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SynErgin: Securing employment and mental health through social entrepreneurship

Athens and Amphissa, GreeceNew York, United States
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

SynErgin is a participatory initiative created to empower mentally ill and marginalized social entrepreneurs. Our tools are collaborative needs assessment, hands-on learning, and technological solutions. We focus on business innovation and technological tools that ensure training and employment.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if society's most unreasonable entrepreneurs created their businesses against the odds of an economic crisis and preconceived limitations?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Mental illness poses a serious challenge with both economic and social consequences. It correlates with higher unemployment rates and lesser life quality. As is, Greece's economic breakdown has resulted in 38.4% unemployment (ages 25-34), cutbacks in psychosocial services, and rising markers of mental illness and suicide. The impact of unemployment and lessening social welfare impacts first and foremost those who face physical and mental illness.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Amid the crisis, an ecosystem of NGOs, community and scientific organizations and individuals affected by mental illness established a cohort of social enterprises. These ventures offer work training, employment, and shared ownership to people facing social exclusion and mental illness. SynErgin was created to empower these social businesses run by mentally ill entrepreneurs by building online stores and tools that answer their marketing and promotional needs, using technologies tailored to their daily work flow and skill sets. SynErgin is also creating an online multimedia platform that gathers educational resources and supports peer-to-peer mentorship, distance learning, teleconferencing, and the organic growth of this new community.
Impact: How does it Work

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Traditional vocational integration models (sponsored employment, sheltered training, work clubs) have not produced transferable skills or sustaining employment for chronically unemployed, marginalized, mentally ill groups. The EU currently funds fully for 2 years a rapidly growing ecosystem of social enterprises run by the groups above. These initiatives represent growing sections of the Greek society and show true promise for employment if made agile and sustainable through data derived practices, targeted solutions, participatory design, online market and internet-based education resources.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have already utilized one grant award and generous contributions of volunteer work and various sponsorships of resources. We plan to continue our work through seeking grants by institutions, partnerships with private sector companies, partnerships with NGO'S based on mutual benefit, ESPA funds, crowdfunding by selling our awareness raising designs, as well as providing internships and continuing to organize formal volunteer experiences.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We, like other initiatives, social enterprises and organizations, see entrepreneurship as key for ensuring employment and improving mental health. We differ in the following: We co-create sustainable tools with our clients setting in motion their unique abilities. We work together with our entrepreneurs in developing ideas, goals and objectives for their individual ventures. We use technology as a catalyst in bridging social and economic gaps. We pilot the use of new media as a core support to our entrepreneurial community. We are transdisciplinary. We measure immediate and long-term impact.

Founding Story

Our founder helped set up a social enterprise for the mentally ill "Pixida," in the neighborhood of Kallithea in Athens twelve years ago. She trained its workers and co-managed the store. Since then, Pixida has retained 95% of its original workers and shows a .5 rate of psychiatric relapse. Pixida's track record and its desire to continue to be sustainable through the economic downturn is our inspiration. Our appreciation of the power of technology, new media, and design in creating awareness and leveling the social and economic play field were the catalysts for creating SynErgin.


Phoebe Daroyanni, Psy.D., Psychologist. Founder, FT. / Athena Frangouli, Ph.D., Speech Therapist. Partner. PT. /Phoebus Dokos, B.A., Web Analyst. PT / Despina Katsouda, M.Sc. PT. / Cristobal Oltra, M.A., Transdisciplinary Designer. PT./ Hugh Lawson, B.A., Videographer. PT./ Deanna Kamiel, M.A., Producer. Documentary Consultant. PT./Amanda Henri, B.A. Computer Science. PT.We continue hire staff and work with interns and volunteers.