On March 22, the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD) organized a meeting for discussing “Public Image of NGOs”, based on the results of public opinion survey conducted recently by Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG).
This was second meeting organized by CIPDD within series of discussion of Citizens Advocate! Program (CAP) implemented by a coalition of two US based and six Georgian civil society organizations (CSO). Totally seven discussion meetings will take place during 2,5 year of program implementation addressing various fields of CSO activity. Previous topic of the discussion was NGO Code of Conduct.
After brief presentation of CSRDG conducted survey participants listened to different positions about the strategies for changing NGO image in the society expressed by main speakers.
Gigi Tevzadze pointed out that CSOs in Georgia are no longer homogenous. Advocacy institutions, pressure and lobby groups, think-tanks and charitable/humanitarian groups, Tevzadze said, differ in their missions, strategies and approaches. Thus, he said there can not be a single plan for improving the image of the sector as a whole.
Marina Muskhelishvili of Center of Social Studies countered that despite the heterogeneous character of the sector public opinion is formed by the “mainstream” of the CSOs. She suggested that improvement of the NGO image is not a public relations task, but the need to make CSOs closer to the society. “As the sector is not developed by mass participation and these are small intellectual groups or “Georgian Yappy” working in various fields of the social sphere, increase of trust [of the population towards CSOs] is the main issue to be addressed,” Muskhelishvili sais.
Eka Datuashvili of CSRDG, said “shortage of information about the activities of the sector is one of the main issues pointed by our respondents and serious work for improving this aspect is needed.”
The crux of the debate concentrated around the feasibility of devising the general communication strategy of the civil society groups, as well as on the practical steps to be taken for both showing the diversity of the sector and promoting wider public participation in its activity.
Davit Usupashvili of IRIS-Georgia, said that working on image of NGOs is vital as the society has no adequate attitude towards the sector activity, which is proved by the results of the survey. He considers there is difference between the images of the certain CSOs and the image of the sector as a whole. “We have to present certain positive sides of our activities, that is why I am for the ethic code of conduct and general plan for the changing image of the sector,” Usupashvili stated.
“I can remind you the period of the attacks on the NGOs from the side of the government when we had no public support, as people have no information about our activities.”-Ramaz Aptsiauri of UNAG said at the meeting. “To increase the level of support is the basic reason for taking specific steps for improving the image [of CSOs],” he added.
Iago Kachkachishvili, one of the sociologists to do the research, said that the survey proves that serious information campaigns should take place. He recommended to draft the result-oriented communication strategy to increase the level of information within the society.
Discussion was concluded with hope that next meetings will help to elaborate the ways of addressing the gap between the civil society organizations and the society at large.
By Julie Giorgadze,
Citizens Advocate! Program (CAP) Information Officer