2013 Projects
Gift-Wrapped: Synergy in Social Economies
Phoebe Daroyanni
School of Media Studies, Media Studies Masters, NSPE

Mental illness poses a serious challenge for Europe and the USA. Its economic and social burden is immense. It correlates with higher unemployment rates and lesser life quality. Despite its membership in the EU, Greece currently faces an economic breakdown, a 26.8 % unemployment rate, cutbacks in psychosocial services, and alarmingly increasing markers of mental illness and suicide. In a time characterized internationally by grave economic constraints, inability of small businesses to compete in corporate markets, and wasteful failure of traditional psychiatric treatments to address recidivism, modern social enterprises in Greece answer these conundrums in concrete, well-planned, and visionary ways, pushing psychiatric and economic reform further into the future amid a rough political landscape. They manage to return small profits and reduce psychiatric relapse.
The Greek social firm model is distilled from the principles of social inclusion and entrepreneurship. The firms’ running relies on the practical understanding of market operations, start-up financing, skills-based training, careful member selection and effective job placement. Traditional models of vocational rehabilitation (sheltered employment, pre-employment training, work clubs, research programs) have failed to provide job opportunities for the mentally ill. US-based federal work rehabilitation initiatives evidence disappointing rates of sustaining employment. Even in Europe, most social firms tend to follow an authoritative model. They consist of high ratios of psychotherapy staff and business experts and offer few opportunities for their vulnerable members to interact directly with their communities.
Greek social firms rely on an 80% ratio of patient participation for their daily operations. This is a grass roots initiative built on multidisciplinary collaborations, community-based partnerships, and a focus on self-sufficiency and shared ownership. Despite their successes, these ventures remain small-scale, unpublicized, subject to declining initial public funding and unknown to private investors, innovators, and stakeholders.

This project will produce a collaborative, character- and process-driven documentary that provides a videovoice needs assessment and can be used to stir public dialogue.It will examine the socioeconomic effects of this model on the immediate stakeholders and their community. The film aims to operationalize the principles of social entrepreneurship, in order to provide a pilot for its transfer to other communities and broaden the exploration of psychiatric and economic alternatives. Focusing on the above-mentioned domains, the film will explore the conditions of feasibility of social entrepreneurship and psychosocial growth for the mentally ill. This film is innovative in that it highlights a less known economic and psychiatric alternative, abstains from unreferenced expert testimonies, and invites the social firms’ members to become media makers and participate in their media representation.

Additionally, this project will create a multimedia internet platform, which will operate as an information hub and forum for the exchange of ideas, blogging, networking, attraction of private investors, and public education regarding social entrepreneurship and mental hygiene in Greece. The website will include boards for dialogue among all stakeholders (those diagnosed with mental illness, community partners, shareholders, and investors) democratizing the information flow, promoting a paradigm shift toward self-governance and economic agency, and inspiring other start-up initiatives across the web.

Additional information:

  • Helene Poulakou

    I would be very interested in learning more about the ‘modus operandi’ of the cooperative. I suspect that the principles of its running and management could apply in many other fields of social and economic activity.
    Communities that are built around a specific purpose are usually more resolute on reaching their goals, and grass roots organizations, besides being really concerned, are also more knowledgeable about the actual problems that have to be faced and overcome at the process.
    Congratulations! I hope you win your grant.

    • phoebe daroyanni

      I plan to use this documentary for educational, training, and community awareness purposes, bringing the issue close to home, humanizing social struggle and innovation. It will be part of an interactive website that provides free access to a network of resources, partners, potential collaborators, as well as information exchange and mentorship opportunities, creating thereby a global community of psychiatric alternatives. People often have great ideas and it is easier to mobilize those, test them and implement them with the support of a network.

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  • phoebe daroyanni

    It is true that this initiative through its continuing success amid dramatic social changes and Greece’s economic collapse can serve as an example of thorough but simple solutions to employment and rehabilitation for society’s most marginalized, as well as find applications in other domains, such the arts, food production, and labor organization. This solution reduces the extraordinary social services costs for government and does so without shortchanging the parties affected. This is a metaphor for society as a whole. The members of Pixida come from backgrounds of institutionalization in asylums and classification as “low functioning.” The cooperative address this issue but doing two counterintuitive things: 1. it approaches the “mentally ill” as stakeholders that rely on production and sales for their income and 2. it de emphasizes traditional treatment in favor of personal responsibility and business autonomy. Having been intimately involved in the development of this cooperative and being a mental health professional myself, I am continually surprised to the reactions I get form colleagues, users, friends alike when i talk about Pixida: Most appreciate its existence but consider it an anomaly and an prototype hard to replicate. Media and documentary film making can surpass such barrier in thinking. My goal is that this film will illustrate, demystify, and inspire initiatives in our communities in the USA, where gainful employment for the severely mentally and the marginalized is often an elusive dream.

  • Helene Poulakou

    One more thing that I would like to ask is,
    How are you going to use this documentary, once it is actually produced?
    How are you going to disseminate the knowledge, who are your target audiences, what are the points you will try to carry across?

    For my part, I know I would love to see it inspire groups and people who need to take an initiative in order to push their lives and their communities forward, but often don’t have a clue about alternative, creative and innovative ways of getting unstuck; who fear (or who know) that an ordinary approach won’t get them far, but haven’t created yet this new vision for themselves, just because they didn’t have the chance to be introduced to it.

  • blake d.

    Stories offering real hope of rehabilitation to those marginalized by mental illness are rare. It may well be the lack of accessible, practical solutions contributes to our collective confusion about how to help. A thoughtful, involved examination of a program demonstrating positive results could spark similar initiatives, and will certainly cast new light on a segment of our community who are easily overlooked. A project like this will resonate with anyone who has witnessed mental illness in their community and wondered what can be done. This story describes a simple concept producing unexpected, exceptional results, improving the lives of those involved. It seems worthy of a detailed examination, and will hopefully encourage the organic growth of mirror programs.

  • Susie

    What a novel approach to helping the mentally ill within the constraints of a weakened economy! I’m curious, what about this program do you think accounts for the extremely low rate of psychiatric relapse?

  • Andy O’Neall

    Go Phoebe! I hope all is well in addition to this great project.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/helene.poulakou Helene Poulakou

    Take care with the hurricanes!
    Good luck!

  • http://www.facebook.com/photoprince Erika Nonken

    Congrats on being one of the 7 winners!

  • phoebe daroyanni

    THE GIFT-WRAPPED WEBSITE IS ON!! http://gwsise.tumblr.com/

  • phoebe daroyanni

    QR to our website

  • phoebe
  • Nima Moinpour

    This is what New School is all about! Fantastic!

  • http://www.best-supplier.com/. Gad subone

    I just came to your post and reading above thing it is very impressive
    me and it is very nice blog. Thanks a lot for sharing this.


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