Who are Georgia's #FutureSpotters?

Today the first day of Spot the Future Georgia Workshop took place! And it was a huge success in many different ways!

NGO activist @Cristina_Maza was so kind to tweet the following at the end of our first day:

A very inspiring @edgeryders workshop in #Tbilisi today for #Spotthefuture Thanks @NoemiSalantiu & @lingelien for organizing!

— Cristina Maza (@CrisLeeMaza)
April 14, 2014

So who are the people whom were involved today?


Ninutsa Nanitashvili
: Ninutsa is a 21 year old sociology student from Tbilisi and is currently the organizer of GDG Tbilisi, a volunteer based tech organization. They are trying to bring anyone who's interested in technology together and organize several different events related to technology in one way or another. Recently they organized the conference Women Tech Makers – about women in technology. In general, Ninutsa feels that there is not enough knowledge about IT in Georgia, people have a misconseption that it's only about installing windows. "We try to make it more accessible, not only to women, but to everybody, to inspire people." GDG is not Ninutsa's first volunteering position, she's been actively involved in her community already from the age of 15, working on projects related to the environment, health, youth and just recently turned to tech side. "I want to learn coding, I am very interested in anything that has to do with the future and making our future a better place."
George (Mamaduka) Mamadashvili
: Although trained in liberal arts, @Mamaduka has reinvented himself as back-end web developer. Being extremely passionate about changing the world around him, Mamaduka does not limit himself to one particular issue. He is interested in gender equality by bringing female Georgian rolemodels to stage, he gives presentations in tech related issues to youth in smaller towns around Georgia, and he is planning to create a mobile app which allows users to directly upload pictures of broken streets to the municipality: "We need to fix our streets!"

Monika Peldaviciute: Originally from Lithuania@Monika Peldaviciute moved to Georgia in September with a very clear aim: to establish a social cultural center in an abanodned place, to start a collective movement. “I studied political science, and I was always intereste in collective action and movements, such as rainbow gatherings.” She found active people via Facebook,  found an abondent building, and squatted it. They organized several cultural events and worked as community together. Suprisingly, people from all around the world came, or wanted to make donations! Unfortunately due to an internal conflict, they had to leave the Hypodrome. Currently she is actively involved in organizing events at the vake park protest .


Eric Barret: “I’m a father, and a runner, and I feel very strongly about equality in different ways”, @ericnbarrett envisions equality as open access to information, ideas and the resources to develop themWe are a group of technologists who are trying to find creative solutions for problems through the web and design.” If you can transform ideas in interesting and understandable information, it is more accesible.


One of the biggest obstacles Eric identifies is to convince organizations to change their perceptions, to do things another way. Another obtstacle has been the highly compeitive counterproductive civil society, which refuses to work together. But it doesn’t stop Eric: “I want to see more people use the tools that are out there, to do more than they are right now, to work together on a better version which is going to benefit our future, for our children.

Heather Yundt: As a trained journalist from Canada, @Heather Y had been always intruiged with community radio, in places such as Africa, local radio driven by community content broadcasting the needs of the communities. As a part of this she stayed in a community in Northern Canada, where there was hardly any internet connection, no cellphones, and in winter you can only go there by plane as the roads are closed; the only way people were getting information was through radio. However, Heather realizes that internet has become so widely available, that there is less need for community radio. “The open datadiscourse I find very inspiring and I would like to get more involved in this.”  


Cristina Maza: Researching corruption was the reason @Cristina_Maza moved to Georgia last August, however, she soon became more interested in open data and social movements, and decided to join Jumpstart. As a freelance journalist, Cristina goal is to connect different organizations and movements with bloggers and journalists. She recruited several bloggers to write at Cafe Babel to write on pressing social issues, of which the organizations and movements are trying to work on. “Spreading information about fundamental issues to people in a good quality is what my aim is.”


Nika Davitashvili
: "We're trying not politicize, we're not registered, we dont want to turn our anger into aggression" @tleilaxu_eye is one of the core people involved in the guerilla gardening movement. The organization started simply by planting trees and bushes, but became much more active in protecting green spaces. They are currently active in Vake Park and have been able to stop the building of a luxureous hotel for 3 months already, mostly through raising awareness. "If you state your reason for protesting, it will stop the demolishment, as it is often just not apparent to people what all sides of the coin are and that a simple individual can change the world."

Sandro: Sandro is an ecology student and hopes to become a biology consultant. he had a very interesting story to share, which changed his perceptions on the world: A little while ago I was on a 2 day trip and there was one 5 year old American boy.


He wanted to go for a walk on a small hill, and I have a bad habit of smoking, so I stopped somewhere. And that is when the little boy said: don’t you think this is a place where it is too dry to smoke?”
 Smokey the Bear, a fictional humanlike bear with a cowboy head, had taught the boy that most of the wildfires are started due to cigarette buts. It was clear to Sandro then, that through environmental campaigns instead of commercials for casinos, change could be realistic.

Boris, David, Nita and Nino: Boris started the web-app wehelp.ge after winning a uni-hack. Wehelp.ge is a crowdsourcing transparent web app to donate money to people who are in need of medical help. “People give money to people who they want to give money to”. In order to build trust so that people would donate money, they have made the process completely transparent: you can see your donation added to a person, you can see when money is being used for medical care, and you will see the end result. With pictures, videos, all medical documentation is online. The people at wehelp.ge are all volunteers.


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Some resources and links about Guerilla Gardening Tbilisi

Some articles in English:

http://www.occupy.com/article/georgia-rebellion-occupy-style-resistance-spreads-tbilisi-save-public-park

http://observers.france24.com/content/20140210-activists-block-hotel-construction-protest-tbilisi-shrinking-green-space

FB Page: http://www.facebook.com/tbilisitrees

Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfMndogzJVvBXyA7TirJiLw

Wordpress Page: http://vakisparki.wordpress.com/

A lot of the stuff is in Georgian, we’re trying to make it bilingual ASAP.

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Eerily similar

Different, but the same. I very much recognize that very typical Edgeryder flavor there: smart, generous people, generally young, typically very far from wielding any serious power, doing their best to improve the world for everyone. What can I say? It’s like discovering long-lost cousins. Welcome, welcome, we are so glad to meet you all!

@Cristina_Maza, I share your interest for open data. I am the founder of the mighty Spaghetti Open Data mailing list, which now has formidable traction in my own country. Here is a little story of how we got started, and here is an account from our second-ever gathering – easily one of the largest grassroots open data events in Europe. There is now a small but very strong cadre of data journalists (DataJ, as they like to call themselves) in our community. Who knows, we might be able to organize some cross-continent open data hackathon and work together at some point! Anyway, if you are interested in any of it, please do ping me, I will be more than glad to exchange experiences with you.

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Reads like a great bunch of people

Thank you for sharing all your stories: you all sound brilliant and truly inspiring. I’m also intrigued by the open data possibilities of reclaiming public spaces and services… I’m curious where the data is though… it doesn’t seem nearly as readily available here in Turkey, as perhaps in Italy Alberto - but I am woefully ignorant…

Communities are gathering here, and making extensive use of social media, both to share news and to gather - using parks both symbolically from ecological points of view and practically as spaces to meet - see @parklarbizimank (all in Turkish, but posted photos tell the picture too).

Stay safe, and in touch…

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Ninutsa :slight_smile:

Hi @Ninutsa Nanitashvili, hope this message finds you well!

I haven’t forgotten about your promised insights into what a girl’s gotta do to learn to code and why that goes hand in hand  with your desire to participate in civic initiatives and change things.  I thought your determination and view on the world was very articulate, especially for someone this young! Looking forward to read your whole story :slight_smile:

And for the sociologist in you: wanted to let you know that there is an opportunity to do online ethnography for Spot the Future in the upcoming month(s). Would you or someone you know be interested and have a bit of experience with that? I don’t remember if you told us what kind of research methods you have worked with, but thought it wouldn’t hurt asking, since we have a couple of more days to receive applications :slight_smile:

Dina writes;  " What if Government, Businesses, Local NGOs, Community Residents, and Volunteers are able to work together to realize common dreams?" Well, that in itself would be the realisation of my common dream!

Two lessons I have learned in my years in Egypt are simple; keep it small(ish) and project specific so buy-in and personal ownership do not require a tour de force, and, on the other hand, celebrate each and every victory, even those where the players simply abstained from sabotage and allowed themselves to drift along on the current. In many ways, you can take a leaf from change-management (that’s where we try to break the adage that [ culture eats strategy for breakfast] ). Do not waste your time hunting for rotten apples; just find the best and juiciest apples and begin to fill a new crate.

Question to Nika Davitashvili

Nika, here in Egypt, the destruction of the eco-sphere is not enough it seems. The entire water shortage story boils down to water pollution and a refusal to acknowledge this at both authority and street level.  Major power shortages but street lights are on 24/7 in most major cities. Now if that is not enough, the new war is against green and historical buildings.

Egypt is much more than just pyramids and pharaohs but with the crap education system here and over emphasis on tourism, “walk like an Egyptian is all you’re going to get”.  By the way, that does not stop modern grave robbery and willful damage to tombs and temples.

During the Western Middle Ages (900 something to 1400) the Middle East was the epitome of science, trade, literature, religious tolerance (yes!) and Cairo was one of its centres.  Sadly, until UNESCO pumped 9 million $ restoration funds in its new World Heritage Site, nobody in Cairo could find the place !  However, this super restoration has not been an inspiration to start work on other beautiful medieval buildings elsewhere in Cairo or Egypt. Instead they still fall under the developer’s bulldozer.

Same is true for the fabulous architecture from the khedival period and the early 20th century kings (1850-1950 ±) Newspapers write, individuals protest and buildings crumble.  It really makes you cry; both for irreplaceable losses, but mainly for the ignorance of national history.

As for green, the only way here to keep a park a park is to build a fence around it and charge an entry fee.

Nika, if you have figured an effective way to do something, share with us !

Hi @ericzoetmulder, wow that’s quite a dire picture you paint.

I find it’s the concrete, even small initiatives like you say that break the wall and open up bigger opportunities. I was lucky to visit Vake Park and the campers there when I was in Tbilisi - so for months now they have taken over the park to guard the excavation area while the court case against the city hall is rolling - make sure works are seized until a decision is made. But more than being watchdogs, they transformed a part that’s near it into a complex of activities involving passers by: children drawings, a bit of gardening, poetry and songs support the cause. They even extended the water pipe uncovered by the excavations to improvise a sink. So they live there while waiting for authorizations to be proved illegal and works to be stopped for good. There is no bigger plan, but stopping this thing from happening seems to set into motion a lot of positive effects: solidarity, awareness raising, outreach and campaigning for urban green shots in general, while setting a precedent to show it can be done.

There’s also a video interview with Nika and his “partner in crime” Data and you can see the wild setup they have going on.

/t/futurespotters-workshops-the-aftermath/567/futurespotters-video-intervie-3

no bigger picture -waiting for Tbilisi

 quote @noemi " there is no bigger plans"  I think this sums everything up … there is always no big perfect plans just small dots suddenly clustering up to make a bigger picture .

for environmental protests I think Vake park is an exceptional case , as most of them actually fail against the monster of capitalism and real estate development  .

I am actually waiting for the event in Tbilisi to meet other people and see other perspectives because actually since 2011 and the revolution and our optimism as Egyptian Youth boosting up to the extreme change of all institutions and reaching a narrative like the one DINA is talking about ,till what we end up with now in a military state and trying to get back to the “small” projects or dots trying to keep them alive and so on ,

lately most of the discussions - that i have been involved in - rotates in the same loop we can’t think outside it , it is always good to see other perspectives for similar problems , like vake park and the situation that @ericzoetmulder