It was a pleasure to participate in the EFC Grantmakers East Forum (GEF) 2019 in Tbilisi, Georgia. The focus of the GEF was to provide networking opportunities and platforms for critical discussion about grantmaking.
I was among over 80 participants and it was interesting to hear perspectives across Europe on:
- How can philanthropic foundations support the resilience of civil society actors?
- What are alternative ways of mobilising people and building communities and constituencies for human rights and social change?
- Are the new social movements the new pillar of civil society?
- What is the role of local, national and European philanthropic actors and networks?
- What are the inherent risks for grantmakers and grantees?
- Can technology help create secure affiliations in hostile environments?
- How are grantmakers adapting their strategies and funding mechanisms in order to continue delivering positive impact?
Guest speakers Salome Barker, Gabriella Benedek, and Thomas Lohninger, shared their experiences regarding the activation of civil society, facilitating people, and using new technologies in their countries to tackle and protest different issues. All of them mentioned using Facebook as a communication tool between activists and civil society, where people could find out about upcoming protests, but they also shared the challenges they faced during protests. For example, tips were shared on social on how to survive a 24 hour protest and how to spread information. Some of the protests that Salome, Gabriella and Thomas mentioned involved up to 10,000 people, and it was interesting to hear how their experiences mirrored what happened during the 2018 Velvet Revolution I witnessed in Armenia.
I also participated in one of the breakout sessions called: ‘How to make good propaganda: an activist’s toolkit to social change’. Brandon Oelofse from the Netherlands presented the main tools for making good propaganda, current examples and three case studies from across Europe. Speakers from Georgia, Naja Orashvili and Tato Getia, shared their experience of the 2018 #Raverevolution in Georgia. The ‘Basiani’ and ‘Galarea’ nightclubs became the centre of activism caused by drug-related arrests from police raids which sparked thousands of clubbers to protest.
At the GEF I found new friends, new opportunities to create networks and strengthen civil society and new tools to create a more democratic society in Armenia.
Ruzanna Ter-Ghazaryan is Executive Director of Human Dignity and Peace Charity Foundation