The EU-funded Initiative “Mayors for Economic Growth” (M4EG) continues to facilitate public-private dialogue and strengthen its public outreach by engaging civil society and academia representatives in different aspects of local economic development.
In this context, the M4EG Secretariat has recently finalized a specially designed training course for students of Caucasus University in Georgia. Its aim is to contribute to a wider distribution of knowledge and expertise, as well as ensure sustainability of the Initiative results.
In the frameworks of this course, consisting of 5 dedicated lectures, students from Caucasus School of Governance (CSG) and Caucasus School of Economics (CSE) got acquainted with the European practices related to local economic development, and with the methodology of preparing a Local Economic Development Plan (LEDP). After the students have been equipped with sufficient theoretical knowledge on local economic development processes, the M4EG Secretariat will give them an opportunity to apply the obtained knowledge in practice via internship in selected M4EG Signatory municipalities.
The training course was delivered to the students in their native Georgian language by the M4EG Country Coordinator in Georgia and Azerbaijan, Mr. Zviad Archuadze, between 23 February – 23 March 2019. One of the lectures (on 16 March), however, was led by the representatives of the M4EG Secretariat Central office, which is located in Tbilisi, namely, Mr. Peter Korsby (Project Team Leader, Denmark) and Ms. Julia Dzingailo (Regional Coordinator/Communications Manager, Belarus). Their interaction with the audience was held as an informal talk with questions and answers, which was highly beneficial for the students, as they could therefore get a larger strategic picture of the EU support to the region and the underlying principles of the M4EG Initiative, as well as participate in a discussion with experienced international practitioners.
During the event Mr. Korsby praised the achievements Georgia had made in the frameworks of the EU Association Agreement implementation, as well as Georgia’s successful efforts to approximate with European standards and regulations. The Team Leader presented to the students the Western European model of local economic development and shared some success stories. In particular, he talked about the experience of his own country, Denmark, where small municipalities face common local problems, such as lack of jobs and population drain, especially among younger generation. He outlined several practical solutions tested in Danish municipalities, which had proved effective. The practical examples generated special interest among the students and encouraged them to share their ideas and concerns regarding the development of local economy in their own country.
Mr. Korsby also explained why the M4EG Initiative has been reaching out to the future specialists in economics and public administration: “It’s essential to have a dialogue and knowledge exchange with future generations, the ones who will make decisions and create the new Georgia. Apart from Caucasus University in Georgia, we also cooperate with GIPA (Georgian Institute of Public Affairs). We have similar experience in other countries of the region, like Moldova and Armenia. We strongly believe that this cooperation is mutually beneficial and helps to bring sustainable results”.
Another focus of the discussion was the differences between the national context of the six participating countries regarding local economic development, and peculiarities of their working process of creating Local Economic Development Plans. This experience was demonstrated to the students by Ms. Julia Dzingailo. She emphasized the similarities and differences in the approaches of municipalities towards local economic development in search of their own unique solution. In addition, the M4EG Regional Coordinator/Communications Manager underlined the importance of knowledge and experience sharing between the countries of the region, and the students got acquainted with all the informational sources and M4EG tools that they can use in their future studies or work. This experience-sharing was thought-provoking and inspirational for students. “As a student, I will do my best to think of and formulate new ideas and views on what can be useful for my and any other municipality” – says Mariam Morchadze, a fourth-year student at Caucasus School of Governance.
The Deans of School of Economics and School of Governance and the M4EG Secretariat representatives discussed options of future cooperation between the University and the Initiative. It is planned that in addition to the lectures and internship, the students will get access to a practical online training that was prepared by the M4EG Initiative for municipalities to help them in their work on LEDPs. “The M4EG Initiative gave our students all instruments that they can actively use to develop their practical knowledge. This is very good multidimensional collaboration among academia, the EU which is our important strategic partner, and local municipalities,” - stated Eka Akobia, Dean of Caucasus School of Governance.
Upon completing the course, the participants have an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge into practice via internships in Georgia’s municipalities which are signatories of the M4EG Initiative. During the internships students will be involved in the LEDPs’ development process and get hands-on experience in local economic development management. Successful students will also be awarded by relevant certificates after their internship.