BRIDGE in Georgia brings another 380 Electoral Professionals and five workshop facilitators

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IFES Georgia, implementing USAID-funded program Increased Trust in the Electoral Process (ITEP), in collaboration with the Central Election Commission of Georgia, conducted 15 four-day customized BRIDGE workshops for District Election Commission (DEC) members for the capacity enhancement of the mid-level election administration in Georgia in the period of Jan 22-Feb 25, 2012.

IFES Georgia, implementing USAID-funded program Increased Trust in the Electoral Process (ITEP), in collaboration with the Central Election Commission of Georgia, conducted 15 four-day customized BRIDGE workshops for District Election Commission (DEC) members for the capacity enhancement of the mid-level election administration in Georgia in the period of Jan 22-Feb 25, 2012.

IFES’ Increased Trust in the Electoral Process (ITEP) program, a four-year initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), aims at increasing trust in electoral processes among the public and political participants over the next three electoral cycles. The project envisions direct assistance to the Georgian Central Election Commission (CEC) to improve professionalism, knowledge and confidence of election officials and key stakeholders in the electoral process.

DEC BRIDGE program’s main objective was to enhance the professionalism and capacity of DEC members to support the delivery of upcoming elections.

This was the second set of the customized BRIDGE workshops for the targeted group; therefore curriculum was designed so to reflect the knowledge and skills gained during the first phase in 2009. The agenda for the BRIDGE course for the District Electoral Commissions envisaged the topics that the participants expressed via questionnaires in 2010. Participants were mostly interested in case studies and best practices around the world, for the reason agenda entailed case studies on all the main topics presented. The workshop agenda focused on the Electoral Cycle; Legal framework for the elections; Models of the EMBs, its structures, functions and membership based on the country case studies; Types of Electoral Systems, its principles and comparative analysis; Electoral Justice mechanisms; types of EDR bodies and simulation of Electoral Dispute Resolution.

Two simultaneous workshops were held by two facilitation teams (one workshop facilitator and two semi-accredited facilitators): 1st team: Giorgi Sharabidze together with Maia Zaridze, Davit Todria and Maia Gudadze; 2nd team: Lasha Meladze together with Natia Zarnadze and Madona Tsintsadze. Two simultaneous workshops at one facility made it possible to manage and mentor the teams on daily basis. The two teams were sharing the information on conduct of the workshops, therefore guaranteeing the consistency of all the workshops. The emergency situations (where a lead facilitator got sick) were dealt easily when the facilitation teams are working at one venue. And most importantly, facilitators could be evaluated on daily basis by the expert facilitator, mentor and guide them, which led to the accreditation of the semi-accredited facilitators.

It’s significant to mention the innovative break-down of the training venue in three areas: Topic presentation area, where participants were located in U-shape; Group-work area, where participants were allocated in groups of 5 (round shape tables) and Energizers’ area. This new arrangement made the interaction between facilitators and participants more feasible, participants found it more productive to switch between the areas that helped them to re-focus from presentation to group-works.

76 DEC members were grouped in a workshop of five DECs, 25 participants. In total 15 four-day workshops were conducted during 22-25 Jan, 27-30 Jan, 1-4 Feb, 7-10 Feb, 12-15 Feb, 17-20 Feb and 22-25 Feb, dividing Western Georgia DECs and Eastern Georgia DECs workshops in Batumi and Tbilisi respectively.

In total 378 participants attended BRIDGE workshops, out of which eight were staff of Ajara Supreme Election Commission secretariat. 10 members of several DECs missed the workshop, out of which three were vacant posts. Out of 378 participants, 155 (41%) were female participants and 223 (59%) male participants.

Throughout the workshop, participants noted that after each thematic activity they have changed their approach to the topic, analyzed it and started comparing it to the Georgian framework. Some quotes regarding DEC BRIDGE program from the participants’ evaluation sheets:

 Every new BRIDGE workshop does not look like the previous one; therefore I will never get tired to participate in BRIDGE workshops;

 The second set of BRIDGE workshops was brought to us into a new light in regards of organizational part as well as content-wise;

 BRIDGE workshop develops the skills of quick thinking (when one has to read, analyze and do the presentation in 15 minutes), which is very important skill for the DECs to make quick, but right decisions during the very active elections period;

 During the group-works, those members who are not active at its DECs, gets the chance to speak out, get involved in the process and finally they open up;

 BRIDGE workshops are organized on a high level. The aim of the workshop is directly focussed on developing the skills of electoral officials, raising the awareness through sharing the experiences of different countries; balanced information: mixture of theory and group-works.

 Even though I thought that after 2009 BRIDGE program, I would not learn anything new on this workshop, I have to admit, that I have been mistaken. This workshop was prepared and delivered at highest level and quality; it was a bit tiring due to the volume of information, thus very interesting.

 BRIDGE workshop content, namely the case-studies, gave the possibility to compare where our country stands and triggered to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of our own country;

 I like discussing the electoral issues in global context, which helps to widen our viewpoint;

 Training topics were very gradual and consecutive during all four days; though the volume of the materials would be best learnt if the days were stretched in five days to let interested learners to get to the bottom of the topic.

 Facilitators have amazed us by their professionalism, but mostly I was astonished by their attitude towards the participants and interaction with each and every participant.

 A person can be knowledgeable, but it’s a great talent to be able to transfer this knowledge to others.

 Facilitators have un-exhausted resource of energy, devotion to their work and fabulous manner of speech.

 We were feeling the incredible energy from the facilitators; they have made each participant fan of BRIDGE and BRIDGE newborns.

In recognition of completion of the four-day training course, participants were handed the certificates with the signatures of expert facilitator and workshop’s lead facilitator. Soft copy of the workshop materials (handbook and the presentation slides) and course photos were burned on the DVDs and handed to the participants.

Based on the evaluations after each training day and each workshop, also the final evaluation meeting, DEC BRIDGE course program can be considered necessary and timely. The program acted as a warm-up before the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Participants still have good memories of BRIDGE in 2009; participants did not say goodbye, they said “see you on BRIDGE 3”. Participants’ interest towards BRIDGE is very welcoming, especially as they ask for more knowledge in depth. It was mentioned several times, that 2012 program for DECs was much deeper in content than 2009, though they understand that just because of the result in 2009, the DEC BRIDGE program 2012 was so successful.

Thanks to the teams who have conducted the BRIDGE workshops in 2009 (Giorgi Sharabidze/Maia Zaridze; Madona Tsintsadze/Revaz Egadze; Lasha Kiladze/Davit Todria; Beso Guledani/Levan Chakvetadze; Natia Zarnadze/Lasha Meladze), UNDP project manager Tamar Zhvania and BRIDGE consultant Shalva Tskhakaya, whose work paved the way to the more successful BRIDGE courses in Georgia.

The DEC BRIDGE program 2012 would not be successful if not the hardest work of the facilitation teams: Giorgi Sharabidze and Lasha Meladze, who acted as lead facilitators and helped the expert facilitator to guide and mentor the semi-accredited facilitators: Natia Zarnadze, Maia Zaridze, Davit Todria, Madona Tsintsaze and Maia Gudadze. Congratulations to the newly accredited workshop facilitators with the wishes for more and successful BRIDGE workshops. Central Election Commission of Georgia has now good number of workshop facilitators to continue building the BRIDGEs across the country.

Special thanks to IFES and USAID who made it possible to conduct BRIDGE customized workshops for the members of the District Electoral Commissions; and special thanks to the IFES-Georgia staff for the immense work they have done for the preparation and delivery of the DEC BRIDGE program 2012.

And lastly, special thanks to the Central Election Commission of Georgia for popularizing BRIDGE in Georgia using it as the capacity development tool for its members, secretariat and mid-level administration.

 

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