Picture of Erika Spagakou

Erika Spagakou

Co-Founder of Ecogenia

On the road to institutional recognition of civic service in Greece

Statement by Ecogenia’s Co-Founder, Erika Spagakou, following the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Litochoro, where Ecogenia’s civic service project – Olympus 2024 is being implemented
Our mission at Ecogenia is clear: we aim to cultivate a new generation of citizens who are active in their communities, who are solution-oriented and find ways to overcome obstacles, who operate with collective rather than individual criteria and who, through their behavior and choices, ensure that they have the lowest possible climate footprint and contribute to addressing the climate crisis at the local level.
The vehicle to bring this mission to fruition is none other than the Civic Service model. A model of youth development that arises where volunteering meets vocational training and paid work. In other words, we recruit and train young people, and then place them in the field through a paid service term to carry out projects that promote the ‘common good’ by responding to the needs of the community in question.
In Ecogenia’s case, these projects always focus on strengthening climate resilience and sustainable development, prioritizing communities on the frontline of the climate crisis. However, the model itself lends itself to a range of applications on a variety of issues, as long as they always promote the common benefit of the community.
In action on the field
Many countries in Europe, as well as the USA and Canada, have institutionalized civic service, recognizing its multiple benefits. To name a few, people who have participated in civic service programs are more likely to become lifelong volunteers in their community and to vote in elections, while a high proportion of people who graduate from civic service are able to find employment in a field related to the project they served as they have developed important relevant skills. The long-term benefits for the country are also numerous. A workforce with a sense of responsibility and collective conscience is being nurtured, that possesses the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to a more sustainable and resilient society.
But what does state/institutional recognition of the civic service model mean? It is the creation of a state mechanism/registry that subsidizes individuals who participate in these programs by awarding them a civic service stipend (or allowance), and covering their social insurance. At the same time, organizations that offer such programs can also be subsidized, with the state funding a small portion of their operating costs in terms of training young people with the skills they will need on the field.
With a view to securing institutional recognition of the civic service in Greece, Ecogenia has placed great emphasis over the last 3 years on raising awareness about the model among relevant institutional stakeholders, showcasing its potential in reducing youth unemployment and training the future workforce of the country.
An important milestone for us on this journey was being able to introduce our work to Greece’s Prime Minister, Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, during his recent visit to Litochoro, where Ecogenia’s current civic service project “Olympus 2024” is being implemented, focusing on trail maintenance and fuel reduction ahead of the wildfire-season. The brief meeting with our Cohort Members highlighted the multifaceted potential of our model, underlining the value of each young person’s contribution to the empowerment of the country through an established year of paid service.
Recommending Ecogenia to the Prime Minister of the country
We also had the opportunity to highlight to the Prime Minister our strategic cooperation with the Municipality of Dion-Olympus and the Ministry of Environment and Energy through a Memorandum of Cooperation under the supervision of the Forestry Directorate of Pieria. As well as to present the technical capacity-building exchange between Ecogenia and the California Conservation Corps (CCC), which is taking place within the framework of the program “From California to Mt. Olympus” with the support of the US Embassy in Greece.
Greece has the opportunity to become the first European country to institutionalize a national youth climate corps. Imagine crews of young people stationed in every corner of Greece, carrying out environmental conservation and disaster prevention projects year-round. How much more beautiful, clean, sustainable and protected would our country be then?
Recommending Ecogenia to the Prime Minister of Greece
At Ecogenia, we work every day towards institutional progress that puts the new generation at the helm. With every step we take, we expect to empower every young person in Greece to help shape a more sustainable future. The path we have chosen is full of challenges and opportunities. With each new project, with each new partnership, the horizon becomes a little brighter. And it is this bright outlook that motivates us every day to work for a better world, one step at a time!
Ecogenia and the California Conservation Corps: a strategic capacity building exchange