Connecting Communities Through Employment in Georgia
Back in 2015, when the South Caucasus office was piloting the Employment Shuttle approach, nobody anticipated how significantly it would affect the participants that joined the projects. The methodology was both simple and flexible, yet also comprehensive and well rounded. With the guidance of Action Against Hunger Spain, the shuttle approach was first applied in Georgia in 2015 to support the economic empowerment and access to labour markets of Internally Displaced Persons (from the conflicts of the early ‘90s and 2008) and their host communities.
However, when analysing the results of this first programme, which came through staff observations and beneficiary feedback, it became apparent that the positive outcomes went far beyond the number of employed individuals, or those who returned to education. The Employment Shuttle approach also managed to create lasting connections among groups of people who had never met before. It allowed a diverse group of individuals to work together, to share ideas and opinions and to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern. In a small and diverse region like South Caucasus, which has suffered a number of conflicts and political upheavals, connecting people and building confidence is of high importance.
With that idea in mind, in 2016, the Employment Shuttle approach was implemented again, this time as a means to connect two communities – ethnic Georgians from Akhmeta town and ethnic Kists from Pankisi Gorge in Akhmeta Municipality, that, although they are only half an hour driving distance from one another, have limited interaction and engagement. The project team came up with the idea following the COBERM call. Programme staff organised a workshop to discuss the possibility of incorporating successful approaches from the previous project within this new call. Considering that the new project location had limited employment opportunities, and that Employment Shuttles had been mostly successful in areas where there are more job openings, an entrepreneurship component was added to complement the project. Furthermore, meetings and field visits were planned with the local partner organisation, Kakheti Regional Development Foundation, to learn more about the specificities of the remote target area and to adapt the project design to the needs of the future participants.