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This Island Innovation Ambassador webinar took place on May 6th and highlighted ways of making Crete an international training centre, with its people, nature, events and economy acting as an “amphitheatre”. All three speakers drew on real-world examples of empirical research on the island’s culture and traditions with the aim of not just a simple, theoretical introduction, but a substantial, experiential approach. In this journey, history, geography and the Mediterranean island’s character were utilised to redefine Minoan culture as a thread of a contemporary Ariadne visiting the roots of humanity and, consequently, of “our being”.

The webinar was held on zoom and was free and open to the public. It was supported by and realized in collaboration with Island Innovation, and put together by its first speaker, Dr. Maria (C)Hnaraki, a member of the Island Innovation Ambassador program which aims to integrate and combine networking, sustainability, diversity, entertainment, and knowledge. Its key concepts were ‘islandness’, innovation, positive change, cultural heritage, sustainability and education. 

More specifically, during the introductory remarks, Dr. Chnaraki, the founding Director of Greek Studies and currently an adjunct professor at Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA, USA), an Official Representative of the World Council of Cretans and an Educational Consultant for “Kids Love Greece”, introduced the Drexel in Crete study abroad and cooperative education programs. She spoke for the importance of experiential methodology, empirical learning and participant observation, and the cultivation of social and emotional skills. Throughout the programs she directs, students choose their projects with Crete always used as the inspiration and the contemporary world with its future challenges for the realization of the goals of the programs. The Minoan civilization inspires them to establish an understanding of the importance of national and self-identity and further depicts how such Minoan concepts have been expressed over time.

Dr. Katerina Makatouni, an experienced consultant, market and consumer researcher, showcased the company she has co-founded, “Kids Love Greece”, the only US-based travel agency focusing exclusively on family vacations to Greece. She presented her vision to establish Crete as the ideal family destination by capitalizing on Crete’s natural beauty, culture and traditions, cuisine, hospitality, weather, monuments and museums, as well as children’s passion for Greek mythology. To do so, “Kids Love Greece” promotes Crete by embracing technology as an a) exclusive online travel agency, b) via software such as the Audio Guide “Kids Love Knossos”, c) the use of KNOSSOS 3D Tablets (Augmented and Virtual Reality product of Moptil) and d) Online Live Classes.

The third speaker, Dr. Jerolyn Morrison, a fine art potter, a Fulbright scholar who has explored the topic of what is Minoan cooking, and an archaeologist specializing in the cooking vessels of ancient Crete, presented her company “Minoan Tastes” and her attempts to share academic research with the public. “Minoan Tastes” is a private, social enterprise that promotes the culinary history of the Aegean by working with a network of food and craft experts and scholars. Dr. Morrison’s primary goal is to use archaeology as a bridge to connect contemporary and ancient people so that important social and environmental issues can be given a safer platform for discussion. She is also working on community building and involvement, education at the grass-roots level as well as breathing a different type of life into Aegean Archaeology and Classics to sustain the field by creating local and international interest.

Upon the event’s conclusion, participants had the opportunity to address questions and interact with the speakers. They were also reminded of Crete’s geographical location as the crossroads for linking the diverse cultures present in Africa, Europe and Asia, as well as the Mediterranean island’s long history which has resulted in a cultural amalgam of a syncretic nature. 

All speakers wish to thank Island Innovation for the opportunity to present the island culture they treasure to a global audience. They also wish that, like contemporary Minoans, we remain creative and strong in these times of adversity, so that an Ariadne hands on to us the thread that will assist us in finding ways to knock down the Minotaur and get out of the Labyrinth!

You can also find out more information via these two web pages (both in Greek):

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This occasional newsletter highlights events and stories about innovation in sustainable development for rural, remote and island regions. We want to change the discourse to demonstrate how islandness can be a driver for innovation.