Antonis schwarz: My hope to come clean out of this crisis

Article published on April 4, 2014
Article published on April 4, 2014

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."