Antonis schwarz: My hope to come clean out of this crisis
Antonis Schwarz is a social entrepreneur of Greek-German origin and the founder of vouliwatch.gr, (vouli: greek word for parliament) the first Greek digital platform that provides the opportunity to familiarize oneself with legislative politics, to communicate, evaluate and hold elected representatives in the Greek and the European Parliament (MPs & MEPs) accountable.
“Why did I come to Greece am“Why did I come to Greece amid crisis? This is the most common questions I face when I tell people about me and my team’s project Vouliwatch. It has already been a long journey for me, but one that is far from being over.”
Born in Germany, after his studies in London and Madrid, Antonis decides in spring 2013 to resettle in Athens. The 26 year old founder, has previously worked for Ashoka, a global organization that supports social entrepreneurs, where he became interested in helping scale successful social businesses from abroad to Greece. “After some research and discussions, it emerged that parliamentwatch, the online platform that enables citizens to ask directly their questions to deputies, would be a perfect fit for such an undertaking." The reason is evident, Greek politics, is in turmoil. In accordance with July 2013 Eurobarometer, 80% of the Greek citizens do not trust the political parties.
Here is Antonis’ story:
"During my master studies at IE Business School, in Madrid, I used my free time to plan my move to Greece. I wanted to return to Greece to try and do my part to fight the crisis, which is, first and foremost a cultural crisis. From my point of view, the current situation presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to break up the rigid structures that are dragging the country ever deeper into a recession.
Young people, from my perspective, have a special role to play in this context. Besides being the new precariat, due to the disastrous labor market situation, I believe it is the historic role of young people to question the values that have been put forth to them by the establishment. Yet the majority of my generation rejects this role. We think it is safer not to resist, to do as we are told and to follow the path of others.
Truth be told, the crisis reached a point where, at least in Greece, we cannot deny that we are living in a dooms day machine. I think the time has come to rise for my generation and to raise our voices. This means to stop following the older generation and to set out, which path we want to follow. In Greece we have a tradition of thinking that political activism will lead to nothing. That the system is too strong. That being said, with vouliwatch, I want to give people hope that change is possible and that the notion of futility in politics has to be overcome. This is indeed a problem not only limited in Greece. Up to now many Greeks thought that the only possible ways to have an impact is through voting on national elections every four years, by using personal connections to reach power or even bribing officials. People need to realize that there is another path beyond the ballot and that corruption is not an option. But for this to work, the political system has to accommodate that citizens have a greater say in public matters.
Indeed we are witnessing the emergence of a democratic push not just in countries of the European periphery, but also in the core countries, since it has become evident to many that the simple model of representational democracy that has served the European countries for a long time is outdated. This becomes especially apparent in times of crisis like the ones we are living in right now.
I know that what I am doing has not been tried before in Greece and that the idea might fail. But I believe it is worth the effort for since we stop trying, we have already failed. Vouliwatch is my hope to come clean out of this crisis. To work up and confront our past and to start anew. The people of Greece deserve this.”
Antonis is already preparing his new Athenian project, which consists in delivering free skateboarding lessons to teenagers.
Notes for the reader:
Vouliwatch.gr offers Greek citizens the possibility to ask public questions to Greek MP’s and MEP’s, as well as well as crowdsourcing citizen data for legislation.
According to Ashoka: "Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change."