Collaborations against “development as we know it”: Insights from an alternative ecosystem in peripheral Greece
The recent rise of collaborative workspaces (CWS) in urban and non-urban environments has raised the question of the ways these new spaces can change the developmental dynamics of rural and peripheral areas. This paper explores this question starting from a critical questioning of the nature and meaning of traditional development. Many scholars have approached growth- driven traditional development as unsustainable, unjust and not connected to social well-being and have envisioned alternatives to development, such as as post-development (Escobar), degrowth (Kallis) or post-growth (Lange) and post-capitalism (Gibson- Graham).
On the other hand, collaborative workspaces is a diverse phenomenon that has raised many questions from various disciplines and various perspectives. This paper follows a line of thought that considers collaborative workspaces as actors capable to contribute to social change. Specifically, collaborative workspaces are conceptualized as potentially alternative economic and political spaces (Gritsas and Kavoulakos, Schmid, Apostolopoulou) that can promote “alternatives to development” and help after- growth futures to emerge. The question is in which ways those spaces can change the drives of local and regional development and contribute to a paradigm of after- growth developmental logics. To explore this question, I search for practices that enhance an alternative normative framework for the places in question, by creating post-growth narratives, enhancing international and local collaborations and strengthening values such as commons, care and community.
The empirical findings that will be presented, come from the Greek periphery, Epirus. Epirus is not one of the “winners” of traditional development, as it is one of the least “developed” Greek peripheries. I focus on three makerspaces that are placed in different villages in Epirus and differ in size, scale and purposes. Nevertheless, the makerspaces are considered as parts of an alternative ecosystem that is being formed in Epirus, which - together with other spaces and actors and international partners - aim to change the social and developmental dynamics of the periphery and beyond.