In the open discussions that took place within the framework of the project “Adáma”, which has been implemented in Eleusis by the cultural production and management company MENTOR as part of the EIT Community New European Bauhaus action of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the participants had the opportunity to publicly express their thoughts on  living in a city that faces extreme environmental challenges.

They unanimously acknowledged that their quality of life has been dramatically affected and stressed  the fact that, lately, the situation aggravated, raising serious concerns regarding their well-being.They also appeared particularly concerned about not having access to vital areas of the city, such as the seafront or green spaces, which exacerbates their discomfort and makes them feel marginalised by the state. Consequently, when asked how they think the situation will change, the answers which they provided revealed their disbelief in a solution that could come from a  ‘top-down’ intervention. Moreover, although they consider that the state is obligated to provide solutions, either on a central or regional level, it seems that the authorities are unable or unwilling to do so.

On the contrary, there seems to be a growing conviction among them that the solution must come from themselves, from the grassroots, revealing their strong belief in the feasibility of mobilising local communities. However, they also pointed out the serious information gap in terms of citizens’ awareness of environmental issues, arguing that better information will inevitably lead to greater cohesion, and they also stress the need for the already active citizens’ groups to adopt common strategies for action, putting an end to the current fragmentation of their forces. 

Finally, many people referred to the potentially catalytic role that the interventions of the relevant European Union bodies could play, while underlining the essential contribution of projects such as Adáma, which help to encourage citizens’ networks to take a more active role in managing local problems, bypassing the rigidity of central administration and enhancing direct participation. 

The third phase of the project Adáma-sustainability in the hands of the community, carried out by the cultural production and management company MENTOR as part of the EIT Community New European Bauhaus action of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, was completed with an open dialogue on the serious environmental challenges which the city of Eleusis endures.

Following on from phase one, which entailed the “co-identification” of the ecological problems of the area and phase two, which enabled the “co-visualisation” of the future society, phase three involved the “co-design” of an action strategy aiming to encourage the members of the local community to   bring forward sustainable solutions. In this direction, all working groups, composed of  members of citizens’ organisations such as EcoEleusis, the Elefsina Cycling Club, the Association of Labour Houses of Mandra “Nea Elvetia” and representatives of local government, professional associations and minorities, met on November 5 and 6, 2022, at the Eleusis-West Attica Labour Centre.   

The discussions were held in a particularly warm and friendly atmosphere, as required by the innovative method of the World Café, which is suitable for productive discussions between all members of a community, adopting the principles of equality, inclusiveness and pluralism. Based on six thematic axes, linking the environment to urban planning, culture, inclusiveness, education, security policies and the economy, participants sought solutions on a collaborative basis.

After all, as the title suggests (Adáma in Greek means together), a key aspect of the project is the belief in the value of collaboration. This seems to be confirmed by the success of the discussions of the third phase, which is attested to by the clear and targeted interventions of the citizens of Eleusis themselves, who are forced to experience the city’s problems on a daily basis. A success that is perhaps the best argument in favor of the need to broaden civic participation in environmental decision-making.

Here are the results of the survey done by MENTOR

The first two phases of the project “Adáma” – sustainability in the hands of the community”, which involved research on the environmental issues of Eleusis, experiential discussions and sociodrama sessions with the community, have been successfully completed. Currently, we are already on track for the third and final phase of the project, the drafting of a collective strategic proposal.

In the previous phases, we worked with local citizen groups, namely EcoEleusis, the Elefsina Cycling Group and the “New Switzerland” Workers’ Housing Association and applied participatory practices, such as experiential walks and sociodrama, to “co-identify” local environmental challenges and “co-imagine” the future of a sustainable and more inclusive city.

The experiential actions aim to “co-sense” the way in which these environmental challenges define and affect the daily lives of residents and to deepen the way in which social groups react – as a whole – to the environmental challenges that  the residents of Eleusis and the wider region have to face. 

Adama’s principal ambition is to mobilize the local community to actively participate in civic affairs, starting with the area’s current environmental challenges. 

The survey conducted by MENTOR in the past few months has produced the following results:

87.3% of all respondents answered that “they were informed” about local environmental issues,  with the main sources of information being social media (93%), family/friends (55%) and local environmental organizations (50%). Other sources of information include the press (33%), scientific publications (30%), governmental agencies (25%), television (20%), seminars, workshops and documentaries (14%).

86% of the respondents consider citizen participation in addressing local environmental issues to be “important” or “very important”, reflecting the need for further diversification in decision-making processes, as well as the belief that the future of planning, as a process, lies in more participatory and democratic procedures.

In regards to the most important environmental problems of Eleusis and the wider area, the results of the survey showed that the top issue is sea and water pollution (87%) due to the area’s industrial activity and the sewage system, followed by pollution from industrial activity (84%), and air pollution/exhaust gases/odour (84%), also due to industrial activity and the high volume of vehicles in the area. Other environmental issues with relatively high percentages were human indifference by 60%, lack of greenery/forest destruction by 53%, coastal pollution and waste management by 50% each.

The impacts of climate change in Eleusis acknowledged as “very significant” are the alteration / destruction of monuments, the rise in temperature, and the reduction of drinking water supplies.

Ranked as “very important” are local climate change, landscape alteration/degradation, and the increase in severe weather events. 

82% of the survey participants consider that there should be planning in order to address the impacts of climate change, as well as organised adaptation to the new climate conditions.

Focusing on these 3 main environmental challenges, the question “to what extent do you think that the urban and natural environment of the city is shaped by the respective environmental problem at hand?” was answered as follows:

  • As far as marine pollution was concerned, 82% of the respondents stated that it is shaped “a lot” by it, while 15% answered “quite a lot”. 
  • For air pollution, 87% consider that air pollution is shaping the urban and natural environment of the city ”very much”, and 11% consider that it is shaping the urban and natural environment of the city “a lot”.
  • Furthermore,  92% believe that  industrial activity shapes it “a great deal”, while 6% answered “quite a lot”. 

Regarding the environmental protection measures and controls that ensure the implementation and compliance with the legal framework, it was said that decisions should be taken: 

  • by the Government 74% 
  • by the Municipality 73% 
  • by the Region 70% 
  • by the EU 62% 

while 42 % of the participants consider that citizens’ groups should also be involved.

Moreover, 89% of the respondents believe that human health is directly linked to the external environment and its quality.

Finally, when asked to name the biggest strengths of Eleusis, they responded 

“Its Archaeological site” and, by extension, its ancient history and cultural background, its “proximity to the sea and the coastal front”, the “title of the European Capital of Culture for 2023” its multicultural background and its “labour history”.

Lately, the issue of the quality of current democracy has increasingly been the subject of public debate. Leading thinkers point out that the inability of the political programmes and ideologies to provide sustainable solutions to complex social problems should lead to a radical modification of their operating model.

It is in this context that the call for greater citizen participation in decision-making is now coming to the fore. In search of solutions, some refer back to the archetypal content of the term democracy, referring to the Athenian model of classical times (Mogens Herman Hansen, 2005). Others, such as Habermas, alternatively propose a ‘deliberative democracy’ in the form of an ideal governance where the legitimacy of a decision is based, beyond the electoral process, on the existence of a consultation in which all those affected by the decision can participate (Habermas, 1998). In this direction, the contribution of Arnstein, who argued that any truly participatory process should ensure that all citizens, especially the “have-nots”, should have real power over the outcome is particularly important (Arnstein, 1969).

While the theoretical debate regarding the exact content and final form of such an endeavour continues, the focus has been shifted to the practical application of such an aspiration in the everyday lives of citizens. The project “Adáma”, carried out in Eleusis by the cultural production and management company MENTOR, as part of the EIT Community New European Bauhaus action of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), is an attempt to activate local residents in order to collaboratively  develop, through a series of participatory actions, a sustainable plan which will provide possible solutions to a series of local environmental issues.

Aligned with the values of the New European Bauhaus, a new creative and interdisciplinary initiative of the European Union which links the European Green Deal with our environment and our experiences in it, it was developed in three successive phases aiming at “co-identifying” the environmental problems of Elefsina, “co-imagining” the society of the future and “co-designing” a proposal which would ensure total inclusivity, without exclusions or discriminations of any sort. 

More specifically, during the first phase, an in-depth survey was carried out among the city’s residents, in order to identify the three most important environmental issues which they are facing on a daily basis.

The second phase foresaw both the application of the bodystorming technique, through the implementation of three thematic walks, one for each environmental issue raised in the previous phase, and sociodrama sessions promoting empathy. In order to ensure diversity, it was made sure that a variety of civil organisations such as EcoEleusis, the Elefsina Cycling Club, the “New Switzerland” Workers’ Housing Association, representatives of local government, primary and secondary education, minority groups, etc. were invited. 

Finally, during the third phase, an open dialogue took place during the World Café session, that aimed to deliberate on the issues that had arisen. Free and equal participation of all participants was ensured, creating the right conditions for a meaningful exchange of views. Consequently, numerous possible solutions to the complex environmental challenges which the city of Eleusis faces on a daily basis emerged.

The overall evaluation of all three phases of “Adáma” confirms the successful completion of the initial objectives of the project. By seeking out existing local networks of citizens’ organisations and asking them to identify the problems of local communities, it has managed to formulate valid proposals regarding the redefinition of the natural space and the social character of the city of Eleusis. Moreover, by acting performatively, it has demonstrated that it can serve as a model for shifting the management of sustainable cultural practices from a narrow circle of experts, occupied by the centres of power, to a broader basis that ensures wider citizen participation in the search for a more inclusive model of democracy.

*  Hansen, M.H. (2005). The tradition of Ancient Greek democracy and its importance for modern democracy. Kgl. Danske Videnskabernes Selskab. Ανακτήθηκε από 

 *  Habermas, J. (1998). Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy. Polity Press.

 *  Arnstein, S.(1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Planning Association 35, σελ. 216-224.

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