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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

New Ways of Reaching out to the Target Groups

The Election Administration (EA) of Georgia has long prioritized youth engagement in electoral matters, and we know why. Youth involvement in the electoral process has been generally low, and reasons vary, ranging from lack of interest to lack of awareness and enthusiasm, and of course, pessimism to some extent. As we do in such cases, we acknowledged the problem and tried to find the best ways to resolve it. First, we wanted to spark youth’s interest in elections and then motivate them to be part of the electoral process. For that very reason, over the years, we have been running different activities. More precisely, our administration approached youth at different times with various activities, such as informational courses, summer and winter schools, and curricula implemented in public schools and universities. These activities were equally significant for informing young people about electoral issues, raising their awareness, and creating the next pool of well-informed and conscious generations. All these activities had in common – connecting with young people in formal and non-formal gatherings, familiarizing them with lots of information about elections, democracy, different electoral procedures, gender equality, etc. Despite the implementation of various educational programs and small positive dynamics, the lack of youth participation in elections and the electoral process, in general, remains a challenge. In July 2020, the CEC solely initiated and launched an innovative educational pilot project – ‘’Electoral Youth Camp’’ targeting young people aged 20-29, of suffrage age, from different educational and professional backgrounds. In other words, the CEC this time wanted to connect with young people with a rather developed belief system, vision, and opinions, the youth already with certain knowledge and life experience. By doing so, the CEC wanted to work with the youth who upon completion of study course, would be well-aware of electoral matters, would turn into responsible and accountable citizens with an incentive to influence political life in the future, and perhaps get employed by the election administration and/or other electoral stakeholders. In fact, ‘’Electoral Youth Camp’’ was very informative and of great importance for its participants as we are about to find out. During the 5-day course, conducted outside Tbilisi, namely in Bakuriani, the CEC officials, electoral experts met project participants at camps, provided them with election-related information, taught them soft skills such as communication and presentation, and increased their interest in the electoral issues. At the meetings, the participants received the information they were interested in through Q & A in a relaxed setting. Along with the formal side of learning, various cultural/intellectual activities were also designed and carried out for youth camps’ participants. A training module was conducted in the Georgian language. Notably, the EA encouraged the participation of those persons in “Electoral Youth Camps” who were less involved in public life, including ethnic minority representatives. Further, the gender equality principle was considered in the composition of groups of participants. In total, around 150 participants gained knowledge and additional skills at the youth camps amid the pandemic. Organizers of the study course ensured all epidemiological rules to be strictly adhered to during the learning process.

This project was part of a larger goal of election administration to bring youth to polls and get them involved in the political and public life of the country. As a result, the project managed to increase participants’ interest in the electoral processes, raise their awareness of civil rights and universally recognized principles. More precisely, participants of the youth camp deepened their knowledge in democratic principles, electoral systems, electoral procedures, election history, models of election administration, inclusive electoral environment, transparency principle, gender equality, ethical standards, election security, crisis management, and other important issues.

“Electoral Youth Camp’’ has been deemed a successful project by project organizers, and most importantly, by its students. Alumni of the camp repeatedly expressed their satisfaction with the project and theoretical and practical knowledge they acquired through this course. Graduates broadened their professional acquaintances and made inquiries about similar projects and possibilities to be hired by election administration. Some of them even registered for the election administration officials’ certification exam and successfully passed the exam.

And some even went even further than that and worked as a poll worker during recent parliamentary elections, namely 46 graduates from “Electoral Youth Camps” were part of 2020 elections and contributed to the electoral process and used their acquired knowledge already in the polling station. In addition to this, the CEC added graduates of ‘’Youth School’’ to the potential employees’ database, which again doubles the chances of former students to work with the EA in the future.

It is our hope and also a goal that with such approaches, interactive study modules, formal and non-formal study activities, young people will be more attracted to the electoral process which in turn would serve to the benefit of our country’s democratic development.

Tamar Zhvania
Central Election Commission of Georgia