The base of a social enterprise is the community in which the enterprise operates or creates itself. Thus, a social enterprise has the ability to influence and re-develop the culture and ideology it stands for.
Wisedog, “the wise dog”, is a social enterprise based in Larissa, which actively proves the name and character, at a local and national level. After the pleasant conversation I had with George Dimitriou, one of the seven founding members, I was pleased to discover a prism that made me see Larissa, under a new light.
Wisedog is a place of cooperation in the heart of Larissa, offering an exhibition space, an artιstic studio, a venue hoster, a conference and workshop space and much more in 100 square meters.
How? By bringing a philosophy of cooperation and dynamic synergies that brings a dynamic change to Larissa.
Why did you choose Wisedog to be a Social Cooperative Enterprise ?
We wanted to unite everything we did, our various fields and our jobs under one common roof, in order to have a common action. The team consists of two civil engineers, an architect, a web designer, a web developer, a conservator of antiquities and works of art and a social worker. We wanted to show the work that can be produced by the collaborations, both of these specialties, but of others as well.
Our social character is to focus on young artists, on aspects of applied art, such as graphic design and artistic side that would not fit in a gallery. So since 2014 we started to do activities for young artists to present their work and come into direct contact with the community.
The project, of course, is constantly changing, along with changing conditions.
How does Wisedog differ from other Social Cooperative Enterprises?
We are a social enterprise that recognizes that it is a business for its community. That is, we did not want to think like a business and take a financial risk, but to create a space that would be self-sustaining, through the coffee in the lobby.
Our goal was to fill a gap that existed in Larissa. Wisedog wants to help develop something artistic when the municipality will not be there, when it will not be some other authority to support someone or someone who wants to do something new. We are here to cover this gap that someone who wants to do something is facing, but needs help.
What is Wisedog for Larissa and what is it like to have a Social Cooperative Enterprise in the province?
This is where the element of polymorphism comes in. We started Wisedog knowing that we want it to be something that is not defined, but that brings different people together. By combining three different spaces, the exhibition, the offices and the café, we succeed in people coming, getting ideas and being able to develop them with those next to them.
We don’t want something that’s easily defined, but something that changes form, with every season or project.
The Social Cooperative Enterprise in the province is a crazy Calvary. We had won a competition that gave us offices in the Merchants’ Arcade in Athens and this helped, because we found ourselves eleven Social Cooperative Enterprises together in an organized project and we were able to work.
The problem is that there is no fund to be able to further strengthen the actions of the Social Cooperative Enterprise. There is no support package to give us a push to do something bigger together, like a network of Social Cooperative Enterprise. Each of us strives separately for the social impact without there being any movement that gives us a capital to develop the so-called social economy.
The social economy is stagnant and is now in decline. If you do a Social Cooperative Enterprise for tax relief, which is the most common since this is the reality, you miss the bigger picture that could be done all together.
For us the main goal was to develop the space and Wisedog to provide more work. A Social Cooperative Enterprise doesn’t have the stress of doing everything for profit.
What are the conveniences in the operation of a Social Cooperative Enterprise?
The convenience is for anyone to understand through certain circumstances that they are part of a society that can coexist harmoniously with the other members in order to be able to create a work.
The convenience is that one cannot take all the money and share it as if you are in a company. You participate in the income as well as in the expenses. In the Social Cooperative Enterprise you can disburse a limited amount. So all members understand a healthy way of thinking, that for the development of the business there must be a reserve amount and have contact with what is happening in the community around it.
In this way, the Social Enterprise evolves without stress. The very structure of Social Cooperative Enterprise eliminates some frictions.
Did youthfulness play a role in the founding of the Social Cooperative Enterprise?
Certainly, as the model of the social economy is something that as young people we understand much more. The sense of cooperation and social reciprocation is something we are well aware of.
Although our discussion lasted longer, it is much preferable and immediate, if you see for yourself what wisdoms this “dog” has to share. And for those of you who find yourself in Larissa, a walk from Wisedog, either to see the current exhibition, or for coffee with the members of the Social Enterprise will help you understand first hand what makes this business social.
By Thanos Kyratzis-Margaritis Annaoglou, Journalists of the British Council’s COOPower programme.