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News and Events

04.04.2017

Interview with Nana Kurashvili, Manager of PIN's Civil Society Project

When people, teams, organizations believe in and are dedicated to the things they do, nothing is impossible, says Nana Kurashvili after 8 years of leading PIN's Civil Society programme.

 

• Can you describe the circumstances in which you joined People in Need (PIN)?


I used to work for World Vision as Head of the Education Department, where building of capacities for youth non-formal education was my primary occupation. One day, my spouse showed me a vacancy announcement and the listed requirements were perfectly in line with my previous experience. In general, I am not a person prone to frequent work shifts but I got interested and applied for the position. I had a job interview with Bartek Tomalik, who was Head of the Office at that time. PIN had just relocated from Tkibuli to Kutaisi and in fact, staffing of the entire personnel was underway. I am exceedingly happy that from the very outset, I was given full freedom to realize my ideas and implement my approaches. And of course, I am grateful to Mr. Bartek Tomalik for such excellent opportunity.

 
• What were you doing previously?


My work in the NGO sector started from the very early age, actually, when I was 15 years old. I was lucky enough to participate in the USAID-sponsored youth project, implemented in Georgia by the Academy for Educational Development AED. The main goal of the project was to promote the Georgian-Abkhazian dialogue and involve young people in the process. Thanks to the project, I was given an opportunity to gain extensive knowledge at several universities in the United States as well as at the President Carter Center, which helped me build my expertise on youth. Later on, together with my friends, I founded an organization "Community Development Association", which soon managed to obtain USAID funding and thus, became a partner organization, promoting youth non-formal education locally. I can be bold enough to say that we were one of the first organizations to lay the foundation for youth non-formal education and civil activism. Afterward, I worked for some other international organizations; I am glad that the experience which I managed to accumulate in various organizations, in various positions, helped me to realize a number of interesting projects during these 8 years at PIN.


• Looking back at your time at PIN, what are you most proud of in the work you did? What were the most challenging moments?


Of course, over the 8-year period, we've done a lot of things we can be proud of; however, it is the merit not only of me but of the whole team, of the people, with whom I have been working for all these years. The most important factor, which I keep emphasizing and which is inherent to our projects, whether it is a project for the youth, strengthening civil society or social engagement, is change in the attitudes, as all the problems boil down to mentality, reflected in the passive attitude of the population. Unfortunately, people are always waiting for someone else to come and solve their problems. In the scope of our projects, we introduce success stories to the population, we work with highly motivated young people, teachers, organizations which, through their activities and their loyalty, demonstrate to everyone that it takes little resources to achieve big changes and, as the saying goes, kindness is contagious. These examples inspire people to act themselves and become initiators of the changes which they expect to occur in the country.
As for the challenges, mentality change is a lengthy and complicated process. But when people, teams, organizations believe in and are dedicated to the things they do, nothing is impossible.


• In your opinion, what are the changes PIN brought to the Georgia?

 

In general, attitude of the public towards the non-governmental sector is mixed; on the one hand the sector is associated with humanitarian aid and on the other hand some NGOs are affiliated with political position. These perceptions are highly inspired by the media. As you are aware, in the 90s the international organizations were mostly arriving in Georgia to offer humanitarian assistance; as a result, people got used to that perception.
I think that I will not exaggerate by saying that in the regions where PIN has worked, it has really established new standards and changed the attitude of people towards the non-governmental sector; it holds true for ordinary citizens as well as the government officials, whose perception of the NGO sector was tinged with negative connotation. Through its activities, PIN has demonstrated to everyone what role a non-governmental organization should perform; serving as a role model, we have shared our principles and attitudes with all the people, partners and organizations with whom we've had a chance to work under various projects. In spite of being one of the largest international non-government organization in Central and Eastern Europe, a lot of attention is paid to human factor. In our organization bureaucracy does not stand superior to central figures we work for - these are beneficiaries, people. It is noteworthy that while paying particular attention to the Czech experience and trying to replicate it in Georgia, we always look at the local context; we always take into consideration the specifics of the country but also of individual regions and municipalities. Through openness, transparency of our employees and involvement of stakeholders, we seek to find the most effective approaches to ensure maximum sustainability of our projects.


• What can you say about new developments at PIN?


In the frame of the project "Enhancing the Participation of Regional CSOs on Policy Dialogue on Social Inclusion in Georgia" in 4 municipalities of Georgia (Zugdidi, Gori, Tkibuli, and Khoni) 17 new social services will be introduced at the local level, which will facilitate replacement of one-time monetary allowances with long-term services for the elderly, the children and the youth, IDPs and disabled persons.


• As we know this year you will soon take over the position of Head of Programmes; how would you describe the challenges of the new position?


First of all, let me state that while being a great honor for me, it is associated with even greater responsibility. I am happy that I will have the opportunity to share my experience with colleagues and offer them support in their activities. While high level of professionalism and dedication are characteristic features of our organization, there is always room for improvement. Therefore, I believe that we all together will do our best to make our work even more effective and beneficial for Georgia.


• Now, a more personal question. Besides business relationships, do you have some friends at PIN?


As I have already told you, our organization puts particular focus on the human factor, human relationships. I am happy that the staff of PIN, which brings together more than 30 people, is very friendly. Although our offices are scattered in several regions, we all feel as members of a big family. It is really hard to bring any positive change for the public if you do not have a comfortable environment, if you do not have a team you can trust; these are the people with whom you spend much of your time; we are very close friends, though we never let our private relations to create obstacles and interfere with our professional work. I hope that the spirit and principles which PIN introduces in Georgia and shares with its partner organizations, local authorities, various institutions at the national level and the population will be a source of inspiration. We are an international organization, and naturally, we will not stay forever in Georgia. We hope that our work will continue in the same spirit and one day, positive changes brought in Georgia will allow the country to share its experience with others.

 

o, nothing is impossible, says Nana Kurashvili after 8 years of leading PIN's Civil Society programme.

 

• Can you describe the circumstances in which you joined People in Need (PIN)?


I used to work for World Vision as Head of the Education Department, where building of capacities for youth non-formal education was my primary occupation. One day, my spouse showed me a vacancy announcement and the listed requirements were perfectly in line with my previous experience. In general, I am not a person prone to frequent work shifts but I got interested and applied for the position. I had a job interview with Bartek Tomalik, who was Head of the Office at that time. PIN had just relocated from Tkibuli to Kutaisi and in fact, staffing of the entire personnel was underway. I am exceedingly happy that from the very outset, I was given full freedom to realize my ideas and implement my approaches. And of course, I am grateful to Mr. Bartek Tomalik for such excellent opportunity.

 
• What were you doing previously?


My work in the NGO sector started from the very early age, actually, when I was 15 years old. I was lucky enough to participate in the USAID-sponsored youth project, implemented in Georgia by the Academy for Educational Development AED. The main goal of the project was to promote the Georgian-Abkhazian dialogue and involve young people in the process. Thanks to the project, I was given an opportunity to gain extensive knowledge at several universities in the United States as well as at the President Carter Center, which helped me build my expertise on youth. Later on, together with my friends, I founded an organization "Community Development Association", which soon managed to obtain USAID funding and thus, became a partner organization, promoting youth non-formal education locally. I can be bold enough to say that we were one of the first organizations to lay the foundation for youth non-formal education and civil activism. Afterward, I worked for some other international organizations; I am glad that the experience which I managed to accumulate in various organizations, in various positions, helped me to realize a number of interesting projects during these 8 years at PIN.


• Looking back at your time at PIN, what are you most proud of in the work you did? What were the most challenging moments?


Of course, over the 8-year period, we've done a lot of things we can be proud of; however, it is the merit not only of me but of the whole team, of the people, with whom I have been working for all these years. The most important factor, which I keep emphasizing and which is inherent to our projects, whether it is a project for the youth, strengthening civil society or social engagement, is change in the attitudes, as all the problems boil down to mentality, reflected in the passive attitude of the population. Unfortunately, people are always waiting for someone else to come and solve their problems. In the scope of our projects, we introduce success stories to the population, we work with highly motivated young people, teachers, organizations which, through their activities and their loyalty, demonstrate to everyone that it takes little resources to achieve big changes and, as the saying goes, kindness is contagious. These examples inspire people to act themselves and become initiators of the changes which they expect to occur in the country.
As for the challenges, mentality change is a lengthy and complicated process. But when people, teams, organizations believe in and are dedicated to the things they do, nothing is impossible.


• In your opinion, what are the changes PIN brought to the Georgia?

 

In general, attitude of the public towards the non-governmental sector is mixed; on the one hand the sector is associated with humanitarian aid and on the other hand some NGOs are affiliated with political position. These perceptions are highly inspired by the media. As you are aware, in the 90s the international organizations were mostly arriving in Georgia to offer humanitarian assistance; as a result, people got used to that perception.
I think that I will not exaggerate by saying that in the regions where PIN has worked, it has really established new standards and changed the attitude of people towards the non-governmental sector; it holds true for ordinary citizens as well as the government officials, whose perception of the NGO sector was tinged with negative connotation. Through its activities, PIN has demonstrated to everyone what role a non-governmental organization should perform; serving as a role model, we have shared our principles and attitudes with all the people, partners and organizations with whom we've had a chance to work under various projects. In spite of being one of the largest international non-government organization in Central and Eastern Europe, a lot of attention is paid to human factor. In our organization bureaucracy does not stand superior to central figures we work for - these are beneficiaries, people. It is noteworthy that while paying particular attention to the Czech experience and trying to replicate it in Georgia, we always look at the local context; we always take into consideration the specifics of the country but also of individual regions and municipalities. Through openness, transparency of our employees and involvement of stakeholders, we seek to find the most effective approaches to ensure maximum sustainability of our projects.


• What can you say about new developments at PIN?


In the frame of the project "Enhancing the Participation of Regional CSOs on Policy Dialogue on Social Inclusion in Georgia" in 4 municipalities of Georgia (Zugdidi, Gori, Tkibuli, and Khoni) 17 new social services will be introduced at the local level, which will facilitate replacement of one-time monetary allowances with long-term services for the elderly, the children and the youth, IDPs and disabled persons.


• As we know this year you will soon take over the position of Head of Programmes; how would you describe the challenges of the new position?


First of all, let me state that while being a great honor for me, it is associated with even greater responsibility. I am happy that I will have the opportunity to share my experience with colleagues and offer them support in their activities. While high level of professionalism and dedication are characteristic features of our organization, there is always room for improvement. Therefore, I believe that we all together will do our best to make our work even more effective and beneficial for Georgia.


• Now, a more personal question. Besides business relationships, do you have some friends at PIN?


As I have already told you, our organization puts particular focus on the human factor, human relationships. I am happy that the staff of PIN, which brings together more than 30 people, is very friendly. Although our offices are scattered in several regions, we all feel as members of a big family. It is really hard to bring any positive change for the public if you do not have a comfortable environment, if you do not have a team you can trust; these are the people with whom you spend much of your time; we are very close friends, though we never let our private relations to create obstacles and interfere with our professional work. I hope that the spirit and principles which PIN introduces in Georgia and shares with its partner organizations, local authorities, various institutions at the national level and the population will be a source of inspiration. We are an international organization, and naturally, we will not stay forever in Georgia. We hope that our work will continue in the same spirit and one day, positive changes brought in Georgia will allow the country to share its experience with others.

 

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