SRDI was busy in 2017, concentrating on the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program and expanding our contacts and partnerships. We know that much of our work is behind-the-scenes. This can be frustrating from a visibility standpoint but necessary to assure that the business and reputational foundations of SRDI are strong.
The BSST Program was our main focus as we worked to complete the web portal and continued to gather information from our partners. During the first half of 2017 we concentrated on Turkey as part of our co-funding under the EU-Turkey Civil Society Dialogue grant. We provided our experts on sustainability criteria that are applied to member communities under the BSST Program and the senior Strategic Planning expert who also coordinates and manages the BSST Program in general.
In January our expert led the strategic planning work for BSST in Turkey, attending the EU-Turkish grant seminar in Antalya and taking part in the development of the Quality Service training workshop in Azdavay. She also began her work on the updated situational analysis for Turkey needed for strategic planning purposes. In Ukraine, the BSST National Office identified various grant opportunities that could support local activities.
During February the Strategic Planning expert continued work on the Turkey situational analysis and took part in a “Funding Opportunities” workshop held for potential member communities. The workshop was the first of several that were held on gender and accessibility, service standards and experience exchange.
As we moved into more intensive spring activities, the Strategic Planning expert took an active role in preparing new questionnaires that were used during focus group workshops. She took the lead role for SRDI during March and April in the focus groups held in Trabzon, Samsun, Sinop, Bartin and Kastamonu, working closely with the respective regional economic development agencies and gathering information on sustainable activities and tourism in each region from stakeholders. Discussions in the focus groups dealt with issues faced by and needs of local businesses, accommodation owners and the general tourism environment as well as opportunities and risks.
The first full training demonstration of the web portal also took place in March in Pinarbaşi while our strategic planner also represented SRDI at the annual “Investment Ukraine” conference in London.
In April she organized the “Experience Exchange” workshop attended by our Ukrainian and Georgian partners followed by a Strategic Planning workshop which gathered about thirty Turkish participants over two days. A SWOT analysis, using the information at the workshop and the previous focus groups, was prepared as the basis for the strategic planning process led by our expert.
The EU-Turkish grant work was completed in May and the strategic plan and situational analysis was submitted to the EU-Turkey Technical Assistance Team. Also in May, the full structure of the web portal was completed and refined with the initial content uploaded for review.
Between June and September SRDI worked to complete the administrative documentation for the EU-Turkey grant and at the same time continued to work with the developer on the web portal.
During July both the CEO of SRDI and the Strategic Planning expert returned to Georgia to identify potential partners, meeting with the Michael Succow Foundation for the Protection of Nature (Germany), Caucuses Nature Fund and the World Bank.
The initial meetings in Georgia were followed by an in depth investigation in October. We met with NGO Kakheti, the Community Development Centre, NGO Aqtushetii, the Independent Group of Eco Activists and Bridge Innovation & Development, the legacy organization of Oxfam.
Taking a quick break in October both the CEO and Strategic Planning expert attended the Harvest Festival partially funded by SRDI in Kholodnyi Yar, Ukraine followed by a presentation of the BSST Program at the USAID sponsored Dobre Project Investment Conference in Kyiv.
As we approached the end of 2017 during November, our strategic planner attended the two day Social + Good Conference in New York City, representing the BSST Program and SRDI. As the only international representative, the conference gave us a unique opportunity to showcase sustainable tourism in Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey.
Also in late November and December, SRDI reached an agreement with Bridge Innovation and Development to act as the Georgia BSST National Office. Bridge distributed the BSST questionnaire which is the first step in identifying potential community members, and received over 60 completed forms indicating a great deal of interest in the Program.
We closed out the year in London with admistrative issues, meeting with a member of the Board of Trustees and planning for 2018. In 2018 we will launch the web portal in the spring, offer fee-based advisory services, significantly step-up our fundraising activities and hold a BSST Program annual meeting in Kakheti, Georgia in mid-May.