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Exploring citizen engagement strategies in Athens

3 min read • 12th June 2023

Athens is facing a growing problem of heat stress caused by more frequent and intense heat waves. This presents a significant challenge for the city and its residents. The issue is influenced by several factors, including the geographic location, air pollution, dense neighbourhoods, and traffic congestion. Unfortunately, the limited presence of green spaces in the city aggravates the situation, as people are unable to rely on nature’s own solutions to reduce the urban heat island effect.

To address this problem, the city has appointed a Chief Heat Officer, making it the first capital in the European Union to do so. This important role involves monitoring heat levels, taking necessary actions, and ensuring the well-being of all citizens, with a particular focus on protecting vulnerable populations.  

A collaborative workshop held on June 21st, 2023 aimed to gather input from stakeholders for the Athens Urban ReLeaf pilot. The event was led by DAEM (City of Athens IT Company) and was attended by 31 participants including, the City of Athens departments, the Natural Environment & Climate Change Agency, citizens, Commonspace participatory Lab, Open Lab Athens, Agricultural University of Athens and DRAXIS.  

During the workshop participants discussed important heat-related topics, such as managing trees and green areas, monitoring air quality, engaging citizens in data collection, analysing data, and urban planning. They identified priority groups, including those living in areas with limited green spaces, individuals who are more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions like seniors and children, and municipal employees responsible for urban planning. Strategies to involve these groups were proposed, such as engaging seniors through Friendship Clubs, connecting with children in schools, and distributing printed materials across the city with easy-to-find contact information.  

We are excited to see how the Athens Urban ReLeaf pilot progresses in the coming months!