Young Facilitators Group

The Young Facilitators approach is to train, coach and empower a new generation of facilitators in the Caucasus. They are capable of engaging in constructive dialogue and of managing projects that cut across conflict lines, with little to no foreign, third-party involvement. The approach fosters team spirit, mutual agreement and a common vision for peaceful and multi-layered Georgian-Abkhaz-South Ossetian relationships at the civil society level. The Berghof Foundation team is increasingly assuming the role of mentor and coach.

With the initial project Young Facilitators of the Future a new Abkhaz-Georgian-South Ossetian network of young professionals emerged. The group has become involved in activities of confidence and peacebuilding both between and within the communities. Since 2013, the most active members of the group have been coordinating their activities in Concilium meetings. In its current state, the Young Facilitators Group is a semi-formalised network with a core group of active and persistently involved individuals. It is composed of an Abkhaz, a Georgian and a South Ossetian section; its members have been founding NGOs and engaging in their own projects in bilateral or trilateral teams. 

Individual Projects

Concilium of the Young Facilitators, 2013
Young Facilitators Go Regional 2 (established by Young Facilitator Group) 2013
Young Facilitators in Action, 2012
Young Facilitators Go Regional 1 (established by Young Facilitator Group) 2012
Young Facilitators of the Future, 2010-2011

Timeframe

2010 – 2014

Conflict Setting

The conflicts between Georgia and Abkhazia and Georgia and South-Ossetia date back to pre-Soviet times and erupted into various wars in the early 1990s and in 2008. In essence, both conflicts are disputes about national self-determination and the desired future national status.

Currently, there is no common understanding among the conflict parties regarding any wider confidence-building measures for the Georgia-Abkhazia-South Ossetia context. On the South Ossetian and Abkhaz side, confidence and peacebuilding measures are largely seen as “cheese in the trap” that might endanger aspirations for independence. Under the Saakashvili government, these measures were promoted in Georgia as a step towards reintegrating the “conflict regions”. Although the new Georgian government has adopted a softer stance on the issue, the ambiguity of cooperation both as a source of mutual benefits and of mutual dependency creates a complex structure of dilemmas that are hard to overcome for all parties – whether involved insider or engaged outsider.

Aims & Approach

In our assessment, confidence building and cooperation in the Caucasus can only be widened and intensified if these processes are firmly anchored within and between the actors of the conflicting sides. Linking strong local ownership with meaningful trust-building measures across conflict lines, however, is not easy to accomplish. Insiders must facilitate encounters as effectively as possible, while providing opportunities for mutual understanding and agreement. Insider facilitators are crucial because they are best equipped to address the internal challenges to peacebuilding. Intra-group dynamics have a strong impact on mono-communal work, which is the necessary basis for cross-community work.

The Young Facilitators approach is directed at young professionals from Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Georgia who can act as multipliers in their respective communities. As former participants in the Abkhaz-Georgian and South Ossetian-Georgian dialogue processes they have gained first-hand experience regarding the possibilities and challenges that any confidence building process in the region faces. The project Young Facilitators of the Future introduced a set of methods and analytical tools that became basic principles among the participants and group members in Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia. Topics such as effective communication, escalation and de-escalation dynamics, conflict analysis tools and strategy-building tools were covered in a set of workshops. Role playing in various conflict scenarios prepared participants for their future tasks as facilitators and mediators.

The formation of the Young Facilitators Group marks a shift in the way the Berghof Foundation is engaged in the region. Before the group began to form, the Berghof Foundation’s staff played a leading role in facilitating the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian dialogue meetings across conflict lines. Now, the role of the Berghof Foundation team has increasingly become that of mentors and coaches.

Outcomes

Young Facilitators Group has started performing as a group and, following the initial project, has implemented a variety of trainings and workshops in bilateral or trilateral teams. Additional projects are being explored and applied for, and new partnerships are formed when appropriate.

Partners

Our most important partners are:

  • Agency for Social, Economic & Cultural Development, Tskhinval/i
  • World Without Violence NGO, Sukhum/i
  • International Centre on Conflict and Negotiation, Tbilisi
  • Peace Development Center, Tbilisi
  • Young Facilitators Group – Abkhaz Section
  • Young Facilitators Group – Georgian Section
  • Young Facilitators Group – South Ossetian Section
  • PAX (formerly IKV Pax Christi), Utrecht

Funders

Our most important funders are:

  • Confidence Building Early Response Mechanism (COBERM). COBERM is funded by the European Union and administered by the United Nations Development Programme.
  • The Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation
  • German Foreign Office
  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office, UK
  • Friedrich Naumann Foundation

The Young Facilitators Group grew out of a set of training activities the Berghof Foundation has been conducting in the region for several years. They are presented here, starting with the most recent ones.

Concilium of the Young Facilitators

The Concilium, which took place in Yerevan from 14 to 16 June 2013, was the first trilateral Georgian-Abkhaz-South Ossetian coordination meeting between active members of the Georgian-Abkhazian and South Ossetian-Georgian dialogue. Its primary purpose was to provide a trilateral platform to discuss, develop strategies for and plan the desired political directions and shapes of the movement.

Resources
TV programme on Youth Dialogue with Shota Shvelize, "Studio Re" August 2014
Article by Nina Pukhaeva, Information Agency RES, February 2013 (Russian)
Interview by Eka Kevanishvili, Radio Liberty, March 2013
(Georgian)

Self-regulated Dialogue Workshop

Self-regulated workshops aim to deepen the dialogue between young professionals. They not only foster a common understanding and an agreement among participants regarding the “normalisation of relationships”, they also provide an opportunity to practice facilitating dialogue workshops across conflict lines.

At the Abkhazian-Georgian Dialogue and Study Visit Workshop (18-23 October, 2011) in Moldova, two Georgian and two Abkhaz Young Facilitators conducted the meeting for six plus six participants. The young team was supported by senior Berghof staff, who offered reflection and coaching sessions at the end of each working day. A similar workshop with South Ossetian-Georgian trainers and participants was conducted in December 2011.

With the introduction of the concept of self-regulated dialogue workshop, we entered into a new phase in the overall development of Berghof Foundation’s Georgian-Abkhaz-South Ossetian dialogue approach. In the past, our staff and our partners have facilitated 12 dialogue and study-visit workshops (six Georgian-Abkhaz and six Georgian-South Ossetian). Now, the role of the senior team of facilitators is increasingly shifting towards providing assistance as coaches and supporters.

Self-regulated dialogue workshops are part of the Berghof Foundation’s wider training concept in the region. Coaching serves to strengthen the heterogeneous team structures and to further empower the Young Facilitators.

Peer-to-Peer Training implemented by the participants in their communities

The formation process of the local sections of the Young Facilitator group in Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia started with peer-to-peer training workshops inside their own respective communities in 2011. The trainings provided a format for the Young Facilitators to reach out to their wider peer-groups to reproduce and present what they had learned to new young professionals who had not participated in the previous dialogue activities.

Peer-to-peer trainings were conducted by teams of three to four Young Facilitators in Sukhum/i, Tbilisi, and Tskhinval/i – following the Georgian-Abkhaz & South Ossetian-Georgian facilitation training conducted by our staff. The young teams were supported by our local partners, all of whom have a background as trainers.

Georgian-Abkhaz & South Ossetian-Georgian facilitation training in Moldova

The trainings conducted in Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia paved the way for the joint Abkhaz-Georgian (19-26 June, 2011) and South Ossetian-Georgian training workshops (9-16 March, 2012). They were conducted by Oliver Wolleh and Wolfram Zunzer in Moldova in cooperation with Dina Alborova (Tskhinval/i), Tinatin Asatiani (Tbilisi) and Dalila Pilia (Sukhum/i). Ten young professionals from either side, all of whom had previously participated in earlier dialogue processes accompanied by the Berghof Foundation, took part in each workshop.

Like all encounters across conflict lines, the workshops focused on dialogue and the opportunity to foster team building. Improved communication skills, a common understanding of political challenges, a common vision and strategy for future forms of cooperation as well as group formation across conflict lines were all on the agenda of these meetings.

Resources
Radio Programme on Radio Tavisubleva Program (Georgian)
Interview with Zarina Sanakojeva (Russian)

Training series for Abkhaz, Georgian and South Ossetian potential facilitators

The project “Young Facilitators of the Future” started with an intense series of mono-communal training workshops within Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia in 2010. The trainings, conducted by our local partners Dina Alborova (Tskhinval/i), Tinatin Asatiani (Tbilisi) and Dalila Pilia (Sukhum/i), introduced basic communication concepts such as the stages of effective communication, subjective realities and active listening.

In May 2011, Oliver Wolleh and Wolfram Zunzer conducted three further workshops in Georgia and Abkhazia (Tbilisi, Batumi and Sukhum/i) to complement the training provided by local partners. Using a communication model developed by Schulz von Thun, the idea was to enable participants to “deconstruct” messages, e.g. by politicians. We also wanted to make them aware of differences in how the same message might be perceived in their own and in the others’ communities.

Similarly, participants applied an actor mapping tool, used for conflict analysis and strategic interventions from both perspectives, map the current peacebuilding situation in their own and in the others’ societies.

Resources
Article by David Gamisonia in 24 hours (Georgian)
Article by Nino Chipchiuri in geStudio, November 2011 (Georgian)
Article by Nino Chipchiuri in geStudio, December 2011 (Georgian)

  • The Young Facilitators. Abkhaz-Georgian-South Ossetian Members & Supporters. 2013. Documentation. PDF >