Friday, September 24, 2010

The CRRC Georgia Team

These are the CRRC Georgia team members who work hard on the numbers we usually present!

In this photo: celebrating the birthdays of three CRRC colleagues in Mtskheta with great food, great wine and charades in Georgian!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The 2010 World Giving Index

By David McArdle

In recent weeks, CRRC have focused on levels of happiness and satisfaction in the Caucasus. In line with this theme, the World Giving Index 2010 (WGI) has released their latest figures, which they hope will act as a marker of cohesiveness in a society.

Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) published the WGI report, discussing how they believe that almost all countries, cultures and faiths have their own traditions of giving which are complex and shaped by their history, customs and religion.

The report finds that the association between happiness and giving is greater than that of national GDP, or wealth, and giving. Perhaps the level of giving in a country speaks to the strength of its civil society – the extent to which individuals are willing and able to contribute towards addressing the needs of others both in their own localities and across borders.

The results of the WGI placed Australasian neighbours Australia and New Zealand in the top two positions, respectively. As for the Caucasus countries, Azerbaijan was placed as the top country in the Caucasus with regard to giving, ranked 67th out of the 153 countries listed on the WGI, sharing its spot with Botswana, Mongolia, Mexico and Mauritius.

Meanwhile, Armenia was 115th and shared its ranking with El Salvador, Ecuador and Latvia.

Finally, Georgia was situated at a rather low 134th, joined alongside India, Turkey and Cote D’Ivoire (and please refer to the Index’s methodology section for an insight into how ‘giving’ is defined. For instance, the Index regards the term ‘giving’ as not exclusively connected with the donation of monies).

For access to the colourful and accessible report in full, please follow the link to CAF’s site. We’d like to thank Jonathan K. for drawing our attention to this.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Winners of the First Stage of the Junior Research Fellowship Program-Azerbaijan Announced

In August 2010, the Fellowship Selection Committee of the Junior Research Fellowship Program (JRFP)-Azerbaijan had the difficult task of selecting the three best policy papers submitted by program participants. The voting, which was held by secret ballot was extremely difficult because these three papers had minimum differences between scores. Thus, the distribution of the top three winners was unknown until the very last moment. CRRC-Azerbaijan is proud to present the winners of the JRFP policy paper competition: Aynur Ramazanova (first place), Shabnam Agayeva (second place) and Gulnar Mammadova (third place).

The competition for best policy paper was open to students or recent graduates of Azerbaijani Universities between the ages of 18 and24. Before working on their papers, participants were invited to become members of the CRRC Moodle Platform and to take two courses: Introduction to Public Policy Analysis and Academic Writing for Policy Analysis. These courses provided participants with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to successfully complete their papers. All of the projects conducted by students were remarkable and touched upon various significant social issues ranging from control over genetically modified products to e-government, and from programs for juvenile offenders to respiratory diseases among children.

The winner of the contest, Aynur Ramazanova, discussed the challenging issue of corruption in Azerbaijani Universities using Azerbaijan Medical Universities as her case study. Her findings indicate that 89.3% of students surveyed in the project had paid cash bribes at least once. Among the indicated causes of corruption were low teaching wages, a weak system of control over corruption in the higher education system, and the incompetence of management staff at universities. Results also found that students were often reluctant to learn and invest their energy into education since chances for a decent occupation on the labor market usually depend on the ability to pay bribe, rather than on their level of professionalism. The research also discusses the relationship between corruption and the general climate in society. When corruption and nepotism are a norm, students become socialized to it from early childhood. The author concludes that this negative socialization should be challenged through “positive propaganda” in the mass media and educational programs that will promote alternative values and show that corruption can easily suspend a country’s development.

The second place winner, Shabnam Agayeva, discussed the problem of inadequate services for survivors of marital physical abuse. She interviewed workers at NGOs that provide services for battered women. She also examined secondary sources to conclude that the absence of cooperation between key institutions such as hospitals, legal advice centers, crisis centers, shelters and police significantly hinders adequate responses to domestic violence. Therefore, the development of policy mechanisms to address this must be considered.

The third winner, Gulnar Mammadova, discussed the issue of education in her paper “Challenges of General Secondary Education at Public Schools in Azerbaijan: How to Turn the ’Quality of Reality’ into the ‘Reality of Quality’?” In her paper, Gulnar recommends expanding the size of public financing in education and ensuring effective budget distribution in order to confront important issues such as poor quality schooling in Azerbaijan.

The winners of this competition will be awarded iPods and the other participants of the JRFP competition will be awarded book vouchers. These are only the results of the first stage of the JRFP program. We anticipate many more interesting and challenging projects from our participants in the next two stages. The program will conclude in June 2011 with a conference where participants will publicly present their research projects.

The Junior Research Fellowship Program is implemented by CRRC office in Azerbaijan and was made possible with the generous support of the Open Society Institute, Think Tank Fund.

Aleksey Hovakimyan on Rural & Economic Development in Armenia

While writing his PhD, Aleksey Hovakimyan was a regular user of CRRC-Armenia, often working in the computer lab or the library. We therefore were delighted to hear that his PhD thesis has now been published, and wanted to support him in spreading the word of his book's release.

Hovakimyan's book, Rural Clusters and Structural Transformation: An Exploratory Case Study in Armenia, concerns the change in the structure of an economy as an important process for long-term development. This key process, called structural transformation, reflects the change in the contribution of the agriculture, industry and service sectors within the national economy.

The book also examines the cluster concept, which is generally a geographic concept from regional economics and economic geography. Since its origin, the cluster concept mostly refers to the industry sector, and very little academic literature directly ties structural transformation to rural cluster formation in developing countries. Hovakimyan's work, therefore, tries to do so through an exploratory case study of Armenia, and examines three dimensions: space (cluster concept), time (structural transformation) and levels of change (from national to household level).

The book also provides an overview of relevant theories and approaches, as well as the case analysis helpful to understand the economic behaviour/choice of rural households within the realities of developing countries which have various gaps and shortcomings in infrastructure and institutions.

This work should be especially useful to students, development researchers and practitioners, or anyone else who is interested in rural and economic development. For more information and to purchase the book, go here.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Googling the Application Address

One of the bugbears of announcing a new position is that you get plenty of application spam. Many of the people have barely read the announcement, and blast out an e-mail attaching their CV, sometimes copying three of four other firms into the e-mail. A vacancy can generate 60 to 70 applications, of which only 10 to 15 are relevant. While we go through them quickly, it is unproductive time, and it's even a little sad, looking at so much helplessness.

Now we are trying a new method, of hiding the e-mail address that we request applications to. Anyone qualified should be able to figure this out, and application-spammers (there must be a better term in there somewhere) are unlikely to make the effort.

Those of you familiar with Gmail will know that anything with a plus sign still arrives, if the previous word indicates an existing address. However, we can effectively filter the application, making sure that only those that got it right get a "For Review" label attached.
It is the typical spiral of technology providing solutions (ease of application), creating problems (quantity of applications), until we use the next countermeasure to increase thresholds. So far, no spam received.

Life Satisfaction in Armenia and Azerbaijan

By David McArdle & Jesse Tatum

After investigating what makes Georgians happy in a July blog based on data from the World Values Survey (WVS), we wondered how a similar analysis would look in Armenia and Azerbaijan. This time, using data from the 2008 European Values Survey (EVS) to compare the two, we found that, first, people claiming higher life satisfaction do not inevitably place a greater emphasis on religion in either country.

Second, the EVS data also showed that higher job satisfaction was said to be more essential by those satisfied with life in Azerbaijan, and was even more so the case in Armenia. Next, being in good health was more significant for the Armenians satisfied with life than for the Azerbaijanis in the same category. Finally, high rates of life satisfaction and of happiness, as observed in the WVS results for Georgia, simply do not always mirror each other. In short, Armenians and Azerbaijanis can be satisfied without being completely happy.


The data revealed that those Armenians and Azerbaijanis completely satisfied with life do not always place the highest importance upon religion. In Armenia, of those who are ‘completely satisfied’ with life, 33% value religion as ‘very important’. However, of those who list themselves as ‘completely dissatisfied’ with life, a slightly higher value of 36% rate religion as ‘very important’. Thus in Armenia, according to the figures, religion is as much associated with life dissatisfaction as it is with life satisfaction.

Similar to Armenia, slightly more than a quarter (26%) of Azerbaijanis who are completely satisfied in life also say that religion is very important. On the other hand, a slightly higher percentage (30%) of those who are completely satisfied claim that religion is ‘not important’ in life. Furthermore, of those who assert that they are completely dissatisfied in life, fully 45% say that religion is ‘very important’. There are obviously factors other than religion which tend to lead to life satisfaction in both countries, and these results stand contrary to the WVS data for Georgia, where everyone, regardless of life satisfaction, appeared to place importance on religion.

Job satisfaction

In Azerbaijan, the data showed a possible connection between high life satisfaction and high job satisfaction. Taking into account only those who said they were employed, 53% of those completely satisfied with their lives chose between 8 and 10 on the ten-point job satisfaction scale where ‘10’ denotes complete job satisfaction.

In Armenia, a similar association between higher life and job satisfaction was observed. In all, 50% of those completely satisfied with life who said they are employed chose 8–10 on the same job satisfaction scale. In addition, 61% of Armenians completely dissatisfied with life and employment chose 1–3 on the scale, the three lowest choices, where ‘1’ equals complete dissatisfaction with one’s job.


Health was arguably a noteworthy factor for overall life satisfaction in Armenia. Seventy-five percent of those completely satisfied with life also judged their health to be either ‘very good’ or ‘good’. Moreover, only 5% of those completely satisfied with life deemed their health ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

However, even for those Armenians completely dissatisfied with life there are still 28% who rate their health to be ‘very good’ or ‘good’, while 39% judge their health to be ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. Thus, though the data highlights that perceptions of health might influence the degree of overall life satisfaction, it does not necessarily affect life dissatisfaction.

In contrast with Armenia, being in good health appeared to play less of a role for those Azerbaijanis completely satisfied in life, 43% of which either see themselves to be in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ health. Still, 10% completely satisfied with life rate their health as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. Furthermore, 52% of those completely dissatisfied with life actually remarked that their health is ‘very good’ or ‘good’. According to these results, health as a determining factor ranks much lower for Azerbaijanis than job satisfaction does, for instance, in being potentially associated with satisfaction in life.


According to the data, for Azerbaijanis, higher levels of happiness did not seem to be associated with higher levels of life satisfaction. In fact, more who said that they were dissatisfied with life still claimed to be ‘very happy’ (18%) than did those who are satisfied with life (7%). As was the case with Georgians, perhaps happiness and life satisfaction are two separate concepts which need not necessarily run parallel to each other.

In Armenia the data show that the greater their life satisfaction, the more the respondents in Armenia said that they are ‘very happy’. In all, 90% who are completely satisfied in life indicate that they are ‘very’ or ‘quite’ happy. Still, 58% of those who are dissatisfied with life also ranked themselves ‘very’ or ‘quite’ happy, which, as with Armenia’s neighbors, may mean that there is more in life that drives levels of happiness upwards.


Data from both the WVS and EVS surveys are extensive and expose nuances which highlight some fascinating differences between the three states of the South Caucasus. Why is religion so important in Georgia regardless of life satisfaction and not so for those respondents in Armenia and Azerbaijan? Why is happiness not proportionally bound with life satisfaction in all three nations? Why do the Armenians polled greatly value health when judging overall life satisfaction in contrast to the Azerbaijanis who do not equate good health with overall life satisfaction? Interested in finding out more? The EVS online data analysis is available here, and the WVS here.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

New Associate Regional Director at CRRC

I am excited to be the new Associate Regional Director at CRRC and to work with a staff dedicated to constantly improving the quality of data from the South Caucasus. I aim to promote new social science research and to ensure a vibrant and local research community in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

I am a California native who specializes in comparative politics, post-communist politics and both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. A few of my academic interests include nationalism and the intersection of politics and religion, especially in the post-Soviet region. My current research focuses on secular regimes and state engagement with religion in post-Soviet Eurasia.

My journey in the post-Soviet region began in 1999 when I first visited Irkutsk, Russia in Eastern Siberia as a participant in an environmental exchange program (The Tahoe-Baikal Institute). I lived with a Buryat family that summer and began to study the political history of the Russian Empire, Soviet Union and the 15 post-Soviet countries. In the following years, I traveled or worked throughout Western Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (as well as much of Eastern Europe and many other parts of the world).

I was able to combine my persistent interest with this region with the political and methodological training that I had received at the University of California, Berkeley where I am a current Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science and where I completed my second Master's degree in 2005. I also earned a M.A. in Russian and Eurasian Studies at the European University of St. Petersburg, Russia in 2003 and a B.A. at the University of California, Davis where I studied Russian and Mathematics. This prior training also contributed to my combination of area studies and methodological knowledge that I hope to employ at CRRC.

As Associate Regional Director, I will endeavor to strengthen the quality of social science research and publications, as well as public policy analysis in the region. I also look forward to working with the CRRC team in all three countries, Eurasia Partnership Foundation, local community members, and various organizations that are also enthusiastic about and committed to our vision.