The aftermath of this financial crisis in Greece has led to a vast proportion of a population becoming aid recipients. The government rolled back the social welfare system due to the austerity measures. However, social solidarity and civic engagement increased considerably in response to the crisis (Sotiropoulos and Bourikos 2014; Kantzara 2014; Simiti 2015). Accordingly, during the crisis many agencies provided social support and welfare services to people in need including local authorities, the Church of Greece, NGOs, companies, mass media companies, informal social networks as well as citizens. Informal social networks including among others, cooperatives, social pharmacies, social groceries and social medical centers, differentiate from formal organisations such as NGOs by not registering in courts (Sotiropoulos and Bourikos 2014). Both public participation and informal volunteerism increased as the crisis evolved. Several municipalities set up a department of solidarity which often cooperated with other agencies to provide welfare services. Simiti (2015) pointed out that a novel element of both formal and informal initiatives that had emerged in response to the crisis was that they often transcended the binary divisions between formality and informality. Kantzara (2014) argued that solidarity in Greece during the crisis sustained social ties whereas simultaneously it helped so that social relations changed from bottom-up. Sotiropoulos (2014) claimed that the welfare services, provided by civil society in response to the crisis, contributed to the stabilisation of the government and therefore made democracy work (Putnam 1993). In this context, some NGOs became critical of the impact of their welfare services, wondering whether they were letting the government of the hook (Simiti 2015). Self-organisation was shown by both NGOs and informal social networks (Sotiropoulos and Bourikos 2014). NGOs reorganised to cover rising social needs, expanding their services in the area of social welfare and integrating volunteers in their labour force (Sotiropoulos and Bourikos 2014; Simiti 2015). Moreover, informal social networks considered their beneficiaries as active participants in the solidarity actions (Sotiropoulos and Bourikos 2014).
4.1 The structure of the CBSP
In an effort to cope with the effects of the crisis, SKAI, itself a broadcaster, launched a national media campaign in 2009, addressing the audience through its media outlets (radio, TV, web stations and print) in available trailer time to contribute as they can, so that services and goods could be delivered to people who really need it. Public response was growing and therefore, in 2010, the initiative became a partnership called “All together, we can”. A dedicated website was created and voluntary actions were offered in various sectors. As stated in May 2010, “the financial crisis has penetrated through all levels of the society. It becomes obvious daily; that it is a matter that concerns all of us, and that we, all together, should react to it…We will go through this difficult period all together…” (“All together, we can” 2013).
In other words, SKAI initiated a campaign to collect items from the public, and to distribute them to people in need. While SKAI was involved in co-ordinating the resulting efforts, it was not alone in doing so:
“The media campaign increased public awareness of the action and helped in raising public awareness of the company’s activities. It has sensitised many more citizens and private companies to join the actions and offer goods. Individual. .. contribution is large and touching.” (Deputy director of corporate communications)
Apart from donors, which apart from the general public included e.g. 2,000 supermarkets for food donations, other organisations and individuals joined in to co-ordinate the efforts and to collect and distribute the items (Fig. 2).
By 2010, IPs came from public, private and civic sectors, to promote actions in sectors such as nutrition, health and education. By using the community’s collective action, the aim was to keep society’s social cohesion intact, as illustrated by the following quote:
“.. . to reinforce social cohesion, better access to information, enhanced reputation and credibility, citizen sensitisation, boost in donations, employees’ voluntary participation in social actions” (SKAI’s deputy director of corporate communications)
From a critical perspective, a private sector company initiated the CBSP. SKAI advocated for a partnership that would enhance social cohesion, in response to the crisis, and therefore sustain social ties. It could be argued that the CBSP aimed to maintain rather than question the status quo (Weichselgartner and Kelman 2015). Yet activities such as welfare services, otherwise provided by the state, have political implications, because they expose weaknesses of the political system (Kantzara 2014) and therefore, increase community risk awareness. The CBSP also collaborated in the logistics with informal social networks, namely social groceries, social pharmacies and social medical centers (free clinics), that were both providers of social support and expressions of public dissatisfaction (Sotiropoulos and Bourikos 2014).
In terms of power sharing in the partnership, the specific responsibilities of SKAI were: (i) to bring key IPs together for each action type, and (ii) to implement the media campaign to promote the actions of the partnership. Decision making in the CBSP was decentralised. Some of the actions were initiated and implemented by NGOs, such as the medical services to children in need. As acknowledged by an NGO representative, participation in the CBSP increased the publicity of their actions and the number of beneficiaries:
Through the partnership more beneficiaries accessed NGO’s services (increased publicity through the media campaign)
Regarding the provision of welfare services to Greek citizens, an NGO Director argued that social capital (social cohesion and inclusion) formed the basis of their policy:
“The NGO’s policy is based on social cohesion and inclusion, through the provision of … services to all people in need. The target beneficiaries before the crisis used to be socially excluded community groups…but after the crisis…the majority of the beneficiaries are Greek citizens outside of the target groups” (NGO Director)
The participation of NGOs in the CBSP further supported bottom-up approaches by promoting equality and the empowerment of beneficiaries. As stated by an NGO representative:
NGO’s key policies are based on no discrimination – equity principles, voluntary work, and community capacity building through empowerment of beneficiaries. Empowerment of beneficiaries is built by following policies based on no discrimination, equity for all community members and voluntary work
Drakaki and Tzionas (2017) argued that interactions and relationship building in planning and implementation of the actions facilitated development of social adaptive capacities. Changes in social relations were acknowledged by interacting IPs, such as trust development. The emerged interactions between IPs from different societal sectors and citizens and the variety of activities can enable changes of social relations (Kantzara 2014), as well as social learning (Burnside-Lawry and Carvalho 2015).
4.2 Needs assessment
Needs assessment is a complex exercise of determining who is vulnerable yet not capable to support themselves (Kovács and Spens 2007). Based on this, needs can be matched with supply, and deliveries can be organised. Needs assessment was done by programme coordinators in cooperation with the collaborating IPs, public sector services, institutions, organisations and municipalities. It was a complex process, and a dynamic one, as needs evolved and increased over time:
“There is a large increase in needs. The beneficiaries in the past used to be mostly immigrants. But currently the majority of the beneficiaries are Greek citizens, either people who have lost their jobs or low income citizens.” (NGO representative)
The CBSP responded to increasing demands from Dioceses of Greece, various institutions and organisations, social services departments of municipalities. Additionally, the Ministry of Education provided lists of students in need and the Ministry of Health provided lists of uninsured people:
“Social services departments of various municipalities in the areas of Athens and Thessaloniki provide catalogues of uninsured citizens, where each catalogue represents a different location area.” (NGO director)
Figure 3 shows the partners responsible for the needs assessment and the beneficiaries of the main actions.
In the early stage of the CBSP, SKAI created a database of people in need, accessed by anyone wishing to provide help. People in need could themselves provide their data (name, address, employment status, family members, needs) to either SKAI or other collaborating radio stations and thereby register in the database. This community-based approach of needs assessment ensures beneficiary participation and empowerment (Pardasani 2006; Matopoulos et al. 2014).
4.3 Collection and distribution
Logistically, these endeavours differed from one another significantly. Their numbers and locations of collection and distribution points, their contributors and beneficiaries, as well as the frequency of collection and distribution differed. Thus, the mobilisation of individuals, organisations, companies, among others, and resources in order to deliver services and goods to people in need was a prerequisite for the operational success of the CBSP’s actions. For example, 2,000 supermarkets contributed to the food collection continuously across Greece, while e.g. school supplies were collected from the general public three times a year through specific calls to drop-off points in cities. Most collections were rather regular:
“Our audiences are the ones who contribute at large both in the food and medicine collection actions. This can be explained due to the regularity of our medicine actions which occur on a weekly basis, and the food collection is a static point of gathering where individuals can donate on a daily basis” (SKAI representative)
The collection of medicine from the public was organised with regional medical associations (also for their quality assurance) across 70 municipalities. Volunteer doctors collected the medicine, part of which was distributed to social medical centers run by volunteer doctors and social pharmacies for the uninsured citizens in Athens and border cities. The Ministry of Health stated in relation to this that
“The crisis we live requires solutions that would seem unorthodox in the past. Private sector has undertaken initiatives for the collection of medicine to help people in need. In this framework the state wants to contribute to the initiative taken by the Athens Medical Association and Apostoli…” (Ministry of Health).
Thus in the end, even public resources such as the Ministry of Health were mobilised. Their contribution was to provide free health services (health vouchers). Therefore, the measures taken by the government as a result of the interactions with the CBSP can be considered as an indication of social learning (Burnside-Lawry and Carvalho 2015).
Not only the regular actions but also the one-offs, e.g. the collection of items for the 2014 floods in the Balkans, posited quite a logistical challenge:
“But the actions that tend to shock us in respective of participants and donations to the cause are the actions that are dedicated to sensitive, desperate call for help – such as when we collected basic necessary goods. .. for the people that suffered the severe floods in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Such organised actions tend to bring a large public outpour of participations, e.g. for the specific event we were collecting at 5 different locations around Athens. .. One specific location required 7 large trucks in order to pick up all the donations people gave on the specific day and hours of the one-day-only action event. We assume that this incredible number of participants is due to the sensibility of its cause. Even if Greece is going through a financial crisis, individuals will give what they can in their own way” (SKAI marketing department employee)
Food, medicine, and non-food items were collected from the community, and deliveries were scheduled according to the specificities of the items and their demand. Much attention was paid to the quality of collected items; which could otherwise be a main problem in material convergence especially in light of in-kind donations (Kunz et al. 2017).
“Expiration date control is done for food and medicine products. Quality product control takes place with frequent subsequent controls.” (NGO logistics staff)
Each logistics plan of action was decided on the basis of the corresponding programme. Logistics planning was done by programme co-ordinators in co-operation with programme IPs. Logistics assessment was linked with the operational organisation of the programmes. Interestingly, however, logistical activities of collection, but also of materials handling, warehousing, transportation and distribution were all carried out by various members of the community itself.
Volunteers did the collection, sorting and materials handling, churches served as warehouses, trucks were provided by private companies, and anything from social supermarkets to municipal buildings were used as points of distribution:
“Using the five social groceries, goods are distributed as packages of “love” to large unit families, low income families, students and soup kitchens. They are also distributed to various foundations and charity institutions. Medicine is distributed in co-operation with the Athens Medical Association from the social pharmacies.” (NGO logistics staff)
Figure 4 shows the partners involved in the logistics decision making of the main actions.
The overall logistical assessment of the CBSP is summarised in Table 1.