Knowledge Voucher Project – University of Copenhagen

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Knowledge Voucher Project – corruption, regional development and cultural encounters in the cone picking industry in Georgia

Martin Demant Frederiksen and Esther Fihl
The project is funded by the Danish Research Agency

In early 2013 the Danish company Fair Trees and researchers from the University of Copenhagen received an Innovation Voucher Scheme Grant from the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education. The Innovation Voucher has been introduced to inspire small and medium sized enterprises to utilize the opportunities and potential of making use of the knowledge of higher education institutions. In this project, Martin Demant Frederiksen and Esther Fihl from Centre for Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen, contributed with perspectives on corruption, regional development and cultural encounters as well as collection of qualitative and quantitative data.

Fair Trees is a Danish company that has implemented Fairtrade principles in the cone picking industry in the Racha region in the Republic of Georgia; a sector that has been severely marked by corruption and poor working conditions for locals. The main objective of the project was a report consisting of recommendations for how Fair Trees could support existing, or initiate new, projects in the region in the years to come; which projects would contribute positively to the everyday lives of the local population; which projects could serve as local role-models; how are obstacles for implementing projects (such as corruption) best avoided.

These, and related themes, were examined in order to ensure that profits from Fair Trees – through the Fair Trees Foundation - were used in the best possible way, securing sustainability in its projects and respecting local social and cultural factors. During field research in Racha Martin Demant Frederiksen followed the daily work in the plantation and interviews were conducted with different segments of the local population aimed at establishing which kinds of projects they themselves believed there was a need for. There was a particular focus on exploring the possibilities of supporting activities related to sports, education, environment and cultural activities.