Interview with Angeliki Giannakopoulou
Angeliki Giannakopoulou is a young, energetic and ambitious project manager from the Peloponnesian organisation, Dafni Kek. She lives and works from Patras. The organization involved in many international adult educational programs and initiatives including Erasmus Plus. With Dafni Kek we are participating at the two-year long project FIDO (from the English acronym: “Fighting Fake News and Disinformation”), funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus Plus programme.
While meeting Giannakopoulou I used the opportunity to learn more about contribution that FIDO project had on the local community but also about the adult education sector in Greece and adult education related topics.
- You are participating at the FIDO project that started back in March 2021. What role took your organization at this international partnership?
Dafni Kek got in the project a bit later on, because we were filling in for the previous organization. At the project we are tackling communication, dissemination of ideas, promoting, developing the image of the project, etc. As Dafni Kek we are an adult education research and practice center. We felt it would only make sense for us to promote the project through actually implementing it, testing it and working with the people of our region. So, our role goes both ways, we are promoting and designing it, tackling it with concepts of promotion, but we are also implementing the courses testing them with people and working towards that.
- How is the project developing so far? What have you organized and offered to the local community?
It goes absolutely lovely! I think this is one of the most interesting projects specially in terms of partnerships that we have. We have participated in the research phase of the first two intellectual outputs. We have also worked on disseminating the results, but also on raising the awareness of the concepts of the project, which is disinformation and fake news. We have also tackled layout and communication material of the project and we have carried out two magnificent Living labs with people from our society talking about the fake news face to face and working through the material during the course.
- How was at those Living labs? What was the response of the participants?
Better than we ever expected. Because we are working with the seniors at this project we were really afraid on whether we will be able to find them and whether we will be able to gain their attention towards the concept of the project which is widely technological. So, we were not sure how involved they will be and how motivated they will stay. But when we actually hosted the workshop we found out that people have not stop talking and discussing, we actually had not have to say that much. Just share the resources based on how the activities were structured. The actual discussion was even richer. People were bringing resources as examples of fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theories.
- Who were the participants?
We had a diverse group. There were people who knew what misinformation and conspiracy theory is. But we also had people who were either victims of disinformation and conspiracies, or never even heard about it. So, we had a pretty good mix and it was nice to see how people from such different background could interact.
- Does this lead you to the conclusion that there is more need for such similar workshops?
When we finished the Living labs participants actually told us that they need and want to know more about the topic of fake news and disinformation. They also asked if this is gonna be a typical workshop that we will host in our premises. One of them also came to us and told us they spoke to some of their colleges and friends from other part of Greece who were interested to participate. We could turn them to our partners from Athens, IDEC and kind of nationally disseminate the project.
- Are you aware of any kind of similar workshops on fake news and disinformation in your country?
At the same time similar initiatives around Greece did develop and I think this has to do with the fact that people spent long time in front of the digital tools because of pandemic and covid 19. So, more and more people became aware of what’s going on with fake news and how easily it gets to be misinformed in such circumstances. So, in the past there were hardly any while I personally till now encounter 2,3 in the region and some 10 running all over Greece. Courses are operated by municipalities or academic institutions. But we have not seen any that would be tackling particularly seniors.
- But seniors or in Greece often left out from the adult educational initiatives?
In Greece adult education is perceived as technique and not as a field of action. A technique used for professional education, something that is tackling life skills and path, communicational skills, etc. So, I think it is important that we push to the direction that we emphasize that adults should not learn only when they need a knowledge for the work. They should also learn when they need to about the government status etc.
- In Greece we have a particular case where big mainstream media spreading fake news and disinformation are affiliated with the ruling government of New Democracy and Pasok.
This is particularly problematic. Currently in Greece we have only one main narrative in the mainstream media which is pro-government. We have digital media and some others who are doing proper journalism but we are at the lowest in European Union in the sense of media differences and diversities. So, this is something that suits also in the FIDO project: when we are addressing the resources. Like who is perpetuating fake news and what do you do when source is seemingly mainstream. I believe in that sense we have an extra barrier to combat in Greece.
- At FIDO we are developing digital skills for seniors what are the gaps you noticed during your work?
Filling a digital gap is a huge challenge. We would need to develop new infrastructures and availabilities for seniors, because many of them can stand only between themselves and the mobile phone. It is limited what they can access and I think with serious game at the FIDO project we are trying to deal with this issue. We are trying to make phone more critical. This is achieved through algorithms. Additionally we would need more established training courses that actually tackle the needs of seniors and not just basic IT courses, that are not adjusted to attention spam of seniors.
- So, is it better to address misleading media or better to develop digital skills for people to recognize it?
We have to go both ways. We have to address the problem and be critical, but we are also obligated to find the solutions.
- You told me in our previous conversation that adult education is not a part of national budget. What does that actually mean for the adult education sphere in Greece?
There are some initiatives funded by EU money through IKY (State Scholarship Foundation). In some way through this state-run institutions they finance anyone who does not fit into youth, academia or vocational education. But actually adult education program in Greece are short scales, formed as some kind of initiatives and funded by the European funds. At the moment all focus is on professional education. As if the problem with the unemployment is the problem of the people that are not properly educated or don’t have skills to get employed.
- So, adult education would be strictly market oriented?
Correct. The idea is that people that have skills would be more employable.
- But Dafni Kek works differently?
Yes, we offered workshops that are not work-related but offered to seniors who were more open-minded to be educated in the different skills.
- Greece is country with high number of seniors. If they are interested in taking part in adult education programs where do they go?
We have some centers we called them Kapy where they can get together and have some fun. But these are entertainment-oriented places. At some of them informal educational courses might take place but not followed by any curriculum. What we have seen at our another project is that seniors get together and either create their own little associations, where they get together to learn new things or there are private initiatives that focus on specific issues as for example: health, exercise and learning the languages.
- Would you say then that Erasmus Plus in Greece completely replaces the needs for the non-formal educational programmes for adults?
It is essential and I think in the Greece it is the only way currently. Even if its not complete way of funding organizations, I am certain that if the funding would seized the Greek non-formal educational sector for adults would collapse.
With Angeliki Giannakopoulou talked Katja Lihtenvalner an adult educator, media analyst and journalist. In the FIDO project she works as a media content researcher, educational content design consultant, journalist and videographer under the auspices of the Ljubljana-based video production company, Rusaalka.