CAUCASUS: Introducing you CRRC - interview to Tinatin Zurabishvili
An important social actor in Southern Caucasus is without doubt the CRRC. Owing to that we decided to interview Mrs. Tinatin Zurabishvili one of the analyst in force at CRRC-Georgia. But allow us before streaming the interview to give you some relevant updates in order to know the CRRC.
- The history of CRRC
The Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) are a network of research, resource and training centers established in 2003 in the capital cities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia with the goal of strengthening social science research and public policy analysis in the South Caucasus.
CRRC was established in 2003 by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) with financial support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. In summer 2013 CRRC Armenia and CRRC Georgia were registered as independent non-commercial legal entities, but continue to maintain the same goals, objectives and commitment to regional cooperation.
CRRC has 10 years of experience providing researchers, governments, donors, NGOs and the private sector with data and analysis of critical trends and expectations in Georgia and across the region. CRRC provides research, analysis and training using tested methodologies which allow accurate comparisons between sectors, populations and countries.
CRRC’s public databases give everyone the opportunity to understand and evaluate the social and political trends in both Georgia and the entire South Caucasus. To analyze these databases easily, please use our Online Data Analysis tool.
- The main activities
Research - CRRC performs quantitative and qualitative research for interested organizations throughout the South Caucasus. Research projects implemented by the CRRC network cover many topics such as politics and elections, economic situation, employment and migration, conflicts and IDPs, media, civic engagement and justice. A short overview of the research methods and professional standards employed by the CRRC network is available here.
Training - CRRC organizes training courses, seminars and lectures on a variety of social science topics, attracting both local and foreign experts as speakers or trainers, locally and regionally.
a. Methodological trainings and lectures
The CRRC methodological trainings focus on modernizing the skill sets of local researchers and providing hands-on opportunities in using relevant statistical software packages. These programs help strengthen research production and promote direct examination of what is really happening in today’s economic and social transformation in the South Caucasus.
b. Orientation trainings
CRRC also conducts basic orientation trainings to explore the range of research resource materials provided by the center and introduce effective methods of their use.
c. Conferences and roundtables
CRRC draws researchers, public administrators, and other policy practitioners from all three South Caucasus countries to discuss and debate on key public policy issues in the region and cross-border trends in policy formation, encouraging interdisciplinary dialogue among researchers and practitioners. The center provides information and educational assistance to emerging public policy institutes, and providing a variety of networking opportunities for researchers and policy practitioners.
When was CRRC founded?
"CRRC network was founded in 2003 in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, with core funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Originally it was one of the programs of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation in the South Caucasus. CRRC-Azerbaijan is still a program of Eurasia Partnership Foundation, while CRRC-Armenia and CRRC-Georgia became independent non-governmental research organizations in 2013."
Research and training are the main activities of CRRC. Would you introduce us them?
"Let me focus on CRRC-Georgia’s work for the rest of the interview. We do various empirical research projects for a number of international and local organizations and academic institutions, e.g. USAID, NORC, IFAD, OECD, the European Union, Uppsala University, … . In most cases, we study public opinion – do quantitative surveys or qualitative interviews or focus-groups. CRRC’s work that is probably best known internationally is our Caucasus Barometer survey (CB) – we did it annually from 2007 through 2013, and then continued bi-annually. Until now, CB is the only regular survey that studies population’s attitudes and living conditions, providing comparative data for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. A representative sample of approximately 2300 adults get interviewed during each wave in each country. Importantly, all CB datasets and survey instruments (questionnaires) are available online as a resource for all interested researchers.
We conduct basic trainings for representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations on survey data collection, focus groups, or data visualization. We also have a so-called Junior Fellowship program – a 6-month full time internship for junior researchers whom we select via a rigorous selection process …"
What does mean “strengthening social science research and public policy analysis in the South Caucasus”?
"As mentioned before, empirical social research was not developed in the South Caucasus in the 1990s and early 2000s, and it can be claimed, public policy analysis was not yet heard of. This means, there was no reliable survey data about the opinions and attitudes of the population, and there was very limited knowledge about how should scientific surveys be conducted. On top of this, academic literature on public opinion, survey research, data analysis – i.e., empirical social research – was also largely unavailable for those who were living in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The respective knowledge, and respective skills, were to be either developed or, at least, strengthened. CRRC made available not only survey data, but also documentation (survey questionnaires, instructions, sampling strategy, etc.) –all of this was regularly published on CRRC website, and everyone had, and still has, free access to this information. In addition, CRRCs were also offering libraries, often located at a major university in Yerevan, Baku and Tbilisi, where social science literature – books and magazines – were also freely available."
Why did the founders of CRRC decide to found your organization?
"CRRC network was founded because, in the early 2000s, there was a lack of expertise in empirical social science in the region – there were few people with respective training, and almost no reliable empirical data available about public opinion – basically, all those reasons that I’ve mentioned while answering the previous question."
What is the present situation of South Caucasus according to your research?
"This is an extremely broad question and would take volumes to answer it. In addition, the three countries are very different according to many criteria. As a few important snapshots – there is social and economic inequality, rather large differences in opinions reported by the population living in the capitals, on the one hand, and in the rest of the country, on the other hand. There is lack of tolerance, lack of liberal attitudes, although, at the same time, there are positive developments in many respects. People still are rather intolerant towards immigrants and representatives of religious minorities, they report supporting democracy, but more detailed questions often suggest they don’t understand well what democracy is. In Georgia specifically, there are very negative perceptions of politics and politicians, with majority of people who report distrusting all political parties. Overall, trust towards major political institutions is very low."
Are there similarities between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia?
"Yes, there are both similarities and differences. Our Caucasus Barometer surveys provide detailed information about this, and the data can be explored via online data analysis platform that has been developed for people who do not know how to use statistical software."
Is democracy a strong value in that area?
"Declaratively, yes, but often there is evidence that people do not have very clear idea what democracy means, especially – what responsibilities should the citizens agree to have in a democratic society."
What role can play European Union in Southern Caucasus?
"I can only discuss the situation in Georgia here, since I don’t have information about the situation in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The EU is implementing a lot of projects in Georgia in a number of very different fields, including promotion of democratic governance, regional development, energy efficiency, agriculture and many more. It’s very difficult to assess exact impact of these projects, largely because quite a long time is needed to actually see and measure such impact."
We live in a period of building of walls… I guess Southern Caucasus needs wider relations with the world…
"I can, again, speak of Georgia here, and it is quite safe to say that building walls is not something that Georgia is risking. The country is rather open and most probably will continue this way, especially in light of recent visa liberalization with the EU."
Any anticipations concerning your future initiatives?
"CRRC-Georgia is currently implementing a number of projects in different fields, studying public opinion in the fields of agriculture, migration, safe transport, political attitudes, etc. We are now largely focusing on policy relevant research, trying to come up with recommendation for development of better policy, to a possible extent – based on experimental research."
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The photo has been taken from CRRC’s Official Facebook page
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