From May 18th to the 28th, the Civil Development Agency (CiDA) and 55 members of the Regional Civil Society Network (R-CSN) organized a Civic Week across Georgia as part of a USAID funded project, Advancing CSO Capacities and Engaging Civil Society for Sustainability (ACCESS), implemented by the East-West Management Institute. Civic Week brought together regional and Tbilisi-based Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), citizens, the private sector, public institutions, and media to inspire more active civic engagement across the country. During the week, more than 60 events took place throughout Georgia. Events included: volunteer drives and activities; town hall meetings; CSOs presentations about their work; Corporate Social Responsibility discussions; forums on civic engagement best practices; and policy forums on the issues of public concern.
An Eventful Civic Week Comes to an End
Wednesday, June 10
“We made it possible to gather more than 50 CSOs and carried out a civic week with our own resources. As a result, over 1,500 citizens have been engaged in different activities directly, more than 60 events were covered by media and all these served to fulfill the main task of the week – to enhance ties between citizens and CSOs and to engage locals in volunteering activities around the country,” Zviad Devdariani, Head of CiDA says.
Volunteers in Action
Civic Week organizers prioritized hosting volunteer activities to benefit local communities and engage citizens in their activities. Over the course of the week, volunteers took part in 15 CSO events across Georgia. They planted trees and flowers; cleaned yards and streets; organized entertaining activities for kindergarten children, children with disabilities, and for elderly living in shelters; visited retirement homes and centers for people with disabilities.
Informative Presentations: “What is the mission of CSOs?"
CSOs met with locals to introduce their work and explain how their work benefits the local community and the country. During information meetings in various regions, CSOs handed out leaflets and brochures highlighting their regional activities. Additionally, some CSOs provided free consultations to help locals with their legal and economic challenges.
CiDA met with Rustavi students to present various CiDA projects. As part of Open Door Days, CSOs in Samtskhe-Javakheti invited citizens to their offices and introduced their work, as part of efforts to foster a closer relationship with public. The Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) of Kutaisi held a CSO fair and exhibition at the Kutaisi city center; around 15 participating CSOs consulted individually with locals. Three members of the R-CSN hosted a similar fair in the Center of Gori; members of more than 10 local and international CSOs gave presentations on their work in the region, discussed the advantages of engaging in civic initiatives, and shared their personal experiences. “It was not only an exhibition but a good opportunity to share our activities with the population who may need our consultations and do not even have information about our organization in order to address us. I have to say that the number of people who address GYLA Kutaisi office has increased after our information campaign; some of them have called and received information about their interest topics,” Nodar Jikia of GYLA says. According to him, the civic week showed that R-CSN can join its efforts and carry out a massive campaign around the country which can bring tangible results, and in addition increase the population’s trust towards CSOs.
Forums on Civic Engagement Best Practices
During Civic Week, Tbilisi-based CSOs shared their experience with their regional counterparts. In Rustavi, Marneuli, Akhaltsikhe, Gori, and Mtskheta, the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD) presented the interactive web-platform www.shenmartav.ge. The web-portal enables citizens to obtain information about the elected MPs, discussed amendments, and approved acts. As part of a presentation on best practices, the International Republican Institute (IRI) discussed effective mechanisms and methodologies to carry out successful advocacy campaigns in Rustavi. Transparency International Georgia presented www.chemikucha.ge and www.myparliament.ge interactive web platforms for holding government accountable to CSOs and interested citizens in Kutaisi and Zugdidi.
Policy Forums on the Issues Concerning Georgia’s Regions
CSOs from 13 different municipalities organized town hall meetings and multi-stakeholder policy forums involving local governments, the private sector, media, and citizens in open discussions on regional development strategic plans, youth problems, preservation of cultural heritage, problems of people with disabilities, and problems of homeless people.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Discussions and Establishment of CSR Club
On May 27, as part of a CiDA and GEPRA initiative, business leaders and CSO leaders, and members of the media came together to found a CSR club in Tbilisi. The Club’s mission is to promote socially responsible business practices and encourage sustained, coordinated social initiatives that benefit citizens across Georgia. The Club will also strengthen partnerships between the business community and CSOs. During the founding ceremony, over 50 organizations signed the Club Charter becoming founders. As a result of the event’s popularity, interest in club membership is growing continuously.
Prior to the club’s establishment, CSR master classes were held in four Georgian cities. Public Relations and Marketing Managers from leading Georgian businesses met with their counterparts and regional CSOs to introduce their companies’ CSR success stories and discuss prospects for future cooperation.
CiDA and R-CSN will continue putting a special emphasis on galvanizing more active interaction between CSOs and citizens and supporting closer cooperation among public institutions, media, businesses, and CSOs so that more citizens see CSOs as their partners in highlighting key public concerns and there is a more open and participatory process by which these concerns are addressed.