Our heroes, our monster: lessons learned from the 3rd annual Thessaloniki Civil Society Forum

Our heroes, our monster: lessons learned from the 3rd annual Thessaloniki Civil Society Forum
Front row, l-r: Nikos Zaharis, Epaminondas Christofilopoulos; back row, l-r: David Wisner, Anna Damaskou, Georgios Siakas Photo credit: Dukakis Center

In 1995 the French journalist and scholar Jean Lacouture published a small book with a series of portraits of the figures who had “made” the world after World War II. Some were widely acknowledged to be monstrous for their misdeeds; others were the source of Lacouture’s personal inspiration.

In a similar vein, in early February 2021 the Dukakis Center hosted a select group of scholars and activists representing think tanks, ngos, and other civil society organizations based in Greece, to reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on their work, and on those individuals whom they found most inspirational over the course of the past year. 

Our common monster has been the COVID pandemic, which has in turn provoked untold disarray locally and globally, in realms as diverse as international trade and personal mental health. While the pandemic inspires in turns terror, sadness, anger, and determination, it is less clear what motivates the civil society practitioner under such circumstances to continue to try to create a better world.

Some, like Dimitris Diamantis of the World Economic Forum’s Thessaloniki Global Shapers Hub, drew courage from the dedication of the cohort of young movers and shakers within their organization. Others, such as Anna Damaskou, President of the Board of Transparency International Greece, pointed to the selfless endeavor of the doctor in Wuhan who was castigated by the Chinese government for drawing public attention to the outbreak of the coronavirus, and later paid for his good deeds with his life after contracting COVID-19.

Nikos Zaharis, Director of the South East European Research Centre at City College, found that the mandate of his organization was vindicated by the mainstream focus on science and evidence-based research to develop a vaccine against the virus.

The effects of the pandemic have not been universally deleterious in the world of civil society. As event organizers find new ways to reach an ever broader audience to whom to share their message and mission, others, like Epaminondas Christofilopoulos, holder of the UNESCO Chair for Futures Research, and Dimitris Savvaidis, co-founder of AddArt, have actually seen their respective operations grow in the past 12 months.

The message of success in adversity was salutary for all involved. To cap off an evening of humble inspiration, Dukakis Center Director David Wisner hosted the virtual premiere of “Now More Than Ever,” the documentary film produced by Asterios Gousios and Dimitris Savvaidis of AddArt to commemorate the twentieth anniversary season of the Dukakis Center. The star of the premiere was none other than Michael Dukakis himself, whose words continue to resonate at the heart of the Center’s projects and activities.

There is nothing you can do in this world more fulfilling and more satisfying than giving of yourself to others, and making a contribution to your community and your state or your nation and your fellow citizens…
-- Michael Dukakis

The occasion: 

"Now More Than Ever: Post-crisis civil societies in action" 

Third Annual Thessaloniki Civil Society Forum

February 8, 2021

Co-hosted by Anna Damaskou, Transparency International Greece, and David Wisner, Dukakis Center


Panel 1, 7 PM


Petros Mastakas


Epaminondas Farmakis


Dimitris Diamantis

WEF Global Shapers Hub Thessaloniki

Moderators: Damaskou and Wisner


Panel 2, 7:30 PM


Epaminondas Christofilopoulos

UNESCO Chair in Futures Research / Millennium Project

Georgios Siakas

Public Opinion Research Unit, University of Macedonia Research Institute

Nikos Zaharis

South-East European Research Centre

Moderators: Damaskou and Wisner


Panel 3, 8 PM


Dimitris Savvaidis


Asterios Gousios


Moderator: Wisner


Premiere: "Now More Than Ever"