George Melashvili attended the Swedish Institute’s Summer Academy for Young Professionals (SAYP) in 2016. Before then, as a university student in Georgia, he had already been part of a group of students interested in diplomacy and peacebuilding who created the Future Diplomat’s Club.
This later became the inspiration for the Europe-Georgia Institute (EGI), also co-founded by George. It’s currently the leading independent civil society organisation in Georgia. EGI had been in operation for about a year when George headed to Sweden for the 2016 SAYP.
-Malmö University has a great infrastructure, so first I was fascinated by all the technical and academic things around us. But also of course by the quality of the lectures, and how motivated the staff were to work with us.’
To George, the motivation really stood out. Not only how motivated the lecturers were but also how the programme motivated him.
-Seeing how things are done in Sweden was a great motivator for me and later my organisation. When I came back to Georgia, I started to implement the tools that we had learned to create a lasting framework of good governance. The programme was one of the best motivating experiences of my life.
George used a lot of what he learned in Sweden by adapting it to the local situation in Georgia.
-We had sessions on anticorruption, good governance and sustainable management. I was able to use all this knowledge in my work. SI’s programme was actually my first contact with good governance. It allowed us to realise in what direction we wanted to develop our organisation, what we were lacking in terms of personnel and resources, and of course, to fully realise our aims and missions.
Around this time, they also launched the Get out and vote campaign, through which they were not only motivating people to vote but also trying to teach them what it means to live in a democratic state. From there, they started a good governance programme to build bridges between local communities and municipalities.
While governance was a key issue, George also realised the importance of global sustainability through SI’s programme.
-My biggest takeaway was about governance, and the second was about sustainability and the 2030 Agenda. Most of our projects now correlate to at least one of the goals. The challenge in Georgia is to show how the goals can be relevant to people here.’
To this day, George finds it’s a programme that keeps on giving, thanks to the alumni network.
-I’m a member of the alumni board. It’s a wonderful place to keep in touch with both alumni and SI staff. It allows me to work in Georgia and still use the knowledge that is right now in Sweden.
-Two members of my organisation have already applied to the SI programme. I am glad and would encourage anyone to apply because it is a tremendous life-changing experience.