Interview by Michael Klioumis.
Work From Thessaloniki is all about work, entertainment and networking. All in the picturesque town of Thessaloniki.
Aphrodite Bouikidis, the mastermind behind WorkFromSKG tells us all we need to know about this creative and innovative campaign.
M.K. : Aphrodite, in your own words how would you describe WorkFromSKG to someone not familiar with it?
A.B.: The city of Thessaloniki is also known as SKG by its airport code. Work From Thessaloniki, or WorkFromSKG, is about Thessaloniki as a place that is great for anyone that wants to mix tourism with work. The initiative is a network of local partners that are ready to welcome people who are visiting the city, and working remotely. These partners provide information about the city, available co-work spaces, people to meet, entertainment, local travel and even bike sharing on the campaign website.
M.K.: What inspired you to create WorkFromSKG?
A.B.: I enjoy living and working in the city. I grew up in the US, moved to Greece a few years ago for work, and after living in Athens for a while, I fell in love with Thessaloniki during a few work visits, and decided to move here to work on social innovation and urban development. I noticed that friends and colleagues that visited the city for work or tourism really enjoyed it, and many local people look forward to meeting international visitors, both to socialize and to exchange experiences as professional peers. In fact, many local groups have already established partnerships in the last few years with networks abroad, around startups, technology, creative industries, urban development, youth programs, social initiatives and more.
So I initiated the campaign with local partners, and Tony Evreniadis, a Greek-American worked in Thessaloniki, joined the campaign as the Art Director and Senior Designer.
Thessaloniki has a friendly and lively population. It is the largest student town in Greece, so there are a lot of young people, adding vibrancy to the café culture, nightlife, and arts and music scene.
M.K.: Can you tell us about the lifestyle of Thessaloniki residents?
A.B.: Thessaloniki has a friendly and lively population. It is the largest student town in Greece, so there are a lot of young people, adding vibrancy to the café culture, nightlife, and arts and music scene. People like being outside, meeting over coffee and meals, or spending time out in public spaces. The city was recognized as “A capital of cheap eats” by The New York Times in its 52 Places to Go in 2016, and according to National Geographic, it has more cafes per capita than any other European city.
The Waterfront is always full of people walking, running, biking, strolling. There are night half marathons, Santa Runs, and all kinds of sports, music and street arts festivals going on around the city, bringing international visitors to the mix.
Finally, it is an emerging creative hub, as the technology, startup and creative scenes are growing – the city’s graphic design scene was actually a nation-wide pioneer in the field, since the 1980s. Today, clusters of creativity with small shops, office spaces and studios are growing in the city center, and there are new co-working, maker and hacker spaces.
You don’t have to take it from me only – Thessaloniki ranks 31 out of 501 cities on Nomadlist, a site that ranks cities according to several categories, to help digital nomads find great places to live and work.
It is an emerging creative hub, as the technology, startup and creative scenes are growing.
M.K.: What someone should expect working in Thessaloniki ?
A.B.: Lots of opportunities to meet people, and a local ecosystem of professionals, freelancers, and startups or organizations who are eager to meet and collaborate with fellow professionals. A city that feels like a campus – it is a 30 minute walk to cross the entire city center – with opportunities to enjoy culture, arts, and great beaches and nature within an hour’s drive of the city.
WorkFromSKG highlights the opportunity for those who can travel with their work to also contribute their creativity, skills and global perspective to local entrepreneurship and civil society networks
M.K.: What would you say to someone outside Greece who is concerned with the multi faceted crisis the country experiences and is ambivalent whether to go or not to Thessaloniki. Should he or she give it a go?
A.B.: I’d say that now is exactly the time to be here. This is a city in transformation, and WorkFromSKG highlights the opportunity for those who can travel with their work to also contribute their creativity, skills and global perspective to local entrepreneurship and civil society networks. There are entrepreneurs, community leaders, and active citizens that are turning the economic recession and social challenges into an opportunity to create new solutions for their communities and society. The challenges have triggered people’s creativity and determination to take action. So if you want to be inspired by a local community in transition, while spending time in an enjoyable Mediterranean city, this is the place to be.
There are a number of people visiting Greece and Thessaloniki area to volunteer or work for organizations helping refugees. They include people from the US and other countries that have worked in technology, local or federal government, civic innovation, business or finance, and more. For those that have the time, there are opportunities to volunteer and be part of a historic moment for the city, Greece and Europe.
Additionally, the Municipality of Thessaloniki is developing its first resilience strategy, since its selection to join 100 Resilient Cities, a program pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. The resilience team is engaging individuals, businesses, and organizations from many sectors, to help shape and implement this resilience strategy, and they welcome the participation of international partners or visitors that want to contribute their ideas and get involved in actions related to environment, co-ownership of public spaces, supporting human capital and emerging economic sectors, and creating a data-empowered city.
The challenges have triggered people’s creativity and determination to take action.
M.K.: What is the feedback so far?
A.B.: In Thessaloniki, the partners are very welcoming, and many more individuals and organizations are interested in getting involved. There is positive feedback and interest from people in many countries – digital or tech professionals, creative industries, and even researchers and professors who want to bring their students on short learning trips.
M.K.: Future plans?
A.B.: We are just getting started, so it’s an exciting time. The plan is to work with local partners, and our first remote work visitors and provide more services and local activities for visitors and locals to connect. We welcome people’s ideas, questions, and suggestions at www.workfromthessaloniki.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.