Sharing Resources for Strengthening NGOs

 

by Ani Akhalkatsi, Civil Society Support Program Coordinator, OSGF
&  Nino Kiknavelidze, East East Partnership Beyond Borders Program Coordinator, OSGF

The non-governmental organization sector in Georgia faces some serious challenges, according to recent studies. Lack of cooperation with the government, limited impact on policy-making processes, unqualified staff and a poor public image are among them.

Critics say civil society is dominated by NGOs based in Tbilisi, and that the organizations outside the capital are considerably weaker in terms of human and financial resources due to limited access to resources and information.

Regional NGOs are rarely involved in policymaking or decision-making at the local level. While some NGOs interact with local authorities, this interaction can hardly be described as cooperation.  In general, local governments do not reach out to NGOs for partnership and NGOs do not seek out potential state partners. This can be explained on the one hand by the lack of local government accountability towards citizens and on the other by the fact that NGOs and especially those operating in the regions don't have adequate skills and capacities to express and advocate for their interests.

Lack of effective communication is yet another reason. In 2011, public opinion surveys (EWMI, USAID) revealed that average citizens are critical of NGOs. They feel that there is a significant mismatch between their real needs and the issues that NGOs address in their activities.

We believed NGOs required immediate assistance to overcome these challenges and planned 2012 NGO capacity building effort accordingly. A limited number of international or local organizations provide specialized trainings for NGOs and we are proud that OSGF is a leader among those that do.

Through trainings, consultations, and study tours, the Civil Society Support Program in cooperation with the East-East Beyond Borders Program helped groups of regional NGOs to strengthen financial and institutional sustainability. Based on the above-mentioned challenges in the beginning of 2012 we designed a comprehensive training program together with Georgian and Eastern European experts. 

Unfortunately, most NGOs in Georgia do not have enough financial resources to pay for training services provided by qualified trainers. Therefore, demand for free OSGF training courses was extremely high. We realized the importance of selecting the right participants for our program and searched for highly motivated activists who were passionate about applying knowledge and using new tools in their everyday work as well as motivated to share knowledge and experience in their communities.

In June 2012 we assembled 40 representatives from different regional NGOs for our 3-month training program. The program reflected following thematic focus: constituency building, youth mobilization, volunteer management, fundraising at the local level, effective communication, participation in decision making processes and advocacy. Thanks to the enthusiasm of our participants, lectures became very interesting and lively discussions.

Participants were able to share a lot of useful information and as our Czech colleague Sabina Dvorakova noted, the lectures themselves were used as a means of sorting, mapping, and summing up their existing knowledge to form a solid base for professional dialogue. The involvement of Eastern European NGO representatives was crucial in developing new perspectives on advocacy, community mobilization, constituency building and effective communication.

Following the completion of the program's training component, OSGF announced a small grant competition for participant organizations and organized a study visit for 10 participants (from 8 different regions of Georgia) to the Czech Republic to provide an experiential learning opportunity and support regional linkages. The grants funded seven creative advocacy campaigns to advocate for e-governance, e-inclusion, environmental awareness, and road safety. Projects are ongoing and we truly hope that our trained individuals will be successful change agents in their communities.

In addition to the capacity building component and program support, the first comprehensive database of civil society organizations operating in Georgia, web portal www.csogeorgia.org, was created to exchange information, improve communication, and share resources.

 

Together with the East-East Program, the Civil Society Support Program also promoted social entrepreneurship through development of a network of social entrepreneurs and assisting in drafting a guide on social entrepreneurship. The NGO-led social enterprises provide greater financial autonomy for organizations and provide an employment opportunity to vulnerable and marginalized groups thus promote social integration.

 

In measuring outcomes and evaluating the impact of our activities, we observed that NGO representatives acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to improve their performance. They have addressed gaps in communication both between their constituencies and the government, and have begun to effectively cooperate among themselves. They have also established successful partnerships with Eastern European stakeholders. Each participant of the program demonstrates a high level of accountability towards the foundation and updates us on every important initiative that they implement in their communities. These are the most important reasons for us to continue our capacity building efforts in the future. 

 

 


SEPTEMBER 2018

Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
            1
2 3 4 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30