Bi-Weekly Meeting Nr. 1: Summary!

Today we had our first bi-weekly meet-up and it was a success! We recruited new people to he platform, linked people together and discussed your regular activists topics, such as open source data, group funding and organic farming (and yes, registration issues with Edgeryders was unfortunately also a well discussed issue).

Unfortunatly, Elene from Iare Pekhit, from Vake park and @Ninutsa Nanitashvili told us ahead they were unable to join. We also missed @Boris@anuki mosiashvili@ericnbarrett and others. Please feel free to join us next time! Below you wil find what happened this meeting.

So, I will shortly explain you what we talked about, what challenges we face, and what kind of help people in this community might need.

What did we talk about?

We saw a lot of new faces, such as @Vano, who runs the DRR Center in Georgia. We also met Richard, who facilitates several different interest groups on facebook, such as the language exchange group and the Georgia Hiking group. And Remi, who has a company which brings foreign IT specialists to Ukraine and Georgia, where they keep on continuing their own work abroad, but at the same time contribute to their new communities sharing their skills and knowledge.

Our talk started discussing the problem of the use of open source software. In Georgia, people mostly illegally download pricey software, only because they do not realize there is open sourced software out there which does exactly the same. Solutions talked about were mostly education based, perhaps we can think of a concrete action plan to make this happen?

A second issue which came up again (and again) was the competitiveness within the NGO world: how can we change this? We haven’t come up with an actual solution, but any ideas are welcome! We understand civil society has become competitive, as all are competing for the same grants; however, people don’t become active because they want money, they become active because they want to change their community! How can we make well established NGOs realize that by co-working with whomever is working in the same field, that the aim and goals they set to achieve, are actually easier to achieve together, rather than excluding everyone out of ‘spite’? This is a well-known issue, raised often, but hard to solve. We need to create an action plan for this, perhaps there are some ‘best-practices’ out there people are willing to share? 

Our third topic at the beginning of the meeting regarded the FB group for georgia’s Edgeryders and moving this to Edgeryders completely. Altough the group understood the importance of the edgeryders platform (this post was read and mentioned), the general consensus was to keep the facebook group. I will ask the people posting in the group, friendly but urgently, to repost it in this group (link to it included). As FB is THE main communication channel in georgia, the group was afraid to loose the interaction if it would be completely removed. Uli also mentioned he would not register on Edgeryders, as he spends already too much time online, but he will contribute to the physical meetings as he does believe in the project


  1. Remi told us about a girl in Gori (a middle-sized town) who would like to do a project on  prejudices of Georgians towards Ossetians. Basically, do research on preceptions between ethnic groups in Georgia (in Gori). She is currently looking for any help she could get in realizing this. Remi told us he will introduce her to Edgeryders, so she could share her story and get feedback. In response, @Khatuna mentioned that at the UN they are changing their research methodologies (please explain in the comments Khatuna!), something which this gril might benefit from.
  2. @Vano told us about several projects he would like to introduce to us. First of all the several youth groups they have set up in different regions. He was very surprised to see how active they were, organizing flash-mobs, asking funding from local municipalities, etc, to change their local communities. They need a platform where they can share information, Edgeryders could be perfect!
  3. The second project @Vano mentioned were the Community Access Centers: training centers in IDP settlements. A few years back they started these with USAID/UN funding, and some local people were trained to give IT related workshops. The centers were open to everyone to use. However, in 2011 it was handed over to the local communities, unfortunately the centers were shut down right away. No-one took care of it, neither community nor local municipalities, and the centers were looted and damaged. DRR center asked for ownership again and they got it. They repaired everything and are trying to bring back life to the centers again. They decided to have a local tv group, to show success stories. @Cristina_Maza right away mentioned that Jumpstart is doing a project reporting on initiatives just like this! Another thought that came up: how about creating an unMonastry in one of the communities? Remi, who has a business which brings IT people to Georgia to experience life abroad, might also be able to help out once his project has been running for a while. Also, @Vano said he would share this himself online.
  4. @Inge took of her Edgeryders community-builder hat for a second to put on her IFLRY hat, asking if anyone would be able to help creating a website and app to instantly monitor election fraud during Georgia's June elections@Khatuna mentioned that Tamar Zhvania, of the chairperson of ISFED, would probably very willing to help in any election related issues. @Cristina_Maza added that perhaps Jumpstart could help out as well. Richard showed the following app: Uli mentioned a project from Germany, which he will share with us soon. 

Our bi-weekly meet-up finished after this, as most of the participants wanted to go to’s exhibition on recycling and littering.

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I’m impressed!

Very good work, everyone, and thanks @Inge for such a comprehensive writeup.

I would like to engage on everything you said, because the conversation feels like it was so vibrant and relevant! But I will limit myself to a couple of points.

The discussion on zero-sum competition amongst NGOs, @Nadia tells me, was replicated almost word for word in today’s workshop in Cairo. I have found this before, for example in the art world: I have found it to depend not on people’s individual attitudes, but on market structure. If NGOs are “spenders” - i.e. they do projects that do not generate any revenue – and the funders are few, competition is perforce zero sum. One lari given to NGO A will not go to NGO B. Over time, NGOs come to perceive each other as enemies.

However, we could try to disrupt zero-sum by trying to build a small prototype that would be funded elsewhere. Here’s what I can propose: Georgia, it turns out, can participate at least in some of the European Union’s funding programmes under the Horizon 2020 umbrella (source). Edgeryders is itself a EU company; a couple of months ago we did the paperwork to be a sanctioned participant in Horizon 2020, as several people in the community are interested (this conversation is in the Horizon 2020 Collaborator project; in fact, just this week we submitted our first proposal). We might help in finding some other like-minded partner in the EU – I would love to work with @lasindias in Spain, for example.

So, if you guys want to consider having a few Georgian NGO collaborating on a meaningful project, we could offer ourselves as EU partners and try and find a suitable EU call. This way, you can collaborate without risking to jeopardize your existing sources of funding. Then, if you like the experience, you may decide to try and collaborate some more. I am sure the EU delegation to Georgia would be happy to help. How does that sound? We could even do a project on boosting adoption of open source software, a topic dear to our heart and on which there is plenty of expertise in the community. 

Moving from open source to very closed source and proprietary software and data, I appreciate you want to stay in touch through your tool of choice, Facebook. Edgeryders, however, will not follow you there. We are not being territorial; on the contrary, we believe Facebook is not conducive to sharing knowledge.  We have learned the hard way how disempowering it is to commit your precious data and relationships to a large, for-profit corporate with which you have no personal relationship. This conversation we are having here stays with us. We take care of it, make sure it stays available and indexed by search engines. When you look for something on our platform, the search function is simply there to try and help you find what you are looking for, whereas on Facebook what you see is filtered by what Mr. Zuckerberg thinks will make him the most money. Good luck finding a conversation like this on Facebook two years after it has happened. 

We hope that in the end your wish to collaborate with us will be strong enough to draw you to the place where we meet and work together. Meanwhile, be well and be strong, for many great things await.

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The Horizon 2020 seems like a great opportunity! And I agree that the EU delegation will most likely be happy to help! Thank you for the offer @Alberto. And a topic such as opendate software would be even better. @ericnbarrett, @Cristina_Maza, @Mamaduka: what do you guys think? Perhaps we can sit down together (perhpas even on google hangout so that Alberto can join?) to see what future possibilities there are? 

I also wanted to add that Uli send me a link interesting for election monitoring:

Google Hangout as a last resort

Inge, you know our style of work well enough now: GHangout should be used sparingly, and deeply integrated with written-and-asynchronous discussion. Initial rough ideas for a project, for example, are best discussed in writing. Once a consensus has been reached on what to do, you might need a hangout for everyone to sign off to their part of the work; then people go back to writing. This has the advantage of openness (people that were not at the meeting can jump in and contribute); transparency (shows we have nothing to hide, and this generates trust, exactly what you are trying to build), and it is also much tidier. Remember: meetings, even online meetings, are devices of exclusion. If you forget to invite one NGO, it might then accuse you of going behind its back etc. etc.

I am being paranoid here, I don’t know if the situation in Georgia is that bad. But you say you want to foster collaboration. So far, Georgian NGOs have done plenty of meetings, I am sure, and the result is zero-sum competition. So, I suggest trying the radical openness of working in public and in writing. And if you are working with Edgeryders LBG, I am afraid that will mean using this platform :slight_smile: There are people in this community that will only use free-and-open, and don’t use either Google or Facebook

Of course, you can and should add any layer of coordination within your group that you see fit, from Facebook to physical meetings; as long as all relevant information is quickly transferred onto the platform, this should be enough to defuse conflict. If people tell you “you are doing things in your own closed group!” You can reply “How so? Look, it’s all online, all documented, with a clear invitation to anyone to join. People are participating in the discussion from all over Europe, people that we have never even met. How can you say we are untransparent?”

Open Source Software

Thanks for the update, it’s great that the conversations and connections are continuing. A couple of thoughts on the software issue:

-yes, education is no. 1

When I studied audio engineering, the first lesson was not ‘this is a sound wave’ or ‘this is how the ear works’ but rather ‘this is ProTools, running on MacOS and you’re going to need both if you want to work in audio.’ These days I find it extremely difficult to convince other people working in audio/video/graphics that I enjoy and actually strongly prefer using free/libre/open source software over proprietary tools. Everybody learns on proprietary stuff, so anything else seems at least weird and foreign, if not unprofessional.

-no cost is not good enough.

Where there is a culture of pirating proprietary software, the ‘free as in beer’ argument has no traction - people already get everything they want for free and they don’t have to learn any new software or workflows. The ‘free as in free speech’ argument is nice, but without being tied to practical advantages it won’t convince many people.

Such practical advantages of open source are things like:

-backwards compatibility (your pirated Photoshop is CS5 so you can’t open something made on CS6 - this doesn’t happen in the free software world)

-customization (it’s usually easy to change standard behaviour, appearance, etc)

-scripting, plugins, add-ons - write your own or (if like me you’re not so good at coding) search, copy, paste.

-small file sizes, long-term support, also runs well on old hardware.

some different ways to go about changing things:

in Portugal, Ricardo and Ana from Manufactura Independente have been a setting up read-only USB dead drops containing libre graphics tools and resources in places frequented by designers and art/design students (universities, art supply stores). But most of the time people need some hand holding and encouragement, not just the software files, so this can only be part of a solution.

OpenTechSchool is an excellent way to introduce tech to people in a social, supportive, low-cost, efficient way. Although focused on coding, there’s no reason why the process could not also be applied to using and customising free software. Ask @Kei for help/advice on this, she’s running the Matera instance at the unMonastery. I also know the original founders and can put them in touch if you like.

Slow institutional approach (not really the Edgeryders way, but it can have a big effect). Lobbying institutions like local governments and education providers (who generally can’t get away with pirating and therefore the ‘free as in beer’ argument makes a bigger difference). This can be as small a change as switching from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice or as big as cooking up your own flavour of Linux. (eg in Munich)

Of course there are many more approaches but those are just a few initial things that come to mind. There are many others on the platform who can provide insight on this subject and they’re likely not on facebook or at least not very active there - perhaps if those of you in Tbilisi interested in this could start a post / wiki here on ER and we could come up with some concrete steps together?

by the way @Inge, it was a nice surprise to find the hostel you recommended in Tbilisi was running Ubuntu on its computers!


@SamMuirhead, that’s funny that the hostel uses Ubuntu! Glad to hear ;). And thanks for the info on open software, very useful! By the way, any chance you can recommend open software similar to indesign/illustrator? I used to have a licensed version of them but after completely reinstalling my Macbook it was gone (my friend had me install his, but he’s in the Netherlands, and well, I am not ;).) So I am currently using a pirated photoshop version, but if I could have similar open sourced software, that would of course be even better! 

@Alberto, I fully understand your philosophy regarding keeping everything open, and with this platform it definitely is very possible. I just suggested a google hangout (etc), as in my experience face to face meetings result in more concrete plans and are more efficient; rather than writing down a post, which takes more time then actually saying the words), and waiting for a reply after that. But I agree with you from the open information point of view completely!

Libre graphics programs

I use Inkscape which is very easy to use and stable for vector graphics, it is similar to Illustrator (though not the same - here’s some information on some of the key differences). The Inkscape FLOSS Manual is a good place to learn more about it. Linux/Mac/Windows.

Krita is a really nice painting/illustration tool which uses both vector and raster elements - great brush tools and tablet support, but it’s only available on Linux and Windows at this stage. Some of the current versions features here.

For photo manipulation, there’s the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program - by far the worst aspect of open source is the tendency for awful names to stick around - the video editor I use is called ‘KDEnlive’ - ugh.) GIMP is not a clone of Photoshop but does many similar things - there are plenty of tutorials available and here’s an article on workflows and tips for replacing Photoshop with GIMP. Hope this helps!

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Culture of Trust and Cooperation :slight_smile:


directed me to this conversation from another conversation that is initially about a subject discussed in a third conversation! :slight_smile: I will comment here and there. The information will exists and accessible to everyone, yet bits and pieces in different location. How can we improve this?

I love open source I use Ubuntu one one of my computers. I still believe that MS Office is the only reason for me to still use MS (tried most of them). I love the idea of the OpenTechSchool. Would we have any of these here?

For the NGOs and access to fund. I hope that the future will bring more cooperatives to the world. Cooperatives that will come from within the communities to solve their issues, satisfy their needs, reinvest in the community and achieve independence and sustainability.