The Imereti Scientists’ Union ‘Spectri’ was registered as an NGO in Kutaisi City Court as a non-profit legal entity on December 8, 1997, the first in Kutaisi to be registered in compliance with the Civil Code. Their registration number of #12/10-01 reflects this “first” status.
Where did the idea for Spectri come from?
Spectri was formed in response to a 1997 television interview with the Director of Sataplia Nature Reserve. The Reserve, one of the gems of the Imereti Region, had been founded in 1935, after museum employee, P. Chabukiani, discovered first the cave, then dinosaur footprints within. The reserve was created to protect the geological, paleontological, speleological and botanical monuments within, but was struggling financially. Keti Tskhakai, co-founder and current Director of Spectri, saw this interview, and was moved to do something.
The next day she went to her colleagues at the Kutaisi State Technical University (since 2006, known as Akaka Tsereteli State University – ATSU) in Kutaisi to bring this to their attention. A group of young, energetic scientists put their minds together to identify a solution. The country had just implemented new legislation to create non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and one of their colleagues in Tbilisi had experience with this; she was happy to advise them. Statutes were drawn up with the assistance of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association – Kutaisi branch (GYLA). The Aims of the new NGO were laid out, and reflected the interests of these young scientists. Finally, a Board of Directors selected.
Thus was Spectri conceived.
While many community scientists and professionals have given their support to Spectri over the years, through advice or adjunct assistance as needed, the cofounders and first Board members included:
- Merab Iremadze – PhD of Mechanical Engineering
- Avtandil Tvaltchrelidze, Doctor of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
- Tamar Moseshvili – PhD of Textile Technology
- Ketevan Tskhakaia – PhD of Mechanical Engineering
- Giorgi Kelbakiani – Specialist in Economics
Thus was Spectri born.
Spectri’s first project was in 1998 for the benefit of Sataplia (which means “the place where honey comes from,” because of the number of beehives in the forest). They created a Center for Ecological Education, with a US$3,000 grant from the Horizonti Foundation: educational activities in Kutaisi and area schools for teachers and students, a classroom in the Reserve, trails, signage for tree and animal identification. Most of these are now gone because of later modernization of facilities.
Thus did Spectri take its first steps.
Over the years of operation and institutional growth of Spectri, various approaches were used to achieve their goals, which to a certain extent are unique to Spectri. One of the main functions of the organization is the protection of citizens’ rights, and the involvement of public stakeholder groups in the decision-making process in the field of environmental protection, as well as in other areas.
During the first stage of organizational development (1997-2003), activities were diverse, aimed at contributing to problem solving in such areas as environmental protection, public health, and small business development. At this stage, one of the most important areas of expertise was the implementation of democratic principles, ensuring transparency and accessibility of the information on the activities of public organizations.
For example, Georgia was still reeling from the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union. By obtaining grants from 2001-2002 for three projects to increase transparency about privatization, Spectri helped people understand how to buy state land that was being offered for sale. There was a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what this meant. Spectri research was able to find a listing of all land available for sale, and put it on a custom-built website. Unfortunately, all the information was later lost when their internet carrier merged with Caucasus Online. The information is now only available in printed booklets, though of course much outdated.
The second stage of development, since 2003, can be identified by their two-year partnership project with the Regional Environmental Center for South Caucasus to develop a Local Environmental Action Plan (LEAP) for Kutaisi. Spectri became especially active in working towards environmental protection. Since then, Spectri has developed LEAPs for the cities of Tkibuli and Bolnisi, consulted on the LEAP for Poti, and prepared a municipal waste management plan for Kutaisi. These activities have had the result of focusing the attention of the organization members on the environmental issues. This was also a time when the oil crisis and climate change were significant world issues. Georgia is not an isolationist country, and the scientists absorbed the information, adding new ideas and concerns to their knowledge base.
As learned in the first stage, representatives of all interested parties were actively involved in plan development. In order to ensure the protection of the interests of the people and their active participation in the decision-making process, Spectri has successfully used many forms of stakeholders engagement, such as establishing working groups, organizing working meetings, collaborating on problem identification, and developing problem resolutions.
The third stage of development is underway. In 2013, Spectri proposed a partnership grant with four countries in the Black Sea region. This concept was accepted by the EU Black Sea Program 2007-2013, and a two-year grant was awarded. Working with municipalities and NGOs in Romania, Moldova, and Armenia, they have expanded their expertise in adopting modern waste management approaches to different regions of the country. At the initiative of Spectri, separated collection of plastic waste was successfully adopted in the municipalities of Kutaisi.
Under two US Embassy grants, separated plastic waste collection has also been introduced to Tkibuli, and soon to Tskaltubo.
Spectri’s efforts are now primarily aimed at promoting not only waste management (and thus, clean water resources), but also energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, especially in mountainous regions.
Publications have been prepared over the years to raise public awareness of issues related to environmental protection, and target groups for this information includes school children, journalists, municipal leaders, and the general public.
Spectri cooperates actively with both non-governmental organizations and State structures.
The organization has partnership relations with organizations in Georgia and abroad. In Georgia, organizations include
- Community and Environment (Tbilisi): collaborating since 2010
- Tkibuli District Development Fund (TDDF, Tkibuli): conducting trainings since 2010, and collaborating since 2012
- Kvemo Kartli Public Information Center (KKPIC, Bolnisi): collaborating since 2014
From organizations outside the country, partners include:
- Environmental Survival (Armenia)
- Regional Center for Sustainable Development (Moldova)
- Eco-Counseling Center (Romania)
- Eco-Renaissance (Azerbaijan)
Some of the municipalities Spectri has collaborated with include:
- Kutaisi City Hall
- Tkibuli Municipality
- Bolnisi Municipality
- Vani Municipality
- Bagdati Municipality
- Tskaltubo Municipality
Since 2013, Spectri has been a member of the Regional Civil Society Network Conception (R-CSN) and Facilitator from 2014-Aug 2016.
In 2014, the organization became a member of EKOEnergy (Finland), an organization that resells renewable electricity, and donates profits to renewable energy projects worldwide. The Network’s facilitator is the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.
Since April 22, 2016, Spectri has been a member of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), working with the Georgian National Platform for the Third Working Group on “Environment, Climate Change and Energy Security.”
On July 20, 2016, Spectri signed a Memorandum of Understanding on continuation of cooperation with other partners for the purpose of facilitating the adoption of modern methods of environmental protection and waste management. The signatories to the Memorandum include: Kutaisi City Hall (Georgia) Ungheni City Hall (Moldova), Ararat City Hall (Armenia), Eco-Counseling Center “Galati” (Romania), Imereti Scientists’ Union Spectri, Regional Center for Sustainable Development (Moldova), and Environmental Survival (Armenia).
Thus has Spectri become a key environmental planner in Georgia: from a television interview to participants in Georgia’s efforts to join the EU. Spectri is committed to creating an active civil society for sustainable environmental development.