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Network Stories: Xanthippi Kontogianni

Describe your organization and the unique work that it is doing. Who and what is affected by the work? How does/will the work impact people’s lives?

The idea of astroθeasis was born a bit after I graduated from the MA in Heritage Management, aiming to run a company in the cultural tourism industry of Greece. Over time, I realized that my vision for astrotheasis went beyond such a specific sector and thereon astrotheasis has been shaped as a group of young people, active in Youth projects, always related to cultural heritage topics. For all us, the concept of culture (“politismos”) is very important because it signifies the progress of discovering our roots, our stories, our identity; it’s a self-discovery process that aims to spiritually cultivate individuals who can live together, peacefully, and with respect for each other in a modern society. This is the philosophy of our team and what we are trying to transmit through our actions. Particularly, we encourage people to participate in cultural activities and being educated through them, to support cultural initiatives, to live their local heritage, to love it, to protect it and talk about that, to explore other peoples’ living traditions, to find commonalities and to accept the cultural diversity. Ever since astrotheasis was created, we have organized many interesting projects for which we are very proud. For example, we have created cultural events for local communities of Crete, addressing mostly to the young population. We have also designed and implemented museum education activities for children and young people of marginalized communities in Athens, such as Muslims and gypsy, collaborating with many museums and cultural institutions. Last but not least, we are honored to have been the beneficiary coordinator partner of a Youth Exchange under the Key Action 1 of the Erasmus + Programme of the EU. After all, we are convinced that culture has the potential to inspire people, to unlock and release their identity and by promoting it we can hope for more active citizens and a better society! 

Tell us about a project that has benefited from the training you received from us? Why was the project important? Was there anything unusual or surprising about the execution of this project?

In 2019 astrotheasis had the honor of coordinating “The project Communi(ty)cation of Cultures”, under the Erasmus + Programme of EU. It was a mobility project – Youth Exchange (Key Action 1) among 5 partners -Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, and Croatia- that took place in Athens (11/09/2019 – 18/09/2019). For me, as the official representative of astrotheasis, responsible for the execution of the project, this experience was the best opportunity to implement all the knowledge, the tools, and the skills which I had been qualified with from my training by The Heritage Management Organization the previous years. In all the stages of the project, from the writing of the application to the planning of the activities, the content development, the financial organization, and the logistics management, I was needed to recall and make very good use of the courses I had attended during my MA in Heritage Management. Courses such as Project Management, Strategy, Human Resources, Ethnography, Archaeological Management, etc. had prepared me to face the demands of the Erasmus + Programme. However, during the execution of the project, I surprisingly realized that, despite the formal skills and the knowledge which I had acquired from my studies, the most essential qualification was the skills of informal/non-formal learning. Communication, collaboration, team-work, leadership, and positive attitude were unexpectedly necessary. Although these skills result from a life-long experience, I am very happy to remember that their importance had been many times underlined during the training I have received from The Heritage Management Organization and that there are always an outcome of the education it offers.  

Has your organisation worked on any other projects that are innovative, globally significant and can be replicated in a local market?

The joined informal learning project “Communi(ty)cation of Cultures” was supported by the European Union Erasmus + Programme and therefore it includes a strong international dimension ( i.e. corporation with Partner Countries) with globally significant outcomes. Particularly, our project promoted the active participation of young people in the democratic life in Europe, enhanced the cultural and intercultural awareness, strengthened the links between the youth field and the labor market of the professional field of Cultural Heritage Management and increased innovation and the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship. As a result, through the overall experience, the participants, the organizations and the stakeholders involved in this project create a network of active citizens and actors who are very motivated to generate new collaborations and implement their ideas in the national level playing an active role in the local market. 

What are the global issues that your project addresses (e.g., fighting climate change, preserving heritage and culture, promoting local participation)?

The overall activity of astrotheasis is focused on two main global issues: the youth policy and the preservation of heritage and culture. Youth policy is essential for us because we believe in the positive impact youth participation makes in local affairs and society. Particularly, youth can be a positive force for development when provided with the knowledge and opportunities they need to thrive. Αstrotheasis is composed of young people and its projects address to them to create conditions for learning, opportunities, and experiences which enable all us to acquire useful knowledge and skills for our active involvement in decision-making processes. Additionally to our contribution to an open, knowledgeable and creative society, we are also very interested in preserving heritage and culture. We believe that both heritage and culture are important because they provide people with an automatic sense of exploring their identity, discovering their roots and their story and feeling part of a community that shares the same values, beliefs, and customs. Culture and heritage are the threshold of the self – knowledge and therefore facilitate people to recognize and respect “ways of being” that are not necessarily their own. The act of preserving culture and heritage enhances democracy, social inclusion, respect for cultural diversity and the active participation of people in society. In the astrotheasis team, we all love exploring cultural heritage topics and do our best to promote its value through our projects.  



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