Day 1: Key Challenges – what we need help with!

Hello all, I’m writing this short update to share some of the insights from #futurespotters today.

We’ve asked ourselves what are some of the things we each need help with in addressing:

  1. Challenges in our work and own projects ahead
  2. Challenges we see in the surrounding environment and think we can contribute

Changing the perception around technology and the IT field in Georgia

Both Ninutsa from Google developers group and @ericnbarrett@Cristina_Maza from Jumpstart have been involved in hosting events to popularize women’s role in the tech field: there was a strong agreement in the room that there’s a long way to go, starting from changing people’s perception – from as early as school! Better awareness that IT not having much to do with engineering careers, rather with programming and using new tools for different applications in plenty of fields.

Questions: How do we present it as an attractive professional field? Bring leading developers at conferences, not so much from the world but have Georgians inspire Georgians (@Mamaduka). Show that there’s demand for IT jobs; focus on the fact that you can work remotely. !! this also contributes to reversing the migration from rural areas to cities, leaving villages empty at this pace (Nina)

References: google developers group, Women TechMakers, Women that Code (please share with us relevant links we didn’t have time to exchange in the room :slight_smile:

Spread collective action around the environment and urban planning

We finally met @Monika Peldaviciute from Tbilisi Cultural Centre and  @tleilaxu_eye (Nika) from Guerrilla Gardening and the Vake Park movement!! These guys did not wait to found proper organisations in order to take action, they went ahead and planted trees where no one asked them to, and occupied an abandoned private building to use it for arts and performances, respectively.

These great shots of mobilization around green, cultural spaces need more help as they are still fragile! (the Cultural Centre doesn’t even exist anymore)


  • How to persuade policy makers and also receive international support? (Nika) On the other hand, @Khatuna admits she and her organization need different kinds of partners, the doers in particular!
  • How to make people join in and be inspired for collective action initiatives? (Monika) How do we involve more volunteers in social initiatives? (WeHelp)
  • Can we develop a mobile app to fix the broken streets in Tbilisi? Mamaduka’s proposal.

Re-building the civil society through real collaboration

For people experimenting with new approaches to environment protection or data visualization, getting the word across and partnering up with reliable, open NGOs is hard. This is because there are well established ways of doing things and as usual, resistance to go a different way!

Questions leading to some answers:

  • How to open up to genuine collaboration as opposed to competition for resources and donors? Great example from Boris, Nita and &. Over at WeHelp: a newly founded enterprise for crowdfunding around charity practicing transparency to make it possible for private donors to follow up where their money is going!
  • How to become sustainable while (a) remaining true to our mission and (2) not burning out when working for social impact, with overload of insecurity?  What are the issues of ethics and transparency and how long can you keep the bar up high without compromising? eg from Eric - which connects to the tech issue: how to overcome the difficulty of employing good web developers when the payroll is rather low compared to competition from banks?

Until tomorrow, I’d like to ask more of you who were there and beyond to help fill in the dots, and let the rest of us know: What are your thoughts after today? What sticks out for you personally? Any discoveries you’ve made on a personal level? Share some of the links to projects you mentioned and make it easy for yourself to connect you with more people around the globe!

Lovely meeting you and looking forward to #Futurespotters Day 2: Joining resources…!

PS Here’s the Edgeryders presentation I did, feel free to learn more from the links…

On google drive

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Environment and Urban Planning

It is interesting that while in Post 2015 consultations in Georgia environment concerns did not rank high, today’s discussion showed that the majority in the room found environmental concerns of critical importance, and the need for behavioral change requiring raising awareness of population at large ,as well as remarkable example of Guarilla Gardening in Tbilisi, who, despite remaining non-NGO drive up-stream dialogue with the decision-makers to enact necessary amendments to the legislation for better urban planning practices.  The latter resonates with the aspirations of the audience we consulted during consultations for better engagement in decision-making.

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Guys re the point about fostering collaboration…

.…instead of competition for resources, check out this idea we’re developing at unMonastery for hacking grant award competitions.  Perhaps some of the ideas are trasferable? I know @elf Pavlik and @Ben are pushing on this. Wish some support from more people maybe we can prototype a different model? I knwo the sustainability plan is already being worked on at the unMonastery…


Fixmystreet needs a commitment from the local authority

This sounds like you guys covered a lot of of ground, more power to you!

Out of all the points you made, I would like to throw in my two cents, or rather my two Tetri (cool name by the way) on the mobile app for fixing the streets proposed by @Mamaduka. Technically this is not too difficult to build. The source code for the rock-solid FixMyStreet is open, and the nice MySociety people in the UK will be delighted to help you set up a Georgian version. Here on Edgeryders, Italian hacker @piersoft built his own Matera Pulita (Clean Matera – Matera is the name of the city where he is from): he is a very generous person, and I am sure will be happy to help you. But make no mistake: behind the app stands a social contract, and that social contract says that if citizens spend time uploading a request for the local authority to fix the street, they have to come down and fix the street. If this does not happen, citizens become frustrated and stop using the app (rightly). For the app to work, you need to secure a firm commitment of the authority in charge of fixing the street before you launch.

In fact, I recall an experience made by UNDP Montenegro that made exactly that mistake. They built the app, and initially people used it. But then, guess what: in Montenegro, responsibility for street maintenance lies with municipalities (in Italy, too). But municipalities have no money at all, they are stretched very thin. So, the sudden rise in expectations induced by the app put them through a lot of stress, and there was some conflict between the national authorities (who had helped UNDP in this) and the local ones (who found themselves saddled with the pressure and deprived of the resources to respond. It did not go well: they had to abandon the scheme, amidst citizen disenchantment. It turns out it is easier to build a mobile app than to change the balance of power between central and local government!

What is the situation like in Georgia? Who is the authority responsible for road maintenance? Would they be willing to do a prototype, committing to responding to citizen input at least in one or two towns?


Hello Alberto,

Thanks for interesting reply, I’ve already checked FixMyStreet project (someone mentioned it during the workshop). Also found out that there already is similar website - I will get touch with them and help to improve the project. Currently you can only report the issue via website, I think mobile app with picture upload you make things bit easier to report.

As you can see on the Georgian website, statistics aren’t very promising.

We have similar  situation, municipalities are reposible for road maintenance, unfotunately they don’t share their data about the budge and how it was spent. If I had access to this data things might be easier regarding the social contract.

Seems legit

Hi @Mamaduka, Chemikucha seems legit (see: The implications is that they did onboard someone in Tbilisi City Hall – even that that somebody has their own account on Chemikucha and occasionally posts. Even though activity is not very high, this still seems like a step forward, and the project avoided the obvious trap of dismissing the social contract. 

I am guessing that the possibility to extend it to other cities depends on finding, in those other city halls, “champions” of the project: people that like it, talk their bosses into trying it, and man personally the account. Have you thought of contacting Transparency International in Tbilisi? You could even involve them in the workshop – cc @Noemi.

Commitment of decision-makers

Alberto, this is precisely the issue we are trying to tackle in UNDP Georgia innovation challenge due this week - how can citizens make decision-makers follow up on the problems similar to road maintenance…we also thought in our preliminary discussions what comes first is the model of interraction, and only than the apps … would be very much interested if there are any ideas on this…

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There are some, yes

As you can imagine, @Khatuna, in the open data movement people are forever struggling with the dilemma:

  • if you don't involve public authorities, it is not open government
  • if you do involve them, they can stall you forever and activists get very frustrated.

In some cases, you can get around the dilemma by civic hacking. It means more or less circumscribing the problem to a set of activities that create some kind of public value, even without authorities getting involved. Example: this link will take you to a comparison of four different online maps of the Pompeii archaeological area. From top left, clockwise: OpenStreetMap; GoogleMaps; OpenStreetMap with a different layer; Bing. Why is OpenStreetMap so much more detailed? Because a bunch of geohackers led by @simonecortesi showed up at the site equipped with GPS sparthphones, paid their tickets and mapped the whole area. The ministry of cultural heritage did not need to be involved (it did need to authorize the operation, due to Italy’s strict intellectual property regime, but in some countries it would not be necessary): and yet, the activists were able to generate some value. This is very rewarding: people feel empowered, and they are right.

The story does not end here. When the smartest layer of the civil society is able to take effective action, the balance of power tends to shift. Media show up. At this point, often some junior minister or high-ranking civil servants sees an opportunity (if only for his or her own career) and helps a bit. So, with time and a constructive narrative, civic hacking can create the conditions for full-on open and smart government. 

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Smart governance without authorities?

What an interesting reflection, @Alberto… timing seems to be crucial here - when to approach the authorities by the civil society? I guess you do it once sufficient data is gathered and civil society arguments are sufficiently evidence-based…‘scraping’ is the new word I learned from  Eric’s presentation from Jumpstart Georgia on the availability of public data…we’ll be continuing this dialogue at Diplohack/UNDP Innovation Challenge inTbilisi on 24-26 April… let’s see how it goes…

Revisiting the challenges

Guys hi and thanks for the valuable input @Alberto. Now that we’re meeting each other again this June 24-26 (all invited by the way) I wanted to ask if working on the app, or preparing the social contract with authorities would be something @mamaduka or someone else in this discussion wants to take forward. There is an open call to propose your own session for the event, interested? and once it’s up we can call in people to help flesh it out. Should we try to invite some people in the mayor’s office who can provide an insider’s perspective and see what can be done or not? Now’s the time to take this further or let it lay low… what say you? 

Chat with Matthias tomorrow?

Before I forget: @Matthias would you be up for a chat with @Mamaduka tomorrow around 10-11 am cet? he’s up for helping out fixing the notifications and making it easier for users to filter…thanks!!

@Noemi that sounds great. @Matthias my skype handle is - georgemamadashvili and I’ll be available on that time, later as well.

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Sounds great as well.

Thanks for offering help! I’ll Skype-call you around 11 am CEST tomorrow.

Sounds like the 1st day of futurespotting in Tbilisi was a hit!

I came across this post few days ago and thought to share as a source of inspiration of what volunteers can do in terms of making invisible issues visible and creating public good (specifically in the reference to mapping).

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