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March 27, 2012

The Citizenship we need now is about transforming institutions

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Written by: pdcadmin

By Ian Kehoe

In these unprecedented times in Greece, it is more important than ever to question the purposes and outcomes of social projects and institutions in order to make sure we are really tackling the underlying causes and behaviours that led us to this crisis.

Recently, there has been a renewed interest in alternative social projects, most of these projects clearly have a lot of value in terms of raising awareness, raising confidence and strengthening communities; however, in terms of citizenship, and given the causes of this crisis, perhaps our focus now also needs to be on delivering institutional change. All our state institutions need a renewed social purpose, from the church to universities, social services, military service, local councils, all the way to the higher institutions of government.

Delivering this kind of change is messy and far less attractive than other popular initiatives, it is more difficult to promote and there is little to attract us to it as a task as it potentially involves conflict, changes in our own and others behaviour and stubborn dedication over a long time. Yet it is through our institutions that our citizenship is actually expressed – through it that our social contract with the state is lived out – the extent to which we engage with institutions and demand reform, accountability, an end to corruption and visionary leadership is the measure of our citizenship that really matters in the long term. The countries that were most stable through this crisis and have best managed to protect their people have been those with institutions that function efficiently, ethically and with an agreed social purpose.

There is however an attraction at the moment to the idea of avoiding dealing with these institutions, of giving up on them and focusing on alternative ideas. This is understandable, but the state exists because many people are not able to do things for themselves – we cannot stop believing that these are our institutions, accountable to us and ultimately created by us – they are the way they are because our behaviour allowed them to become like that. If we have alternative ideas lets apply them to the institutions we already have. In the end, if we don’t deal with them, the problems and culture that led to the crisis will still exist in the way the state works.

I find it is striking how little has actually changed at a local and state level during this crisis. With 51% of young people unemployed in Greece we should be enabling them, not to avoid the real problems, but to get to grips with them and develop projects that involve them engaging directly with how the state is run and how it supports them in their own initiatives and growth. Perhaps we should be opening a dialogue on how this could work, what is being done, and what the state could do to support it.

Sometimes it can feel like we are all waiting and hoping that someone else will take the messy problems on, but so far it seems there is still no one to change the things that matter but us. Optimism is believing someone somewhere will solve the problems, hope is knowing we can do it ourselves.






3 Comments


  1. Anthony Montgomery

    Great article, really enjoyed it. Greek institutions are very efficient at maintaining the status quo, so real change will need a combination of structural change and a little revolution….


  2. Elene Karpowich

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  3. tony kehoe

    As the home of Democracy Greece is being watched carefully by all the rest of us in Europe who are suffering the same ” democratic deficit”
    What we hope for is that the inheritors of the torch of democracy and the spirit of Plato, dont settle for street protest only or in Ireland’s case resigned passivity, but lead the way!. After all Greece has experienced every form of swing from left to right extremes and everything in between,so the rest of us hope, by now, Greeks, more than anyone else, should know what works and what doesn’t.
    As Ian rightly argues, current and future generations cannot afford to pass control,to any institution, local or national without ensuring new innovative checkback controls are in place, which can confirm they are operating in the public good. Perhaps the widespread availability of digital media could facilitate this.?
    My generation failed to do hold our institutions to account….and look at the awful cost.



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