Rural Innovation Knowledge Hubs have been launched by EU4Youth in three different rural municipalities of Georgia – Gori, Ninotsminda and Akhmeta. The Hubs provide a space for young people whether they have entrepreneurial ideas, want to learn more about different social or environmental issues, plan awareness-raising campaigns, or build an active civil society in their communities.
The Hubs have been launched as a part of the EU4Youth: Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED) for Green Growth project, which plays a key role in developing and delivering green and social entrepreneurship education, as well as practical skills to vulnerable young people.
The Hubs provide many opportunities to the community, particularly in terms of education, and play a huge role in young people’s personal and career development. The Hubs also act as resource centres, attracting funding and encouraging activities that benefit the municipalities.
Giorgi Khokhobashvili is an active participant in all Hub events. He first became involved with the Knowledge Hub when he completed EU4Youth’s Social and Green Entrepreneurship Course; afterwards he became a member and helped to organise many campaigns and events, such as ‘Discover Akhmeta’, and hosted a tour for young people from Gori and Ninotsminda, as well as a vaccination campaign (which involved inviting an immunologist to speak about the vaccines and answer questions from the community members to help reduce vaccine anxiety). Giorgi soon took a lead in campaigns and is planning a biodiversity campaign, in which he plans to teach the community members about biodiversity by taking them to the Batsara Nature Reserve and conducting practical games and activities.
Through the Hub, Giorgi was introduced to a number of opportunities and, after consultations with the Hub coordinator, he decided to participate in the European Solidarity Diplomacy competition, which he won. As a result, he will be travelling to Austria for 10 months to work towards empowering local youth. Upon his return, his plan is to use the experience and knowledge he has gained in Austria and apply it in Akhmeta to help other young people participate in similar programmes.
“The existence of these Hubs and the support they provide is a source of motivation for us to do our share in developing our region and do our best to improve the environment for young people. When I return from Austria, I will continue to be actively involved in the activities and I advise all young people to become members of the Hub in order to receive the broad knowledge and experience available,” says Giorgi.
Akhmeta Innovation Hub’s recent activities included a field trip to the capital Tbilisi to visit social enterprises and meet the founders of the Hub. The young people from Akhmeta were introduced to people behind successful and innovative enterprises, who spoke to them about their experiences, and offered many insights on starting and running a business. The Akhmeta Innovation Hub members also received information on which organisations or government agencies offer funding and other types of support to social enterprises.
Larisa Karslyan from Ninotsminda Innovation Knowledge Hub believes that this project has come at the perfect time: “Hub activities and topics are crucial and up to date. Environmental issues are important and youth engagement is necessary to effectively tackle climate change, pollution and other problems.” She points out that young people are really excited by the idea of changing something in a positive way, and notes that the Hubs, “are trying to increase youth engagement in social processes, which I see as the best approach”.
As well as providing an inclusive, safe working environment, the Hubs are equipped with essential hardware like professional cameras and laptops and, crucially, access to Wi-Fi.
In regions such as Ninotsminda, the Hubs have done much to help integrate society. Karslyan explains that, “young people living in Nitosminda are facing integration problems, most of them are not able to speak the Georgian language – the Innovation Knowledge Hub is a platform that allows them to communicate, meet each other, discuss social entrepreneurship and environmental topics, and better integrate.”
It is hard to underestimate the positive effects of this project in the target rural municipalities of Georgia. Many of the young people in these regions face acute disadvantages and are highly vulnerable as a result. The Rural Innovation Knowledge Hubs offer them a safe space where they can take their future into their own hands.
Authors: Maiken Bjorlin Hansen, Nana Takvarelia, CENN
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