Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sex, Lies and EU Red Tape

The internal workings of the European Union (EU) are notoriously yawnsome matters. However, in a survey from 2008, CRRC aimed to give an overview of Georgians’ understanding of and attitudes to the EU - including some hot topics concerning orientations towards such activities as sex before marriage, infidelity, dishonesty, and tax-paying.

Respondents were asked whether a range of these controversial activities were either ‘never justified’, ‘sometimes justified’ or ‘always justified’. Breaking down responses according to respondents from households that reported having a member who had lived in the EU for three months or more since 1993, against those from households that had no such members uncovered an interesting trend.

For example, respondents were asked whether it was ever justified for a woman to have a sexual relationship before marriage. A full 80% of respondents who had no family member who had lived in the EU reported that this was ‘never justified’, whereas only 54% of those with a family member who had lived in the EU felt the same. In terms of whether this was ‘sometimes justified’ the figures stood at 13% and 28% respectively (see table below).

A similar trend was found for attitudes to childbirth outside wedlock, as well as extra-marital affairs for both women and men. Meanwhile, though hardly anyone felt homosexuality was ‘always justified’, 10% of those with a household member who had lived in the EU felt it was ‘sometimes justified’ against only 3% of those who had no such member (see table below).

Interestingly, the same trend in attitudes held concerning such negative phenomena as lying, tax-avoidance, using criminal authorities for dispute resolution, and purchasing stolen goods. For example, while 69% of those respondents from households with no family connection to the EU feel lying for personal benefit is ‘never justified,’ only 57% of those with EU-experienced household members think the same (see table below).

If it is true that people-to-people contact creates shifts in attitudes, then a family member who has lived in the EU might ‘import’ certain value orientations into some households creating the differences manifested in the survey.

Given this, the question remains: why should having contact with someone who has lived in the EU affect individual liberalism in attitudes towards sexual matters, yet apparently negatively affect responsible social attitudes towards honesty, tax-paying, and rule of law? Is the EU a force for moral disorientation?

In answer to this, we should note that the survey does not ask if the practices in question are morally good or bad. Instead, it asks whether there might be some situations where such practices are justified. Plausibly then, those with exposure to predominantly tolerant, liberal and more relativistic values in Europe might be expected to produce flexible responses in which controversial practices are not categorically rejected on the basis of absolute moral beliefs.

So finally, perhaps we might suppose that as Georgia increases people-to-people contact through educational programs, political cooperation and trade, Georgians could slowly move towards a philosophy of ‘live and let live’.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Liberal Education Lecture: How Can It Help Us?

Dr. John Schoeberlein, Project Director on Islam in Eurasia at Harvard University, gave a lecture at the Free University in Tbilisi on February 15th on the usefulness of a liberal education, specifically anthropology, for life, society, and the individual. He elaborated on his personal experiences as a former student and current professor of anthropology and presented some fascinating ideas on the importance of a liberal education.

“Everything is becoming more integrated. A larger toolbox is required,” Dr. Schoeberlein explained, referring to the promise of a liberal education to equip students with the critical abilities to think analytically, problem-solve, and understand larger aspects of culture and societal behavior. Additionally, he outlined fundamental characteristics and concepts that describe liberal education, such as an emphasis on general knowledge, rather than instruction on specific tasks. He also discussed the importance of the concept of choice for students to help formulate their own course of study and the notion that students must actively engage themselves and participate in class discussions. While he explained these notions, he made clear that he did not wish to impose this system on Georgians, but rather discuss it and make it available. As he stated, “...being a missionary is not what I want to be.”

He drew on some examples when describing how anthropology fits within the framework of a liberal education and imparts knowledge, which facilitates an understanding of certain phenomena. For example, he explained that corruption exists in various different contexts that cannot be explained aptly by current economic models; however, anthropology provides a useful approach to understand corruption by turning to the different and specific cultural contexts in which it exists and invoking ideas of authority, family relations, and honor. While a payment may be deemed an act of corruption by one culture, it may be accepted as social norms by another. In this way, an anthropological study draws on specific cases and allows one to understand social systems and elements of culture, which is an approach that is not only theoretical but also applicable.

Dr. Schoeberlein highlighted the applicability of anthropology with an example in which a factory manager needs to lead a team of employees with different cultural backgrounds. In this scenario, training in anthropological ideas could endow the manager with the skill to understand why each employee acts a certain way, how to motivate him or her, and what each one values.

These are just a few snippets of some of the ideas Dr. Schoeberlein presented. It would also be an interesting follow-up to try to evaluate what Georgians think about liberal education, in contrast to a vocation-based education system. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these topics!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Access to Justice in Central Asia | Coming Up

We are in the process of completing a major research project in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) on Access to Justice. It concentrated in particular on vulnerable groups, and how they could get access to justice. Sponsored by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the project involved a nationwide survey in each of the countries, over 70 in-depth interviews, plus focus groups and an extensive literature review.

We looked at what respondents thought were some of the biggest legal problems that individuals in their country faced. Divorce figured prominently among those, making women's access to justice particularly relevant.

We also asked who inviduals would turn to on various issues, when there were problems. You see sharp differences between the countries. 

We asked about trust in institutions, and among the list these are the least trusted. (Yes, that's not yet comprehensive information for you, but hopefully will whet your appetite for more.)

And we dug deeper, within the countries, to understand how people looked at the courts. Again, here a preview. It suggests that according to Kazakh citizens, competence is not the main problem in the courts.

The first presentation of results will happen on February 15 in Almaty (sorry for the short notice, but if you were likely attendee you probably received a separate invitation), and a more detailed report is out soon. Drop us a line in case you're interested in a preview, in exchange for giving us some feedback on it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ask CRRC | Representative Sample

Q: When conducting a survey, how do you select a sample that is representative of an entire population?

A: In order for a sample to be representative of an entire population, every member of the population must have some chance of being randomly selected. In reality, there are segments of a population that can and cannot be interviewed. Therefore, we need to understand the nature of the population for which each survey is representative.

Take the Caucasus Barometer (CB) as an example. First, we randomly select voting precincts from a list of all voting precincts that contain members of the population. Thus, every precinct has a chance of being selected.

The beginning of a long list of voting precincts from which precincts are randomly selected for sampling.

Second, CRRC randomly selects households within each of the selected voting precincts. Then, interviewers conduct a “random walk” in order to randomly select households. This random walk gives each household a chance of being selected for an interview.

This CRRC interviewer has a map of households in a selected voting precinct to assist her in her “random walk” household selection. Photo by Paul Stephens.

Third, an adult household member is randomly selected for an interview within each randomly selected household. Interviewers make a list of all adult (18 years and older) household members and randomly select one of those members for an interview. The interviewer uses a kind of random number table called a “Kish table” to randomly select one of those household members to interview. Using these three steps above, each member of the population has a chance of being selected for an interview.

This household consists of a 25 year old man, a 61 year old woman and a 24 year old woman. The 25 year old man has been randomly selected for interview.

As in any country, logistical realities mean that some segments of the country’s adult population do not have a chance of being sampled. For example, some voting precincts could not be sampled even if they were randomly selected (e.g., special voting precincts for military personnel). Also, some people might not be able to be surveyed even if they were randomly selected. This includes people who do not speak the language in which the survey is conducted or those who are not physically able to be interviewed. Other excluded groups of the population include people in prisons or hospitals. The impact of losing some of these groups is relatively little since such groups are usually so small that they are within the margin of error.

By understanding which groups of the population can and cannot be included in the sample, CRRC takes all of the steps above to ensure that samples are representative of the entire population. In addition, CRRC prints questionnaires in minority languages and recruits interviewers who speak those languages so that the CB can be described as representative of the adult population of the Republic of Georgia.

Access to justice in Central Asia | Presentation of research findings in Kazakhstan

CRRC has conducted a research project on access to justice in Central Asia. The project includes nationwide surveys in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, focus groups and in-depth interviews. We will be presenting the results in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on February 15, 2010, in case any of our readers are in the region. For the rest of you, we will be making the data and reports available in March. Keep your eyes open for posts here on the blog and at the CRRC webpage. For now, here’s a snapshot of the data from the surveys:

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Third Stage of the Junior Research Fellowship Program at CRRC-Azerbaijan Launched!

In February 11, 2011, the CRRC-Azerbaijan office launched the third stage of its Junior Research Fellowship Program, funded by the Open Society Institute Think-Tank Fund. Fifteen selected participants will attend the next round of extensive trainings that will prepare them for writing public policy papers.

The major focus of the trainings this semester will be qualitative research methods. The participants will learn how to conduct in-depth interviews, focus groups and how to perform content analysis. They will also learn tips and tricks on how to transfer data from technical charts in SPSS to attractive and understandable graphs in PowerPoint. The semester will conclude with academic writing classes in which they will exercise making citations (footnotes and endnotes) as well as writing annotated bibliographies and literature reviews.

Throughout the third stage, new, interesting and challenging competitions will be organized. By the end of the course, the fellows will be armed with new skills and knowledge, as well as the inspiration to learn more about policy analysis and to become real professionals in the field.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Observations while Traveling through Samegrelo | Agriculture and Petty Crime

Much has been written about agriculture in Georgia, and the need to develop it extensively. Our upcoming reports on social capital (currently still under review with the donor) have some material on that. The typical concerns are well established: although fertile, Georgia is actually importing food. More than 50% of the employed work in agriculture, but it only contributes around 10% to GDP. And more than 50% of Georgia's arable land lies fallow.

The reasons are also familiar: privatization separated the land into small parcels that were not viable for modern farming. The people left in the countryside often are conservative and skeptical, and not quick to adopt more productive methods. They do not cooperate, and thus cannot mobilize sufficient resources to develop their land.

Traveling through Samegrelo recently highlighted another challenge. The structure of landholdings makes them particularly vulnerable to petty crime. Often the holdings are away from people's houses, so that they cannot guard them. During planting season seeds, seedlings and little plants can be stolen from the field at night, so that investing into better plants is not very attractive. Moreover, shepherds don't always respect fields that have just been fenced off anew, and let their cows trott into enclosures; or cut the fence to let a stray cow out, without repairing it.

During harvest season, the problem is even more pronounced. Unless you harvest early, your crop is at threat. And if you harvest early, you may be doing damage to the fruit. For some of the crop, the harvest season is quite long, so that the fields remain vulnerable over several weeks.

If you have a small holding, it is hard to address this problem. Sleeping outdoors on your field will only get you so far, and is not sustainable over time.  With average landholdings being around less than two hectares (one hectare being a bit bigger than a soccer field), the plots are too small to pay for a security guard. Typically you will need two guards, so that they can support each other. Professional security firms would charge up to $1,000 per month. This makes it particularly difficult to experiment with higher value crops (say, avocado) since you may need a security guard to protect a handful of plants. Easier to fall back on what you have always done. 

Planting in Samegrelo. This effort has fences, two security guards constantly, night vision goggles, and is about to add a trained guard dog.

We are curious whether other people have heard about this problem. If it indeed appears to be a challenge, it would be worth researching this in more detail. The government could help address this issue by providing more security through increased policing and curbing road access, together with introducing stiff sentences to signal that stopping agricultural theft is important for Georgia's economic development. Comments and ideas?