Q&A With Amalia Konstantakopoulou, Co-Founder & Director, The Tipping Point.

March 31, 2024

“Our collaboration with THI Australia has been truly remarkable and definitive to our mission, and we are truly grateful to have such trustworthy and present partners sharing our vision. Your support has made a great difference in empowering students in different areas of Greece.”

What led you to consider founding a not for profit organisation focusing on delivering online career / mentoring programs into classrooms across Greece?

Growing up in Evinochori, a small village in the southern part of Aetolia-Acarnania, with my three sisters and my parents who were working the land, my access to different role models and sources of inspiration was very limited. Even without a clear goal in mind, I was raised with the idea that one should choose a university, study and then life is ready and predetermined, so to speak, as it goes for many typical Greek families. So, I went to Athens to study at the Kapodistrian University of Athens, at the Department of Economics and then at the Metsovio Polytechnic University (MBA) and Production Systems Management.

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By chance, after concluding my studies, I ended up working in the field of communication for various big companies and organisations, which lasted for about 12 long years before taking a fateful turn.

A time came in my life-my own tipping point if you may- when I realised that all my professional choices up until then were a series of decisions made at random, without an aim and a specific aspiration. That was the moment that I made a conscious choice to take a new path and create something I was passionate about, through which I could help other young people make their decisions more consciously and take their life into their own hands.

Roughly 8 years ago, I decided that I wanted to introduce to the world something I would have needed, something I wished someone would have given me access to when I was still in school. Ergo: The Tipping Point was first created in 2016. An organisation aiming to support, inform and empower students across Greece, and especially in remote areas, regarding their academic and professional moves, and in hope to better prepare them for the reality of the world of work.

Was securing funding and partners difficult in the startup phase of TTP?

With every new idea and initiative, until it is proved to meet a real need it is challenging to receive support. However, this was not the experience of TTP during its start-up phase. What we were offering and the gap we were aiming to fill was apparent and experienced by many. Not only through personal experience but because of the shortfalls of the Greek educational system. This led to the initiative receiving support from its infancy.

What is TTP’s most important achievement?

The Tipping Point is celebrating a wide and ever-growing network of schools, covering 27% of secondary education across Greece, including schools in the most remote areas of the country.

We are very proud that this network has been built on the educators’ true interest in the mission of The Tipping Point and it has mostly spread from word of mouth across schools.

Having students from every part of Greece participate in our programs and initiatives has been an amazing process on its own, as we daily get to see the impact our work has in their lives and their futures. What is more, we are honored to link mentors that have chosen to be active abroad and that want to share their knowledge and wisdom with students back in their home country, stay linked to their roots and inspire the younger generation through their example.

THI Australia is proud of its collaboration with TTP since 2019. How many schools, students and mentors have participated in the TTP online career / mentoring program since its inception.

The Tipping Point started its journey in 2016 with only 3 schools from Neochori, Arta and Krousonas, Crete. Addressing an issue long present, the word about the organization’s work spread fast and these days, The Tipping Point counts more than 800 schools in its network, and more than 60,000 students have participated in the organisation’s programs so far.

We are very thankful because none of our work could have been possible without the support of the 2,100+ educators who have chosen to bring The Tipping Point to their schools. The role of our mentors is also crucial to The Tipping Point’s mission. Counting more than 2,400 professionals coming from various disciplines from every part of the world, our mentors’ community connects with and supports multiple students every day, while also allowing them the opportunity to connect with the young generation and offer their knowledge and experience.

Describe what a day in the office involves?

When one walks into The Tipping Point office, nothing seems unusual at first glance. However, once they take a walk between the teams’ desks, the multiple computer screens come to life, they become windows to different parts of the country, different classrooms, from Kastellorizo to Kilkis, and from Fourfouras, Crete to Tychero, Evros. “How did you decide to follow this professional path?”, “How is a typical day at your work?”. At the exact same time, an astronaut, a marine biologist, a mechanical engineer and a farmer, share their knowledge regarding their professions and answer the students’ questions. This is the heart of The Tipping Point. Getting to experience hands-on the impact this initiative has on the students but also the mentors’ lives is the highlight of our workday.

You recently participated in a Gen AI Summit in SE Europe. Please share with us your views on the role of AI in education in Greece.

We were very happy to participate in the GenAI Summit SE Europe that took place in Athens in March 2024, as Content Partner for the pillar of Education. We hosted panels regarding Education in the GenAI Era, and the changes that GenAI brings to the workforce, featuring high-esteemed professionals, educators, and even a student, previously a participant in The Tipping Point Program.

At The Tipping Point, we interact daily with students and educators, and hear about their thoughts, worries and views. GenAI technology is becoming a part of our lives in all aspects, from our personal devices and our work to entertainment and education.

A worry expressed by educators is that very often students seem to “catch up” with new technologies faster than they do, creating a feeling of uncertainty regarding the safety and security of their use. However, GenAI, like any other form of technology, has the potential to serve as a powerful tool. Especially in the field of education, GenAI tools can empower educators to work more effectively and efficiently, providing their students with personalised materials according to their individual learning needs, while saving valuable time.

It is therefore crucial as a first step, to empower and train educators in the use of GenAI technologies and tools, for them to support and guide their students to approach new technologies safely and effectively, and to enhance their own educational processes. This is exactly what one of our most recent programs “GenAI Education Frontier” (awarded by Microsoft, among 600 other applications form 93 countries) is all about; aiming to train more than 1,000 educators to acquire the skills necessary and integrate AI tools in their daily workflows so that they can ultimately improve their educational processes and help their students navigate such developments.

When it comes to students, it all boils down to the quintessence of our methodology: the skill to ask better questions. We might refer to them as “prompts” nowadays but in essence it is the same skill of better communicating our inquiries and desired outputs, be it to a machine or a human. This is why The Tipping Point designs and implements programs for both educators and students, aiming to train them in this skill, through workshops and a specifically designed mobile application that aids them in bettering their questions and making them more complex through harnessing generative artificial intelligence.

The youth unemployment rate remains very high in Greece. Is enough being done to reduce the youth unemployment rate?

The truth is that Greece produces many graduates. It ranks among the highest percentages of young graduates in the world. At the same time, youth unemployment in Greece is one of the highest in the European union. The reasons vary, with the most important ones being a mismatch between the disciplines, the objectives that the market is asking for, the objectives and the career paths that the graduates select to pursue, and the skills that they receive at schools and universities are not practical and applicable to the requirements of the modern labor market.

Very often, due to lack of guidance and access to relevant information, young people fail to choose a career path that is aligned both with their preferences and the current labour market needs. The result is often a shortage of qualified professionals in some working fields and an overabundance of professionals in other sectors. Another issue linked to the high rates of youth unemployment is the gap between school and education, and the labour market. Education is mostly focused on the students acquiring knowledge in the form of information rather than in skills. The result is knowledgeable graduates who do not possess the necessary skills, such as critical thinking, creativity and problem solving, to join and excel in the world of work.

What message would you share with the Greek diaspora when it comes to the continuing need to support Greece and its people?

The support provided by the Greek diaspora to its homeland is crucial for both parties I believe. By forging this bridge between the Greek community across the globe and Greece, we reinforce growth and connection beyond geographic boundaries. For Greece, both the financial and moral support is of utmost importance, as it gives us strength to keep working on creating a better future for this country and for the younger generations, especially during trying times, reminding us that we are not forgotten.

Finally, do you have any family in Australia, and have you ever visited Australia?

The truth is, I have family living in Australia to this day. In the 60s, like many other Greeks trying to create a brighter future for themselves, three of my mothers’ siblings, two brothers and a sister, made the decision to leave their village and travel to Australia in hope of finding better opportunities.

I haven’t had the chance to visit Australia up to this day, but it is a trip I would most definitely want to make, to meet them in person, spend some time getting to know them and the country that helped them when most in need.