://visitkomotini.com/

About the Logo

In this series of posters we tell stories about the people, “the real everyday people”, behind the acts of solidarity in Barcelona and Komotini. The objective was to create an icon that will show how by coming close to one another we can face every upcoming crisis.

The word “solidarity” is transformed into a logotype. It is no longer just a word on a book, a newspaper or a magazine cover. It’s an image, an icon that compacts the entire concept behind this initiative. This logotype is an artistic representation of all that. That’s why it emphasizes the word “solid” and brings the letters closer. In the center is a red dot – a symbolic use indicating the person or the idea behind the act.

We hope that it will be a symbol to use in many other posters, web sites and promotion; An image that people immediately understand even before reading the rest of the information.

The M2M Solidarity project creates peer-learning exchanges between these collectives, and seeks to contribute to a revival of European solidarity.