If not understood before, ‘brain drain’ is now a concept recognised across the globe, having been analysed and written about widely since Greece’s economic crisis well and truly set in.

Unlike the wave of migration of the 1960s and ’70s, the exodus of 427,000 Greeks since 2008 has included an overwhelming percentage of highly-educated and talented individuals.

In fact, according to a report released by the Bank of Greece, some 25,000 Greek doctors are believed to be working in Germany alone.

With the health sector among others feeling the brunt, and very little sign of the crisis improving, eight Greek professionals and scientists living both in Greece and abroad have banded together in an attempt to spin the brain drain onto its head, with a re-focus on a Brain Gain.

Aimed at reversing the suffering brought about by the drain in recent years, board members include the likes of Dimitris Skaltsas (New York), Michalis Moutselos (Göttingen), Antonis Kouroutakis (Thessaloniki), Kostantinos Kyranakis (Athens), Popi Kalaitzi (Berlin), Orestis Omran (Brussels), and Nikos Theodorakis (Brussels).

“Since the beginning of the economic crisis, Greece has suffered an unprecedented loss of young, professionally active and highly-educated citizens, who have left the country in search of a better future. It is, without doubt, an impediment to the reversal of the country’s fortunes and a break to its dynamism,” explain management consultant, Dimitris Skaltsas, and postdoctoral fellow, Dr Michalis Moutselos.

While both were among the thousands led abroad with the promise of opportunities their own country couldn’t afford them, their passion for Greece and its people is, evidently, unwavering; rooted in their recognition of the migrant’s insatiable desire to one day return home.

For Mr Skaltsas, 34, the opportunity to help his country was something he couldn’t pass up and what he regards a personal “responsibility”.

“After 2008 I have extensively lived and worked abroad in diverse geographies – London, Singapore, the Middle East, Africa, Switzerland. These experiences have helped me appreciate both the positive traits of my Greek heritage, as well as the opportunities to help our country advance,” he tells Neos Kosmos.

Similarly, Dr Moutselos, who received his PhD in Political Science from Princeton University earlier this year in May, has extensive experience abroad in the US, France and England with sound political knowledge to the benefit of the initiative.

“We have come together as Brain Gainers, because we believe we can tap into the experiences, skills and personal stories of thousands of young Greeks living and working abroad through a forward-looking agenda,” they explain.

This agenda seeks to generate ideas and opportunities for young people who are both still live in Greece and want to better their situation, while also catering to those considering a return, and those who want to help from abroad.

(L-R) Dimitris Skaltsas and Dr Michalis Moutselos.

To get the ball rolling, build upon the network, and share its message of hope, the board’s first step was to round up 100 young Greeks of different professional backgrounds from all corners of the globe, all of whom share a commitment to turning the drain into gain for Greece.

To ensure the initiative is successfully maintained in the long term, the board formulated a number of ongoing actions, which includes the drafting of best professional and policy practices deemed relevant for the current situation in Greece.

But Mr Skaltsas and Dr Moutselos are in agreement that key to transform what has so far been a liability for Greece into an opportunity, that it is of paramount importance to give young Greek professionals, both at home and abroad, a voice.

They hope to do so by issuing opinion surveys to be completed by young Greek expatriates; the exposition of personal stories of Greeks who have left the country recently, so that they become more widely known; and a campaign to enable Greek citizens to vote from abroad and thus remain active in Greek political life.

If all goes to plan, the initiative ensures to be a strong and much-needed catalyst for positive change to the economic and social prospects of Greece, which in turn will provide more opportunities for those who wish to return.

“What we intend to do with Brain Gain is to bring disruptive innovation in the political arena of Greece,” board member Antonios Kouroutakis tells Neos Kosmos.

“In particular we intend to enrich the political dialogue with successful practices from abroad and with innovative thinking from Greeks across the world. And we also aim to shed fresh light on the ongoing problems and propose solutions based on new ideas.”

Currently the network is focused on expanding its reach via local networks, or what they have dubbed ‘Brain Gain hubs’, in large cities around the world.
“We believe it is time we turned this misfortune into an opportunity and found ways to draw the generation of Brain Drain, along with their wealth of acquired skills and experience, back to Greece.”