Thessaloniki, sharing experiences of self-organization

International symposium, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, October 10th 2014

The report of the symposium and the visits to the local initiatives in Thessaloniki is available here.

Self-organization is a term that evokes images of freedom and independence, and many people place a lot of hope for positive change in the world on bottom-up, grassroots, self-organized movements around the world. However, successful self-organized communities or networks often rely on a common vision and a set of rules; and unfortunately there is not a recipe for success. Sometimes, a charismatic leader, a crisis, and a combination of diverse factors play a key role. There are also many important decisions that need to be taken regarding the position of a self-organized network in relation to the “outside” world in terms of inclusiveness and compatibility.

Both the complexity and the importance of the concept of self-organization have attracted the attention of most scientific disciplines, from biology and physics, to engineering and social sciences. However, it is not always clear whether the scientific study of such initiatives is supportive of their objectives and which should be the limits of scientific enquiry and involvement.

This symposium brings together two small groups of people from Greece and abroad, to share their experiences on self-organization as researchers and/or activists and try to respond to the following questions:

  • Can research and action reinforce each other?
  • Which are the lessons from past and recent examples of self-organization?
  • Can we offer tools, best practices that can facilitate self-organization?
  • Is there a meaningful and useful way to describe the trade-offs between inclusiveness and exclusiveness, alternatives and complements, inside or outside the system?
  • How self-organization structures deal with pressures from mainstream economy and/or authorities?
  • What model(s) of social transformation is proposed in practice by initiatives in the social solidarity economy and how effective can that be under the present conditions of crisis, globalized markets etc.?
  • How self-organization can secure access to public goods which should be available to everyone (adequate food, housing, healthcare, education, etc)?


11h00-11h20 Welcome note and introduction (Alexandros Kioupkiolis)

11h20-11h30 The project COMPARE (Panayotis Antoniadis)

11h30-12h30 Panel: Solidarity economy in Greece (Karolos Kavoulakos, Giorgos Gritzas, Giorgos Agelopoulos)

12h30-13h00 coffee break

13h00-14h00 Panel: Complementary currencies and alternative finance (Irene Sotiropoulou,  Paolo Dini, Brett Scott)

14h00-15h00 Lunch

15h00-16h00 Panel: Self-organization in the city (Philipp Klaus, Iva Čukić)

16h00-18h00 Open discussion

List of participants

Alexandros Kioupkiolis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,

Athina Vitopoulou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,

Brett Scott, independent activist,

George Agelopoulos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,

Giorgos Gritzas, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,

Ileana Apostol, ETH Zurich,

Irene Sotiropoulou, independent researcher, PhD (Economics department, University of Crete),

Iva Čukić, Ministry of Space, Belgrade,,

Karolos Kavoulakos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,

Panayotis Antoniadis, ETH Zurich,

Paolo Dini, London School of Economics,

Philipp Klaus, INURA Zurich Institute,,


The symposium will be held at room 107, 1st floor of the campus building of the Faculty of Economic and Political Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, University Campus, 54124, 
Thessaloniki, Greece.

The attendance of the symposium is open and free but please let us know if you plan to come, by sending an e-mail to


This symposium is organized by the project COMPARE, Interdisciplinary explorations of self-organization in practice, which is partially funded by the EINS Network of Excellence on Internet Science, EU FP7 grant 288021.

We are a diverse group of researchers and practitioners including, in alphabetical order, a computer scientist and engineer (Panayotis Antoniadis, ETH Zurich), an architect and urban planner (Ileana Apostol, ETH Zurich), an interdisciplinary scientist (Paolo Dini, London School of Economics), a political theorist (Alexandros Kioupkiolis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), a geographer and artist (Philipp Klaus, INURA), and an activist and entrepreneur (Giuseppe Littera, SARDEX). From our different perspectives, we explore the concept of self-organization through observations, comparisons and reflections on real case studies in Greece, Italy, and Switzerland. Our key objective is to draw lessons for the design of tools and local institutions that build on social values, in order to invent and facilitate alternative urban lifestyles.