Barcelona’s Best Export Isn’t Tapas, It’s the ‘Ramblas’: Urban Boulevards of Oasis

I have a soft spot for the charming Mediterranean city of Barcelona, because it’s where I spent my junior year of university when I swapped New England’s Boston College for two semesters for Catalunya’s Universitat Pompeu Fabra.  And I realized in my last visit a few weeks ago that one of the most seductive traits of this high-quality of life city is it’s urban layout and specifically the ‘ramblas phenomenon.’ What is a rambla? Very simply a ‘rambla’ is an urban boulevard, which seamlessly blends together pedestrians, buses, taxis, cars and scooters in a safe, calm and very walkable layout, which has the feel of tying together the loose ends of a neighborhood: the sides-streets, alleys, passage-ways into an elegant boulevard for everyone in the city to use, tying together the city’s urban and social fiber into an urban pod of oasis. Roughly speaking this is what an rambla looks like if you are standing right in the middle, facing north and to your east and west you have the buildings and sidewalks of either side of the street. 1. the rambla: is a wide pavement in the center of the street like a 30-foot wide sidewalk.  Instead of having a huge urban boulevard with four car-lanes.  The rambla is the center point taking over 50% of the width of the street. 2. traffic lanes: then there are two traffic lanes, one one each of the rambla, the one to your east for example with one-lane of auto traffic: buses, taxis, scooters, cars – quietly (at 25mph or less) heading in the northbound direction AND on the other side of...

Short Comical Anecdotes

I’m posting some short anecdotes that I post just for fun on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.  Follow me there for these updates: Think I need a digital time out: Between all these messages: online job search, online dating, blogging and tweeting, I am digitally burned out. Flipping between web browsers, accidentally, just sent a recruiter a message that he had cute bangs and then copy pasted my Linkedin profile to a French girl on match.com. I think now is a good time to go for a jog! Facebook birthday wishes: Wouldn’t it be great if there was also an offline version of the Facebook b-day greetings flash mob- where when you walk out of your house in the morning, on your way to the subway, everyone gives you a synchronized kiss, high-five and slap on the ass! Different birthday location every year: Every year I spend my birthday in a new place, not on purpose but coincidentally: two years ago Mumbai, last year Athens, this year London, next year I have a feeling it will be in jail. Starbucks name on the paper-cup gone wrong: Just in front of me at the Starbucks line forty-five year old, Mediterranean ethnic-look man, smartly-dressed, flipped the f#ck out when friendly barista asked him his name to write on his coffee-paper-cup: “Name, what name? Who’s name? Why you need name? What is this thing you people do with names? You pressure me to give you my name? I just want one-cup coffee to go! That’s it! No name! Just coffee. Name? Name! Name!” and he stormed out the door. I never realized ordering a cappuccino could be that stressful. For...

Coworking Spaces in Athens Update

This is an updated version of an older post about coworking spaces, since I get asked a lot by people where they can find them in Athens here’s a few ones that I’ve visited.  If there’s a new one you know of that I have missed please let me now. Impact Hub Athens:  One of the most youthful co-working spaces, this outpost of the international co-working Hub brand, is in the Psyrri neighborhood, a couple minutes walk from the Monastiraki metro.  The focus on this space, which also hosts frequent event and seminars, is social enterprise, where members work in a renovated Athenian neo-classical building. Found.ation is the the new project of the 123P  team- a bustling co-working space with a focus on the technology sector.  Located in the artsy, industrial Gazi-Petralona neighborhood on the third-floor of Thission Lofts.  Orange Grove is a space focused on facilitating Greek and Dutch entrepreneurs and collaborations in Athens.  Quite a lively space with a program, events and speakers overseen by the Dutch Embassy. The Cube is in the Exarcheia neighborhood, the lively and edgy student area of central Athens. Colab Workspace:  The first co-working space to open in Athens a few year ago, located a couple minutes walk from Syntagma Square on Petraki Street.  Colab is home to several young startup companies and also some new teams working out their projects. Synergy Project is an interdisciplinary coworking space near the Panormou metro stop, which people working on a wide-spectrum of creative, tech and individual...

Strategies for modern social movements: orchestrating and swarming

One of the most enlightening and refreshing academic speakers I have recently heard is Charles Heckscher, professor of labor relations and organizational behavior, from Rutgers University.  He gave a lecture at the LSE about how contemporary social movements are operating today and the misconceptions about social change and modern forms of solidarity. In outlining his theory, Heckscher repeatedly used a few key words: swarm and orchestrators.  Today’s key players in social movements are not necessarily the front-line demonstrator, petition-signing activists of previous generations.  Neither do today’s activists specifically exhibit a lot of direct power.  What they do have is influence and connections.  They are effective at pulling together disparate groups of people that may not have collaborated together otherwise. Their infrastructure is not to build hierarchies and control social activism in a federation-style from the top-down.  Today’s strategic orchestrator-coordinators have their pulse on the psyche-of-the-street and are able to maneuver the undercurrents of participants’ energy to potentially develop into swarm activity.  This is similar to the natural phenomenon seen in fish colonies or flocks of birds and a swarm, in a different context, is a strategic tactic that the US Army also uses in today’s security threats. Heckscher goes on to outline the three key factors that are necessary for this orchestrating and swarming to take place: (1) purpose (2) platform (3) process. The first thing a group needs to develop is a purpose- an image of a desired shared future.  This is an active, continuous on-going dialogue that the participants join in on because they identify with it. Before continuing to the next point and in order to put...

Greece’s young start-up entrepreneurs: a positive case-study

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the Greek business climate has little in its recent history to look for in successful case studies and inspirational role models.  But there is an exception, and this is precisely why the fairly small, but growing start-up ecosystem in Athens is so critical, economically and symbolically for the country. Out of the dozens of events, groups and individuals I’ve come across in my time in Athens the past few months- the start-up community is the place I gravitate to, to meet enthusiastic, savvy and outward looking young Greeks. In short, these folks “get-it” – they have serious CV’s, they can hold their own, with investors in San Fran and marketing their products, internationally, from Rio to Mumbai. Indeed though, it will take more than a few tech companies to put a dent in Greece’s 30% unemployment and revive a country six years in recession.  But that’s missing the point and the big picture.  The young entrepreneur community here is a healthy, young embryo that needs to be highlighted and cultivated, as it holds the key fundamentals to rebuilding Greece. These are the strengths that make it the exception, not the norm in this country:                        (1) Innovation (2) Global outlook (3) Positive spillover across industries    (4) Highly-skilled human capital (5) Role models  (6) Community building. 1.    Innovation: for a generation now, many Greek oligarchs have posed themselves as pseudo-businessmen, while it was good connections = government contracts that made them their fortunes, not innovation.  Further below, on the food...

TEDx Athens 2012: Inspirational Ideas in Land of Potential

The other week, I was glad to keep the good Athenian vibes going by attending the annual TEDxAthens.    I never had the urge to go to a TED event in America, but in Athens on the contrary, especially in today’s often cynical environment, it was a reassuring sensation of camaraderie to be in an arena with 1,500+ crowd of optimistic, full-of-life, inquisitive youngsters who are trying to make their mark in re-building Greece. TedxAthens was founded by Dimitris Kalavros  in 2009, with just four volunteers.  In its fourth year now and with sixty-five volunteers, the theme of this year’s TEDxAthens was the “doers” — a very timely concept for setting the tone for the can-do-attitude that will get Greece out of its stagnancy.   The speakers weren’t necessarily jet-set millionaires, but they were successful and talented individuals in their own right and had great stories to tell.  They ranged from a wide-spectrum of disciplines: MIT biomedical engineer, London fashion designer, AOL digital marketing guru and even a teenage, mute girl from Florida who overcame her limits to become a professional motorcyclist. The schedule took up an entire Saturday, which after almost thirty motivational speeches over sixteen hours, niche analysis by experts and an array of unique perspectives,  the post-experience felt like a “mental orgasm.”  Many of the speeches are being uploaded on video on the TEDxAthens Facebook page.  There were numerous fascinating quotes and lessons from stories, but I want to specifically point out the speakers and themes that stood out to me and which made connections to the depth of Greece’s current socio-economic predicament. One of these speakers was...