Policy, Advocacy, and Civil Society Development Project in Georgia (G-PAC)
In the wake of the Rose Revolution, Georgia experienced an unexpected weakening of the civil society sector. Many civic leaders migrated to work in government and politics, creating a dearth of policy and advocacy professionals within the sector. Georgian civil society was also adversely impacted by the gradual polarization of think tanks between pro- and anti-government supporters and diminishing donor support as direct support increasingly shifted to the Government of Georgia (GoG). As a result, many civil society organizations (CSOs) were left without the ability to engage the government constructively on key policy issues.
The East-West Management Institute (EWMI), in a strategic partnership with the Columbia University School of International Public Affairs (SIPA), addressed the challenges faced by the CSOs in Georgia by implementing the Policy, Advocacy, and Civil Society Development Program in Georgia (G-PAC), a four-year initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This program aimed to strengthen civil society’s role in advocating for and influencing the development and effective implementation of public policy reforms. In implementing this program, EWMI worked to strengthen the advocacy and watchdog roles of civil society organizations (CSOs) as advocates for an empowered citizenry; improve public policy discourse, research and analysis leading to the development of viable policy options which reflect the citizenry’s needs to government; enhance the institutional capacity of universities in the areas of public policy, public administration and political science; and build coalitions to develop strong networks of CSOs throughout Georgia and strengthen their connections to media, political parties and constituencies.
Through a combination of information-sharing, capacity-building and grant-making, EWMI helped establish more robust lines of communication between members of government and civil society. When the project began in 2010, the government of Georgia rarely solicited the input of CSOs. This inequitable relationship began to change in December 2013 when, as a result of EWMI G-PAC activities, both groups formalized their commitment to collaboration through a Memorandum of Cooperation between CSOs and Parliament. With the agreement in place, CSOs have become much more effective at working with government agencies to address politically sensitive issues. A local CSO, Union of Chiaturians, for example, succeeded in engaging the government and a prominent mining company in talks to redress local public health and environmental concerns. Similarly, Green Alternative successfully incorporated local citizens into the planning process over hydroelectric power projects that will affect their communities.
In partnership with Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, EWMI G-PAC created a center of excellence at the Ilia State University MPA Program that can sustainably serve as a training ground for highly skilled policy analysts and public managers prepared for positions in government, think tanks, and CSOs. The program has an innovative curriculum and cutting-edge learning materials, and it produced the first publication of Georgia-based public policy and administration case studies written by Georgians. The program gained membership in the Network of Institutions and Schools of Public Administration in Central and Eastern Europe (NISPAcee), which attests to its rapid and substantive growth. In November 2014, the program gained membership in the leading US-based association for public administration schools, the Network of Schools and Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). This was highly unusual as foreign institutions are not often admitted to the NASPAA, and therefore a big achievement for the program.