What has become absolutely clear is that strengthening a country's democracy means creating an environment in which a new generation of leaders and activists can engage in open discussions and influence decision-making. A more active and informed segment of the youth can contribute to the implementation of reforms in the country, provided they are well-informed, understand how democratic processes work, and have the necessary knowledge and leadership skills.
To help address the problem of low civic engagement among young people, a summer school on the development of civic activism and leadership skills was organized in Ambrolauri in the Racha-Lechkhumi region in late August and early September of 2022. Fifteen young people from the border regions of Georgia and two from Armenia participated. The intensive program of the seven-day school included an exchange of experiences and good practices in civic activism, a community problem analysis, basic facilitation skills, working with target groups, community mobilization, basic civic campaigning, working with volunteers, finding resources, and communicating with donors.
The event was opened by Jana Zelingerova, The head of the Development Cooperation Department of the Czech Embassy in Georgia. She wished the young people active participation, openness to new knowledge, and success in implementing the acquired skills in their communities.
Trainers from Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic helped motivate participants and disseminate their knowledge and skills among their colleagues. Sessions were held in the form of presentations and open discussions, interactive exercises, simulation games, and group work, which allowed the participants to express themselves as much as possible and interact productively. The young people showed particularly great interest in the opportunity to take part in the micro-grant competition that was launched as part of this school. The participants developed their ideas and presented their projects right at the event. As a result of a general vote, three initiatives were chosen to receive micro-grants to implement their proposals.
Each participant acted as a source of information and knowledge for the others. The presentations and lectures by the trainers helped to reinforce the acquired experience and enrich it with theoretical foundations. Thus, the school of activism for young people became a platform where participants could exchange information and experience on the given topics, critically reflect on their own experiences and beliefs, and help each other to further develop their ideas for projects. Throughout the summer school, there was a great atmosphere of cooperation, openness, and mutual understanding, and, of course, a spirit of fun prevailed within the team. The participants noted the importance not only of the knowledge and experience gained, but also the opportunity to communicate with representatives from different regions, ethnic groups, and subcultures. It was important to them that they could openly express their point of view, discuss things, and have conversations about different topics that were important to them.
The activism summer school program was organized in partnership with the Georgian organization Abzainterkont, who are not only long-time partners of NESEHNUTI, but also experienced experts in local development and civic participation development in Western Georgia. The project was implemented within the framework of the TRANSITION Program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.