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Civic Responsibility

Citizens Attitudes toward Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Civic Activism 2011 Public Opinion Survey Results
I. Introduction Upon first glance, the civil society sector in Georgia seems weak, with only one percent of the Georgian population currently reporting membership in a non-governmental organization (NGO), and the number of people who distrust NGOs (23%) outweighing those who trust them (18%). Yet, these statistics present only a surface level understanding of civic engagement in Georgia. Results from a new survey undertaken by G-PAC on this topic show that while formal engagement with the NGO sector is low, informal norms of civic engagement are widespread in Georgian society. The following report uses the results from the G-PAC survey to point out the obstacles to and opportunities for bridging the gap between formal and informal forms of civic engagement in Georgia Charged with the task of providing grants and technical assistance to think tanks and advocacy organizations in Georgia, G-PAC, a four-year program funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the East West Management Institute (EWMI) decided to carry out the nationally representative survey on civic engagement in Georgia (G-PAC collaborated with Eurasia Partnership Foundation to carry out the survey. The survey was developed and conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers). Hoping to better understand how Georgian citizens perceive NGOs, what they like and do not like about them, and to identify the drivers of civic engagement, G-PAC aims to use the results of the survey to enhance the quality of its grant programs and its advice to local NGOs on how to engage citizens and serve their interests more effectively. The comprehensive survey posed in-depth questions about the Georgian populations current levels of civic engagement, attitudes toward and perceptions of NGOs, willingness to participate in NGO campaigns, current membership in organizations and political values. It then went a step beyond the necessary but predictable questions about the formal NGO sector to assess social attitudes, altruistic behaviors, religious engagement and relationships among family, friends and neighbors that could be acting as obstacles to, or present unseen opportunities for, formal civic participation. The survey was administered to a nationally representative sample of 2,509 speakers of the Georgian language in face-to-face interviews that took place between July and August 2011. The EWMI G-PAC survey results reveal a deep discrepancy between the Georgian publics low levels of formal engagement with the civil society sector and high levels of informal engagement with family, friends, neighbors and other citizens. Following from this, the GPAC survey data indicate that the five major obstacles to civic engagement in Georgia are: 1) the publics fundamental lack of understanding and knowledge of what an NGO is and does, 2) a mismatch between the issues that deeply concern citizens and the issues that NGOs most often address, 3) dependence on family and friends as a form of informal insurance that substitutes for engagement with NGOs, 4) the currently challenging economic environment

that creates a lack of resources for participation, and 5) a lack of institutionalization of informal engagement so that pro-social behaviors are often one-off rather than regular events. More optimistically, the survey results suggest the six following opportunities for the development of civic engagement in Georgia: 1) positive impressions of NGOs and NGO workers once questions are more specific, 2) high levels of willingness to participate when NGOs take up issues that resonate with citizens, 3) more widely held democratic political attitudes than the Soviet legacy would predict, 5) openness to building new relationships and 6) respect for community activists. The following report presents an overview of the EWMI G-PAC survey data. It begins with an assessment of the Georgian publics low levels of engagement with the formal NGO sector as juxtaposed with the Georgian societys more widespread forms of informal civic engagement. It then lays out the above-mentioned five obstacles and six opportunities for the development of the Georgian NGO sector. The report concludes with preliminary recommendations intended to serve as a basis for discussion with the broader international donor community and Georgian NGOs themselves regarding their efforts to more effectively engage citizens and increase civic participation in Georgia. II. Confirming the Contradiction: Formal versus Informal Civic Engagement The Dismal Formal Side Current levels of public engagement with NGOs, and civic activism more broadly, are very low among the Georgian population. The EWMI G-PAC survey data shows that in a country where international donors have devoted millions of dollars to civil society development over two decades, only 4.5 percent of the Georgian population have attended a meeting organized by an NGO, 3.5 percent have participated in a training sponsored by an NGO, 2.2 percent have called or visited the office of an NGO and 5.9 percent have had someone from an NGO come to their door over the last two years. Moreover, there is broad overlap in these populations. When taken separately, people reporting active engagement with an NGO account for 206 responses, but in total they are only 121 unique members of the 2,509 person sample, or 4.8% of the population. On average, while these people are equally distributed across rural and urban Georgia, they are significantly more educated, and those who have attended a training or meeting are more likely to be employed. Rates of political activism in Georgia are also currently quite low. Over the last six months, 9.6 percent of the population have attended a public meeting, 3.3 percent have called or written to a newspaper, TV or radio program, 1.7 percent have attended a political rally, and over the last two years, 5.7 percent have signed a collective letter addressing a specific issue. The population of people who are engaging in political activism overlaps somewhat with the population of people engaging in NGO activism. This leaves us with a small pool of actively engaged citizens in Georgia. Membership statistics are even worse. While a surprisingly low 1.7 percent of the population report that they belong to a political party, an even smaller 1.0 percent of the population, (23 respondents in total) report membership in an officially recognized NGO or professional

union, and only 0.77 say percent that they belong to an official cultural or sports union. When criteria were loosened to include membership in less formally defined clubs or associations, such as book clubs, sports teams or even online groups, membership statistics rose only to 5 percent. Members of political parties tended to be older and better educated, while the only common link between members of NGOs and professional unions was that they tended to be employed, 20 percent of them by the NGOs in which they reported membership. In the background of these low rates of formal civic engagement is a climate of mistrust both toward other members of the Georgian public generally and toward NGOs specifically. 41 percent of the population agree that you cannot be too careful in dealing with people in Georgia versus only 23 percent who feel the opposite that generally, most people in Georgia can be trusted. Only 7 percent report the highest level of trust for the rest of the population, while 25 percent report the highest levels of distrust. Meanwhile, there is worse news for the NGO sector. Levels of trust in the Georgian army, police and president reach as high as 82 percent, 62 percent and 54 percent respectively, but only 18 percent of the population trust NGOs. And while levels of distrust are low for the army, police and president, nearly a quarter (23%) of the population distrust NGOs. Out of all of the demographic data collected on the respondents, only being more religious predicts more trust in NGOs. Knowledge of the English language, contact with foreigners, internet usage and time abroad does not correlate with higher levels of trust for NGOs. Even membership in an NGO does not predict higher levels of trust in NGOs. This suggests that some, if not many, of the people who have the most contact with NGOs are skeptical of them. Georgian NGOs often claim that citizens do not support them because the media does not cover their activities and as a result the population does not have enough information about them. However, these data suggest that those people who have the most information about NGO activities still do not trust the NGO sector. Adding to the problems of inactivity and distrust is disengagement. The EWMI G-PAC survey finds that the majority of Georgians do not discuss political issues with family, friends or neighbors. On the one hand, the data shows a widespread norm of discussing private problems within the Georgian family. The majority of respondents (69%) reports

always or often discussing their private problems with close relatives while only a minority (10%) rarely or never does. On the other hand, when asked how often they discuss politics, i.e. public problems, with family members the data go in the opposite direction. The majority of respondents (66%) claims to never or rarely discuss politics with family members, while a minority (18%) often or always talk to their family about politics. Very similar results emerge when respondents are asked how often they discuss politics with their close friends. 68 percent rarely or never discuss politics with friends while only 15 percent often or always do. Even fewer Georgians are in the habit of discussing politics with their neighbors. 70 percent never or rarely discuss politics with neighbors while 11 percent do so often or always. Respondents were also asked how often they try to persuade friends or relatives to share their political views and for most (42%) it is not a common practice. In sum, we are left with a population that is disengaged from political discussion, politically and civically inactive and deeply distrustful of both society at large and the civil society institutions meant to help improve conditions.

The Brighter Informal Side Despite these low levels of formal civic engagement and general interpersonal trust in Georgian society, helping behaviors and positive attitudes toward altruism are widespread. The EWMI G-PAC survey data show that in the last six months, 65 percent of the population gave money to a beggar, 61 percent helped a friend or neighbor with household chores, 50 percent helped a stranger on the side of a road, 28 percent made a contribution to charity, 26 percent helped clean a public space, 25 percent know someone who gave blood and 20 percent helped someone resolve a dispute. There is high overlap among these populations as well, with 889 (or 77%) of the 1,156 people who helped a stranger on the road also

helping a friend or neighbor with a chore. However, even with the overlap, this is still a far larger portion of the population than those engaged in formal civil society activism. What is particularly promising about this population of informally engaged citizens is that while they also tend to be more educated, they also skew younger than the general population. Thus, it is not the aging Soviet generation practicing altruistic behaviors, but the younger generations who will hopefully be continuing these behaviors for a longer span of time and raising children to do the same. Positive attitudes toward altruism are comparably much higher than levels of general interpersonal trust in Georgian society. Only 22 percent of the population agrees with the cynical quid pro quo view of altruism that generally, when people help others, they expect some benefit in return, with only 8 percent completely agreeing. Meanwhile, a much larger proportion (40%) disagree with the statement and 27 percent of them completely disagree, suggesting that they believe that people help others out of selfless generosity rather than the expectation of mutual benefit. A 55 percent majority of the population report that they feel helpful to many people outside of their family, compared to only 7 percent who do not. Reciprocally, most people (46%) feel that generally, they have plenty of people to rely on when they have problems compared with few (13%) who do not and, more specifically, the vast majority of respondents (69%) claim that if they were ill, there are people outside of their immediate household who would look after them without expecting any compensation while only 22 percent feel there are not. General attitudes of personal well being and resilience are also prevalent in the population. Despite hard economic times with 61 percent of the respondents unemployed, 33 percent of the population with no personal monetary income last month and 32 percent with personal income up to only 140 GEL last month, an overwhelming majority (57%) of Georgians report that they are happy, with 27 percent being extremely happy Comparatively, a small minority (12%) report that they are unhappy with 4 percent of them claiming to be extremely unhappy. The majority of the population also shows a strong amount of persistence and perseverance with 64 percent reporting that setbacks do not discourage them, and only 7 percent saying that they do find setbacks discouraging. One explanation for the mismatch born out in the EWMI G-PAC survey data is that the formal NGO sector is disconnected from society in its failure to explain what it is and does and in the issues it selects that do not resonate with the population. The raw materials for a vibrant civil society exist in Georgia as evidenced by the populations widespread altruistic behavior, positive attitudes toward democracy and willingness to participate in NGO campaigns when they address salient issues, particularly among the younger generation. The formal NGO sector needs to find ways to tap into these resources more effectively. III. Obstacles to Civic Engagement Obstacle 1: Lack of Information The EWMI G-PAC survey included a series of questions designed to test respondents knowledge of what is and is not an NGO. While on average many people were able to identify NGOs and non-NGOs correctly, a significant portion of the population were not and

an even larger portion of the population did not have enough information to answer the questions. Throughout the battery of questions on NGOs a very high percentage of the population answered dont know even when they were asked to state opinions rather than recall factual information. This indicates a fundamental lack of understanding and knowledge of the NGO sector among the Georgian population. In their NGO capacity report, the Association of Young Economists of Georgia (AYEG) described their focus group participants as having had only a vague understanding of the purpose and activities of NGOs and cite examples of participants confusing NGOs with private companies and opposition political parties.1 Building on this, the EWMI G-PAC survey asked respondents to answer whether each in a series of 10 organizations is 1) An NGO, 2) Not an NGO, or 3) An organization that they have never heard of. As with all questions, they also had the option to reply dont know. The list of organizations included four Georgian NGOs (the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), and the Liberty Institute) as well as six non-NGOs, including two international organizations (the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)), two private companies (British Petroleum (BP) and Aldagi, a Georgian insurance agency), two political entities (Parliament and the Labor Party) and one fictitious NGO (Association of Unemployed People). The proportion of correct to incorrect answers for the two highest profile NGOs in Georgia, GYLA and the Liberty Institute, was not bad with the majority (56% and 51%) correctly versus a minority (8% and 11%) incorrectly identifying GYLA and the Liberty Institute as NGOs, respectively. The rates for correct identification of the Georgian NGO ISFED were significantly lower with only 30 percent correctly versus 28 percent incorrectly identifying ISFED as an NGO. The bigger problem was the rate of false positives. More people (29%) claimed that the Association of the Unemployed was a real Georgian NGO than those who admitted to never having heard of it (18%). More than a quarter (26%) of the respondents thought that USAID is an NGO (a mistake easily made since they fund so many NGOs in Georgia) and more worryingly that the Labor Party is an NGO. Another 25 percent identified the Aldagi insurance company as an NGO as well as 17 percent and 14 percent, respectively, misidentifying British Petroleum and NATO as NGOs. On the other hand, high proportions of the population know that these organizations are not NGOs and, in particular, 50 percent and 48 percent correctly identify NATO and the Labor Party as not an NGO, and a triumphal 83 percent know that the Parliament is not an NGO. Not surprisingly, the people who are more likely to identify NGOs correctly are more educated.

Association of Young Economists of Georgia, Advocacy Capacity Assessment of Georgian NGOs, Tbilisi: March 2011. Accessible at:

What is even more interesting than the proportion of right versus wrong responses in assessing the Georgian publics knowledge of the NGO sector is the level of never heard of and dont know responses. The lowest percentages of dont know responses were for the political institutions with only 13% not knowing the Parliament and 24% not knowing the Labor Party. However, these are exceptions. From there the percentages range from a low of 33 percent of the population not knowing or never having heard of GYLA to a high of 66 percent of the population not knowing or never having heard of BP. On average, those who chose to answer dont know are older and less well educated than the general population. They also often tend to be female rather than male. Similarly stunning proportions of the population opted to answer dont know rather than answer questions about NGOs, even when they were asked to give their own opinion rather than guess at a fact. When asked questions about who finances NGOs and whose interests NGOs support, across a list of possible options, dont know answers ranged between 38 percent and 58 percent. When asked if they think NGOs have become more or less active since the Rose Revolution, 42 percent claim they dont know. When asked to identify the main motivation of NGOs and the types of people who work in NGOs dont know answers were 31 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Even when asked their opinion about who should finance NGOs, between 41 percent and 46 percent answered dont know for every option from the Georgian government to the Georgian citizens themselves. For the questions asking people which three issues they thought NGOs should address more, a constant 10.8 percent of the population responded that they do not know. As above, in most cases, people who answer dont know tend to be older and come from more rural areas. Despite not entirely understanding what an NGO is or does, the majority of the population believes that the NGO sector has become more, not less, active since the Rose Revolution. This perception runs counter to the claim that many international donors, NGOs and journalists have made that the civil society sector has been less active since the Rose Revolution. This perception may reflect more coverage that NGOs, particularly GYLA, have had in the media. It might also be a reflection of the publics confusion over what an NGO is. While those who did answer did not do a bad job of identifying NGOs and non-NGOs, the high proportion of people who do not know how to answer questions about the NGO sector illustrates a significant lack of public understanding of what an NGO is and does. Obstacle 2: Issue Mismatch Another problem curbing engagement with the formal NGO sector is a mismatch between the issues that the Georgian NGOs choose to address and the issues that are currently most important to the Georgian citizens. This problem was raised by participants in the AYEG focus groups, who expressed the hope that NGOs would take up crucial issues of unemployment, the rising cost of living, education and healthcare. Respondents to the EWMI G-PAC survey give similarly economic-themed answers when asked what issues they think NGOs should address. In contrast, they perceive NGOs as most often addressing the issue of elections. AYEG data confirm the mismatch between the issues that the majority of citizens want NGOs to address and the issues that they are currently addressing. This may indicate that citizens think that issues such as elections and human rights are already receiving adequate attention from NGOs and that they would like to see the NGO sector diversify to address a broader array of issues, particularly the economic issues of paramount concern to the population right now. Beginning with the AYEG data, the top five issues actually addressed by their sample of 100 NGOs are education (50%), human rights (42%), local governance (27%), rule of law (27%) and democracy-building (21%). Altogether, their NGOs report working on 22 different issues

with some NGOs claiming to have over ten focus areas, and others more modestly claiming two.2 It is interesting to note that these categories have all been buzz-words in international donor reporting over the last ten years and may reflect NGOs tendency to select issues based on grant availability. However, it also must be noted that many important issues such as helping socially vulnerable populations and improving healthcare policy could fit within the above categories. Comparatively, when respondents in the EWMI G-PAC survey were asked what issues they perceive NGOs in Georgia as most frequently addressing, they responded that they believed NGOs most frequently take up election issues (28%), poverty and unemployment (20%), education and social assistance (16%), media issues (16) and court issues (11%). There is undoubtedly a great divide between perception and reality, despite overlap in issues of education and perhaps rule of law and democracy-building if they relate to elections. Those who think NGOs address poverty and unemployment tend to be less educated. Their answers therefore might indicate wishful thinking rather than informed perception. In terms of desirability, respondents think that NGOs should be addressing issues of increasing prices, poverty and unemployment (66%), education, healthcare, and social assistance (46%), security, defense and conflict-related issues (21%) and issues of regional development (14%). Those 66% who want to see NGOs working on economic challenges tend to be older, less educated and more rural while the 46% who want NGOs to address education, healthcare, and social assistance tend to be older with lower incomes, perhaps suggesting concern over pensions. Nothing links those who want NGOs to take up security issues, but unsurprisingly, the people who want NGOs to address regional development tend to be more rural, i.e. farther outside of Tbilisi. Meanwhile, better educated, more urban people with higher incomes would like NGOs to work on court issues and younger, more highly educated, urban females with higher incomes want them to advocate for womens issues and against domestic violence. Thus, it is important that NGOs taking up different issues know the demographics of their supporters and target their outreach efforts more specifically to them.

While AYEG employed a purposive sample rather than a representative random sample of NGOs, they ensured variation across geographic location, issue area and age, gender and ethnicity of the key staff. The NGOs they selected are typical of those that the EWMI G-PAC survey respondents might encounter.

Finally, the top five responses people give when asked about the most important issue facing Georgia at the moment are jobs (69%), poverty (38%), affordability of healthcare (37%), territorial integrity (30%) and rising prices/inflation (29%). This is a very close match to the issues that respondents said they wished NGOs would address and they are overwhelmingly economic in nature. Only small proportions of the population think that issues most frequently worked on by NGOs such as quality of education (5%), human rights (7%), fairness of elections (5%), fairness of the court system (5%) are among the most important facing Georgia. Furthermore, when asked what kind of activities the respondents would like to see NGO carrying out, the number one response was consulting with the citizens about important issues. Rather than asking for handouts of services such as vocational training or legal advice, the citizens overwhelmingly wanted NGOs to discuss issues with them. This indirectly points to the Georgian publics desire for NGOs to more effectively address the concerns they face in their daily life. Thus, we find a significant mismatch between what issues the Georgian population feels are the most important and wish that NGOs would take up with the Georgian government on their behalf and the issues that NGOs actually address in their advocacy campaigns. This data can go a long way in explaining why trust in the NGO sector is so low and why 35 percent of the population believe that NGOs are merely serving their own interests rather than those of the wider public. International donors may play a key role in this mismatch, as they often mandate, or at least sanction, the issues addressed by the NGOs that they fund. Clearly, the public would like to see the NGO sector diversify to address a broader array of issues, particularly the economic issues that are most important to their daily lives right now. Obstacle 3: Lack of Institutionalization While groups of Georgian neighbors and friends may come together to solve a collective problem or initiate a pick-up football game, they do not often institutionalize these groups so that they may continue to operate after the immediate problem is resolved or the game has ended. This lack of institutionalization is at the heart of the divide between the formal civil society sector and the informal civic engagement seen in the survey data. The civic engagement that is institutionalized in formal NGOs by international aid money and oversight most likely did not have an informal constituency or practice on the ground before it was formalized. The informal civic engagement of problem-solving neighbors or sports-playing friends remains a spontaneous, one-off occurrence rather than an institution that creates a formal repetition of those practices.

The lack of formalization is most obvious in the altruistic behaviors discussed in the first section of this report. While large proportions of the Georgian public gave money to a beggar, helped a friend or neighbor with chores, helped a stranger on the road and made a contribution to charity, it can be inferred by the correspondingly low proportions of formal group membership and NGO engagement that none of these acts of altruism were carried out through a formal organization. Positive attitudes toward altruism, as also discussed in the first section, are widespread throughout Georgian society. However, the energy driving these attitudes is not harnessed by institutions that can use it for collective action. The disconnect between the widespread altruistic attitudes and lack of engagement with the formal NGO sector in Georgian society has a direct parallel with the widespread religious sentiment but low levels of formal engagement with the Georgian Orthodox Church as born out in the EWMI G-PAC survey data. Measuring both religious attitudes and practices, the survey results show a great divide between the formal and informal practice of religion with most Georgians embracing the informal side without feeling the need to engage formally with the church. 82 percent of the respondents say that religion is important to them in their daily life compared with only 4 percent who say that it is not. 66 percent of the population consider themselves religious, 37 percent of those believing themselves to be very religious, while only 9 percent do not consider themselves religious. 74 percent of Georgians pray regularly at home at least once a month, 54 percent of them at least once a week, while only 15 percent report that they have not prayed at home at all in the past year. A smaller but still majority 53 percent of Georgians pray regularly in a church at least once a month with only 19 percent having not prayed in a church at all in the past year. 30 percent even claim to regularly donate money to a church at least once per month. However, when asked how often they attend formal religious services 57 percent go only on special holidays, less often than that or never attend formal services. Practices even more closely linked to the church as a formal institution have positive response rates as low as those relating to NGO participation. Only 5 percent help to clean a church, 4.4 percent help a church collect food and clothing for the poor, 2.7 percent go on pilgrimages, 1 percent participate in a church choir, 0.4 percent participate as a lay sideman in a church at least once a month. Thus, we see a pattern in which altruistic and religious sentiment both run high in Georgian society and Georgians view these sentiments highly and often act on them spontaneously. However, these spontaneous behaviors are seldom carried out through the formal institutions of the NGO sector or the Orthodox Church. One positive recent development toward institutionalizing altruism in Georgia is the development of the charity SMS donation scheme through which mobile phone users are able to SMS contributions to charities through their phones. The EWMI G-PAC survey did not disaggregate between SMS and other types of donations to charity, the technology has become very popularity and likely facilitated many

of the 28 percent of Georgians who contributed to charity over the last six months. While the charity SMS technology does not help organize Georgians into formal groups, it does help collectively pool resources for formal groups. Obstacle 4: Dependence on Family and Friends The EWMI G-PAC survey takes a closer look at family relationships and finds that while individuals are not devoting large amounts of time to their families, most Georgians hold a strong belief that family comes first and rely heavily on other family members to support them in times of trouble. The prioritization of the family and the unquestioned norms of altruism within the family create a kind of informal insurance that may substitute for engagement with NGOs. While the tight-knit bonds in Georgian families raise expectations that they would meet often, only 20 percent of respondents get together with close relatives at least once a week (of those 4% every day). The majority (54%) get together with close relatives less often than once a month or only on special occasions. This is a big contrast to how often Georgians get together with their close friends. 25 percent of respondents report seeing their close friends every day, 32 percent at least once a week and a minority (23%) get together with close friends less often than once a month or only on special occasions. However, family bonds appear very prominently both in attitudinal questions and questions about who to turn to in emergencies. When asked the extent to which they agree that your family and relatives demand too much from you, 46 percent of respondents disagree, with 39 percent of them completely disagreeing. Only 16 percent agree that their family demands too much of them and only 9 percent of them agree completely. This can be read as either that demands are low or that high demands are perceived as unobtrusive. Similar results attain for the question how often do you feel that your family affairs interfere with your job? An overwhelming 73 percent say never and 12 percent rarely, while a very small 2 percent say sometimes and 1 percent say always. Again, it is open to interpretation whether this means that family affairs do not spill over into the office or if that spillover is not perceived as an interference. The society is divided on the statement that Young people should look after their own lives first and then take care of their parents. 32 percent agree and 28 percent disagree with 19 percent feeling strongly on either side. Oddly enough, the people more likely to agree with the statement are older rather than younger and vice versa. So rather than the older generation imposing self-sacrificing obligations on their children, it is the younger generation willfully taking up this obligation of their own accord. Two questions tested who Georgians relied on most in difficult times. The more direct question asked respondents to say yes or no to a list of options of people and organizations to which they might turn for help in difficult times. An overwhelming 93 percent responded that they would turn to family, with only 5 percent saying that they would not turn to their family. The 80 percent who would turn to friends tended to be younger than the 16 percent who would not. Meanwhile, the 33 percent who would turn to local government tended to be living in more rural areas than the

58 percent who would not. Finally, only 11 percent would turn to an NGO for help versus 75 percent who would not. Thus, we see informal mechanisms of social insurance dominating with the family being most widely relied upon in difficult times. In a second question, respondents were asked how they would pay for damages if they or someone in their family was to cause a car accident. Most (30%) say that their family would pay for damages. Others (21%) would borrow money from a friend or relative and only 8 percent would pay from personal savings. A large proportion (26%) did not know how they would pay. In a separate question, only 35 percent of respondents report that their household own some form of formal insurance. Those with insurance tend to be more educated and have higher incomes, although they are equally spread across the country. While the survey did not ask the respondents to specify the type of insurance they own, given that 172 (21%) of the 834 households who have some sort of insurance also have a car, it could be assumed that as many as 21 percent have car insurance. However, when asked how they would pay for damages in a car accident, only 23 (or 1%) of the 2,509 respondents said that they would expect insurance to pay in a car accident. Thus, the family in Georgia serves as an informal form of insurance in a society where formal insurance is rarely relied upon. The tight-knit bonds that tether Georgians to their families are a reflection of their participation in this informal insurance scheme. Contrasting the vast majority who would turn to their family in a time of crisis with the small minority who would consider employing the aid of an NGO on their behalf, an argument can be made that family bonds prevent engagement with the formal NGO sector. The 46 percent of respondents who stated that they would not be interested in joining an organization which, upon its own initiative, works on issues important for society, were also asked the reason why they would not join. The largest proportion of respondents (37%) said that they did not participate in civil society organizations because they preferred to take care of their own familys affairs. Obstacle 5: Challenging Economic environment Another possible obstacle to civic engagement is the challenging economic environment that, as we see above, is at the forefront of concerns for many Georgians. It is arguable that people have to prioritize their own economic survival and that of their extended family before they can start

devoting time, energy and money to the public good. Among the nationally representative survey population, household incomes skewed very low with 61 percent of the households collectively earning less than 400 Georgian Lari (around $240 USD) per month. Personal income was significantly lower with 33 percent of respondents reporting no personal income and an additional 43 percent earning under 250 GEL (about 150 USD) in the past month. Only 8 percent of the population reportedly earned more than 400 GEL (around 240 USD) in the last month. The significantly lower personal than household income implies that people are relying on their families not only in economic emergencies but for basic financial support. The vast majority (93%) of households reported that they did not have enough money to buy durable goods, with 65 percent not having enough money to buy clothes and 30 percent not having adequate money to buy food. Employment is also currently a huge concern for Georgians. Less than half of the respondents (39%) interviewed were employed. And of the 61 percent of the respondents who were unemployed, only 31 percent were unemployed by choice and not looking for a job. Nearly half (45%) were actively looking for a job but unable to find one and 11 percent were interested in working but were not actively looking for a job. When asked what they thought is the most important factor for getting a job in Georgia, 25 percent of respondents cited connections, with an equal percentage citing education as the most important factor. However, when then asked whether they thought that membership in a union or club would be an advantage for getting a job, most respondents (38%) said no. This suggests that the connections that help with employment in Georgia are still imagined as close family or friendship ties rather than looser networks of associates and acquaintances. Despite these grim statistics, a surprisingly large number of people (49%) felt that they have control over their economic situation versus the 24 percent who did not feel that they have control. Again, given the patterns of family dependence described in the section above, this may indicate that families are pooling resources to keep relatives afloat in these difficult times. As we saw above, the

prioritization of the family may pose an obstacle to engagement with the NGO sector. III. Opportunities to Promote Civic Engagement Opportunity 1: Positive Perceptions of NGOs Despite the grim picture at the general and institutional level, more targeted questions about respondents perceptions of NGOs produce a mix of positive and cynical results. In asking what is the main motivation of NGOs, 30 percent of the population believe that it is helping Georgian citizens solve their problems and 5 percent that it is raising citizen awareness, while a smaller, more cynical 19 percent think it is receiving funding to employ themselves. When asked if NGOs in Georgia support the interests of the people who work for them, a cynical 35 percent do agree, compared with only 22 percent who disagree and 40 percent who do not know. Meanwhile, an earnest 32 percent agree that NGOs support the interests of people like themselves, while a pessimistic 28 percent disagree and a puzzled 38 percent do not know. Finally, in unequivocally good news for the Georgian NGO sector, the people who work for NGOs garner more trust than the NGOs themselves. When asking what type of person is most likely to be active in NGOs, the survey provided a list of answers that included some of the most cynical terms heard for NGO workers in Tbilisi, including a grant-eater, a modern day member of the Komsomol, a busybody and a troublemaker (intrigani in Georgian). Compared with 6.3 percent who allege that NGO workers are grant-eaters, 2.0 percent busybodies, 0.8 percent modern day Komsomol members

and 0.6 percent troublemakers, 17 percent saw them as someone who is trying to improve the situation in the country and 12 percent as a person who wants to help people like me.

Moreover, when asked to what extent a person actively involved in NGO work can be trusted, 21 percent said yes versus only 12 percent who said no. Thus, it seems safe to conclude that rather than viewing social entrepreneurs negatively, Georgians have an overwhelming amount of respect for them and the difficult work that they do for the collective benefit. Opportunity 2: Willingness to Participate is High The EWMI G-PAC survey also tested the self-reported willingness of respondents to participate in NGO campaigns. A series of four questions each presented a different issue that an NGO was taking up and then asked respondents if they would participate in the following activities organized by the NGO: 1) signing a petition, 2) attending a rally, 3) going door-todoor informing neighbors about this issue, 4) donating money to help resolve this issue, and 5) discussing this campaign with family and friends. The issues for each question were chosen based on what the focus groups in the AYEG report stated were the most salient. The first question detailed an advocacy campaign about the issue of unemployment led by a Georgian NGO called the Economic Policy Research Center lobbying the government to adopt policies that would generate new jobs. Given the context of low levels of engagement with the formal NGO sector, the responses were quite high: 60 percent of the respondents said that they would sign a petition. 52 percent would discuss the campaign with family and friends. 19 percent would attend a rally. 12 percent would go door-to-door informing neighbors about this issue. 16 percent would donate money to the campaign. The second question described an advocacy campaign in which an NGO taking up problems related to the provision of quality, low-cost healthcare wants to raise government awareness about the scope of these problems. Again, the results were well above what might be expected: 64 percent of the respondents said that they would sign a petition, 54 percent would discuss the campaign with family and friends,18 percent would attend a rally, 12 percent would go door-to-door informing neighbors about this issue and 16 percent would donate money to the campaign. The third question in which the well-known Georgian NGO GYLA was addressing the problem of social aid to pensioners produced very similar results (64%, 53%, 18%, 12% and 16%, respectively). The fourth question in which the NGO Human Rights House took up the issue of rising food prices generated even more impressive results with 66 percent of the respondents saying that they would sign a petition, 57 percent would discuss the campaign with family and friends, 20 percent would attend a rally, 14 percent would go doorto-door informing neighbors about this issue and a significantly increased 21 percent would donate money to the campaign. While skeptics might argue that self-reports of behavior on surveys are not credible measures of what actions people would actually take in the real world, these numbers are still very

meaningful in a comparative context. The fact that low-cost actions such as signing a petition and discussing the campaign with friends and family had such higher response rates than higher-cost actions such as donating money or going door-to-door indicates that respondents were incorporating real world factors like effort, time and money into their responses. Moreover, the characteristics of the people responding positively to the different options also correspond well with reality. In all four cases, men were more likely than women to say that they would attend a rally and younger people were more likely to say that they would go door-to-door. Across all of the cases, people agreeing to join the NGO campaign by going door-to-door or donating money tended to be younger and more educated. In two of the four cases, those agreeing to attend rallies were also younger and more educated. This stands in stark contrast to the description of the political rallies held by the opposition in May 2011 that were referred to in the media as the Silver Revolution because they were overwhelmingly populated with disgruntled pensioners.3 Furthermore, when asked whether or not they agreed with the statement I will only participate in NGO activities if they pay me, only 20% of respondents agreed. Meanwhile, the majority of the population (51%) disagreed, indicating that most of the Georgians understand the concept of public service and that NGOs do not have to resort to providing monetary incentives to recruit volunteers. These trends highlight the bright prospects for Georgian civil society if it is able to tap into the right demographic by taking up issues that the population, particularly the younger generation, care about. There is a youthful, well-educated base that is not concentrated in the capital potentially willing to be more active in NGO advocacy campaigns. International donors and NGOs need to realign their outreach efforts to mobilize this force. Opportunity 3: Messaging May Not Matter if the Issues are Salient In order to help EWMI G-PAC advise its NGOs on effective messaging for their advocacy campaigns, the above-mentioned four participation questions included an experimental element. For each of the four scenarios, the messaging was varied to test whether one way of positioning the NGO campaign produced more positive response in the control group than in the treatment group or vice versa. The results show that not one of the four variations in messaging is significant. This non-result is significant in itself. It can be interpreted as the Georgian population not being particularly attentive or sensitive to messaging, or more optimistically, that when the issue is salient enough, how it is positioned does not matter. The four different variations were meant to test what a priori seemed like important conceptual differences in the messaging. In the first question, the unemployment issue was framed passively and vaguely for the control group with the problem of unemployment not being attributable to any specific cause. For the treatment group, the problem of unemployment was directly attributed to the policies of the Georgian government and was meant to hold the government accountable for the problem of unemployment. While responses of the control and treatment groups were not different enough to be considered statistically significant, it is still interesting to note that on each of the five responses for the

Damien McGuinness, Georgia: Anti-Saakashvili protestors vow to continue, BBC News, 26 May 2011,, or Silver Revolution 2011

first case (signing petition, attending a rally, etc..), response rates were greater among the control group that got the vaguely worded messaging rather than the targeted, more accountable messaging. In the second question, the control group was told that the healthcare advocacy campaign would be funded by a grant from USAID, while the treatment group was told that it would be funded by private donations of time and money from Georgian citizens. Again, while the responses of the two groups were not different enough to be considered statistically significant, there was an indication that people were slightly more willing to attend a rally, go door-to-door and donate money if the campaign was sponsored by other Georgian citizens rather than USAID. It makes intuitive sense that people were more willing to contribute their time and money to higher cost activities if others were doing the same. The third question tested whether mentioning the track record of an NGOs success would make people more willing to donate to its campaign. The control group was given details about a successful human rights campaign that GYLA carried out in the past while these details were omitted from the treatment groups message.4 Again, while not statistically significant, respondents were more willing to participate across all of the five activities if they were not given details about GYLAs successful human rights campaign. This could indicate either a short attention span, or more likely, a public distaste for this particular human rights campaign in which GYLA won a case against the Georgian government in the European Court of Human Rights. Clearly, a more politically neutral past success should have been used to eliminate noise. Finally, the fourth question tested an emotional appeal against a more rational statistical statement of the problem of rising food prices. The control group was given a story about Nino, a six year old girl living in Tbilisi, going to bed hungry every night while the treatment group was presented with statistics on world food prices and the rising cost of meat in Georgia. Based on cultural stereotypes of the warm, empathetic Georgian character, the story of little Nino was expected to generate significantly more pledges to the campaign than the cold statistical expression of the problem of food prices. This did not bear out. Again, while not statistically significant, respondents were slightly more likely to sign a petition for little Nino, but for the rest of the activities they were slightly more likely to participate as motivated by the statistics. Perhaps this indicates that people are more motivated to help themselves than others, since it is a safe assumption that most if not all people are affected by the higher cost of meat. Moreover, when only the subset of the population based in Tbilisi is considered, far more people (though still not a statistically significant number) are willing to support the NGO campaign if they are presented with little Nino, a hungry girl living in Tbilisi, than the statistics about food prices. While 54 percent will sign the petition based on the statistical messaging, 64 percent will sign for Nino. While 18 percent will attend a rally given the statistical version, 25 percent will attend for Nino. 13 percent will go door-to-door to present the statistical problem of food prices while 17 percent will go door-to-door

This question was changed after testing of the questionnaire. It was originally meant to test whether the name recognition of a known NGO like GYLA would encourage people to join its campaign relative to an unknown NGO.

for little Nino. Similarly, 21 percent will donate money if presented with the statistics and 26 percent will donate for Nino. Finally, while 50 percent will discuss the statistical problem of rising prices with friends and family 59 percent will discuss food prices in the context of hungry little Nino. The take away from the statistics may be that while Georgians may be more motivated by self-interest when presented with a case of someone suffering far away from them, they may feel more responsibly and be more altruistically motivated to take action when the person is perceived as living in their own community. Finally, one last note about how to address the public concerns different ways of contacting and informing them about NGO activities. The survey statistics on internet usage suggest that a large proportion of Georgians (29%) have access to the internet at least once a week with 20% percent going online everyday. While the majority (54%) claims to never use the internet, the substantial portion of Georgians online suggests that NGOs might consider using online outreach efforts. Opportunity 4: A Society Divided has a Democratic Side One of the often cited reasons for low levels of civic engagement in Georgia and other former-Soviet countries is the post-communist legacy that has left an enduring political culture of apathy, mistrust, pessimism and cynicism toward political participation and civic activism. However, after tailoring the EWMI G-PAC survey to pick up on particularly Georgian iterations of this post-communist political culture, an onslaught of apathy, cynicism and feelings of political inefficacy did not appear strongly in the data. The results show Georgia as a country divided between lingering post-communist cynicism and a more earnest, empowered optimism. On balance, the distributions seem to skew in the direction of the democratic values. The fact that an overwhelming majority of apathetic citizens does not appear in the data is good and in many ways surprising news.5 Soviet Cynicism The first litmus test for the divide between Soviet and democratic values is a forced choice question that places the two statements People are like children; the government should take care of them like a parent and Government is like an employee; the people should be the boss who control the government side by side and asks the respondent to choose whether they agree or agree very strongly with one, the other or neither. As it has been in the past two years of the Caucasus Barometer survey, the Georgian public is divided down the middle on this question. 45 percent believe that the government should treat its citizens like children in good Soviet authoritarian tradition and 46 percent instead believe that the people should treat the government like their employee in Western democratic fashion. This question slightly skews in favor of the Soviets, at least in intensity of belief since 22 percent agree very strongly that the government should act as a parent, while only 16 percent agree very strongly that the government should serve as employee. Those who agree with the more democratic option tend to be male, more highly educated and more urban. By comparison, in Azerbaijan and Armenia, the vast majorities of the populations (68% and 70%, respectively) believe that the government should serve as a parent while only 20 percent and 27 percent, respectively, think that the people should treat

Some Georgian colleagues felt that there was no reason to put many of these questions in the survey because the answers were so obvious, with the implication that the whole society would pick the cynical or apathetic option.

the government like an employee.6 Thus, in comparison to the way populations in neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan answer this same question, Georgians show far more movement away from their Soviet legacy toward democratic attitudes to their government. The next question asked people to take a side between the stances that 1) Politics is a dirty business and I do not participate in politics because I do not want to get dirty hands myself, and 2) Its the civic duty of every Georgian citizen to participate in politics to make it a better country. Here the Soviet side more clearly wins out with 41 percent associating politics with dirty business versus only 37 percent with civic duty. Moreover, the people who view politics as dirty business are more intense in their preferences with 17 percent agreeing strongly, while only 9 percent of the people who saw politics as a civic duty agreed strongly with this sentiment. There are no correlates linking people on either side. Notably though, these results, as with those above, present a population divided in their political values, not a country overrun with cynics. Another telling question forces respondents to choose between the statements 1) Right now the Georgian government needs to take quick decisions to strengthen the state and asking peoples opinions may slow this process down, and 2) The Georgian state will only get stronger if the government takes into consideration the peoples opinions even if this process takes more time. An overwhelming majority of Georgians choose the side of consultative democracy over the logic of authoritarianism. 56 percent of the population agree that citizen preferences should be taken into consideration. Feelings of Political Efficacy Another reason cited for low civic engagement in post-communist societies is the defeatist attitude that taking action will not have any impact on government decisions. Why waste time attending a demonstration or going door-to-door to get signatures for a petition if the government does not take public preferences into account? However, the EWMI G-PAC survey results show that while a portion of the Georgian population does feel that political engagement is pointless, a larger number feels

Statistics from CRRC Caucasus Barometer using online data analysis tool at

Respondents were asked to choose between the statements 1) For me actions like holding peaceful demonstrations to demand something from the government are pointless because the government will do whatever it wants anyway, and 2) I think that actions like holding peaceful demonstrations are important because this way the government is forced to take into consideration peoples demands. The results are surprisingly positive. 36 percent of the population agree that holding peaceful demonstrations is important for holding the government accountable to public demands while only 30 percent think that it is pointless. The same question was posed substituting signing petitions for holding peaceful demonstrations and it generates even more convincing results. 38 percent of Georgians think that signing petitions is important, while 29 percent think that it is pointless. The people who believe in the importance of holding demonstrations tend to be more urban, likely because demonstrations are most often held in cities while people who support signing petitions are spread throughout the country but tend to be younger, perhaps suggesting a generational change from Soviet feelings of inefficacy. Respondents were also asked to choose between the statements 1) I think that taking part in actions like attending peaceful demonstrations [signing petitions] is dangerous because the Government is keeping an eye on everything, and 2) I think that taking part in actions like attending peaceful demonstrations [signing petitions] is completely safe because the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to express their opinions. Even despite the publicized problems that opposition protestors faced on May 26, 2011, only two months before this survey was administered, a surprising 43 percent agree that it is safe to attend a demonstration in Georgia, versus only 25 percent who think it is dangerous. Similarly, 42 percent agree that it is safe to sign petitions, while only 18 percent believe it is dangerous. However, other results produce a less optimistic impression. When asked whose opinion most influences important government decisions, 59 percent of the population said the Presidents, 11 percent said Members of Parliament and only 1 percent said that ordinary peoples opinions matter. Moreover, respondents were asked to suppose that the Government made a decision that you considered to be unjust and people decided to protest against it, how effective do you think their actions would be in reversing the decision? They answered on a scale from one to ten, with one meaning that the government will not change its decision no matter how many people protest and ten meaning that the government will change its decision only if enough people protest. Only 16 percent of the population believed that the government would reverse its decision if enough people protest, while 29 percent believe that the government would not change its decision no matter how many people joined the action. Interestingly, 30 percent of the people do not know and an additional 22 percent choose to stay neutral in the middle. Thus, the majority of Georgian citizens are not convinced that protests are futile. In another instance meant to test the extent to which respondents would seek the help of an NGO from among a list of other options, respondents were asked who they would turn to first if a friend

had been fired from a state job unfairly. This question wound up being a window onto how many people had faith in the formal legal system versus the pessimistic belief that there would be no point in taking any action at all to rectify the injustice. A surprising 56 percent chose different types of official legal channels for addressing the problem. 23 percent said that they would hire a private lawyer, 14 percent would go to the courts, 7 percent to the ombudsman and 5 percent to the government. Only 1 percent said that they would turn to an NGO for help. Meanwhile, only 6 percent of the respondents would use the informal means of an influential friend or relative, which goes against much of the way the Georgian justice system worked in the past. 20 percent did not know what they would do. In the end, only 17 percent thought there would be no point in addressing anyone. Opportunity 5: Openness to New People Close ties within tight-knit small groups of people are thought to exist not only within families in Georgia but also within friend groups and act as another hindrance to the development of civil society. The high level of trust and altruistic behavior within these friend groups may lead to a very high barrier to entry and have the effect of making social groups static and fixed rather than changing membership fluidly. People in these friend groups, who have already earned the trust of the other members and have taken on the high level obligations and received the benefits of these close friendships, should show low levels of openness to meeting new people or making new friends. Since in the West meeting new people and making new friends often motivates participation in civil society organizations, it can deduced that a lack of desire to make new friends in a place with high bonding social capital could depress participation in NGOs. However, the EWMI G-PAC survey found the opposite to be the case in Georgia. When asked if they have close friends an overwhelming 92 percent of respondents said yes and only 7 percent no. The survey then went on to ask respondents to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the statement I already have many friends and do not need to make new friends. Despite expectations that Georgians would not be open to making new friends, a very surprising 63 percent of the survey respondents disagreed, 53 percent of them completely so. On the other side, only 17 percent agreed that they do not need to make new friends, only 10 percent of them completely so. That smaller segment not interested in making new friends tended to be older than the larger segment that was open to making new friends. Respondents were then asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the statement I enjoy meeting new people. If Georgians really were so tightly bound within circles of trust of family and friend groups and as untrusting of other Georgians more generally in the society, the experience of meeting new people should be unpleasant for them. However, 66 percent of the respondents stated that they enjoy meeting new people, 45 percent of them agreeing completely, while only 9 percent did not enjoy meeting new people with only 5 percent completely disagreeing.

As above, those who felt that meeting new people was unpleasant tended to be older. Despite these high proportions of the population who express the desire to meet new people and make new friends, when asked if and how respondents had gained new friends in the last year, the 56 percent majority reported not having made any new friends. 24 percent made friends through existing friends, 8 percent at work or school, 7 percent through relatives, 7 percent through co-workers and 6 percent through neighbors. Thus, while Georgians do express openness to expanding their friend groups the majority are not currently participating in activities that help them do so. The very fact of this interest and openness, however, presents an opportunity for the further development of civil society organizations that bring a mix of new people with common interests together. Opportunity 6: Respect for Community Activists The results of the EWMI G-PAC survey show that despite their Soviet legacy, Georgians have a great deal of respect for and little suspicion of community activists who organize for the benefit of the community. The questionnaire tested the Georgian publics attitude toward three different examples of social entrepreneurs. In one question, respondents were asked if in the event of a neighborhood problem, they have a neighbor who is likely to organize people to resolve the problem or to take care of it himself or herself. A 52 percent majority report having a neighbor who serves as a social entrepreneur in this way. Of these 52 percent, 38 percent report that this neighbor is not elected to an official position, while 56 percent say that this neighbor has been elected to solve these types of problems. Most of those citizens with a formally elected community representative live in Tbilisi or one of the major cities suggesting that these leaders might be heads of neighborhood associations, organizations newly introduced by the government. This could mean that the government already had the foresight to co-opt actively engaged social entrepreneurs in each neighborhood. A follow-up question asked the respondents what attitude they thought the majority of the neighbors have toward this neighbor. The attitudes toward the neighborhood social entrepreneur are overwhelmingly positive. 81 percent view this neighbor

positively, 17 percent neutrally and only 1 percent negatively. There is thus not only a distinct lack of social stigma for neighborhood organizing but a great deal of respect and appreciation. Another question addressed the type of social entrepreneur who collects money from neighbors to solve group problems. A forced choice question asked respondents to take a side between the statements 1) I am suspicious of people who collect money in the neighborhood to fix problems because they make a profit out of it, and 2) I very much respect those people who collect money in the neighborhood because they spend energy to solve problems that concern all of us. Again, the results were overwhelmingly in favor of the social entrepreneur. 77 percent agreed that they respect the social entrepreneur for his efforts and only 3 percent agree that they are suspicious of him or her. Again, this very convincingly defeats the notion that Georgians have negative attitudes toward social entrepreneurs. In fact, they very much respect them. In sum, while the surface level statistics on engagement with the formal NGO sector in Georgia paint a gloomy picture of civic engagement among the Georgian population, those that take a deeper look into the context of Georgian society provide reasons for optimism and room for NGOs and the international donors who support them to improve their outreach to citizens. Some obstacles, such as the lack of public understanding of what an NGO is and does and the mismatch between the issues that NGOs are addressing and about which citizens care the most, can be addressed directly. Others, such as family interdependence and the challenging economic environment may take time for the society to work out on its own. In the meantime, the high levels of willingness to participate, openness to new people and respect for community activists present a number of promising opportunities of which international donors and Georgian NGOs should take advantage.