The Georgian Hazelnut Growers Association (GHGA) is still a nascent group with roughly 700 members. Currently there are no dues and being a member confers limited benefits. The one exclusive benefit that current members receive is a discount at the recently established commercial drying center located in Tkaia and a discount at Anka Fair Trade’s two drying facilities, one located in Zedaetsere and the other in Kakhati.
Over the summer members of the Argentina Association of Regional Consortia for Agricultural Experimentation (AACREA) were active in Georgia. AACREA assisted GHGA to form initial member groups and provided GHGA with an organizational structure in which to grow. With AACREA’s help,
initial long-term structural development steps were taken.
As the harvest season draws to a close, GHGA has a number of ideas about how to move forward. I have spent time with the leadership and attempted to understand the organization’s goals and the range of activities they wish to undertake during the next twelve to eighteen months. Through a series of discussions, an action plan has been prepared to guide activities during the coming months.
Realization of the plan is highly dependent upon continued support from Agri-Georgia (AGG) and the donor community. Funds and resources are in limited supply at present. GHGA hopes to work with AGG and other interested members of the donor community to further define action plan initiatives and enlist further support.
GHGA subscribes to AACREA’s organizational vision and model (see “A High Level Vision and Action Plan to Develop the Hazelnut Sector, Part I: A High Level Vision for Sector Development”). Much work is still needed to develop and strengthen the organizational structure that is now forming. From discussions with GHGA leadership three key, interrelated, strategic goals emerged as critical during the next twelve to eighteen months.
- Build the organization
- Build trust, loyalty and value with and for growers
- Build revenue streams
GHGA must engage in activities that serve to build the organization. GHGA currently has nine working groups ranging in size from seven to ten members. There is an enormous amount of effort required to grow the organization from this point to the envisioned 2,000 groups of 20 members each. Therefore, the next twelve to eighteen months must lay the foundational work for growth, and build the organization. That means building membership, building groups, building the structure, as well as developing the supporting infrastructure.
To build the organization, leadership must build trust, loyalty and value with growers and the membership. Currently the trust level between growers is low. They are unfamiliar with working collaboratively, especially in an organized structure. As groups are formed, and growers begin working together, trust will evolve. Efforts taken during the next year, to year and a half, should target reinforcing GHGA’s identity and organized group structure. Further, GHGA must deliver tangible benefits to members. Activities engaged in during this critical time period must be designed to provide tangible value to the membership. Without perceived benefit, growers will invest neither time nor effort in the association.
The third key goal is to develop revenue streams for the organization. At present GHGA is wholly dependent on donor groups and Agri-Georgia (AGG). Without the continued support of these outside entities, the GHGA will cease to exist. Therefore, GHGA must take steps during the next development stage to begin building revenue to become self-sustaining. To be fully self-sustaining will take more than the 18 months detailed here, however, the process needs to start as soon as possible. Infrastructure development will serve to create tangible benefits for membership, building loyalty, while continuing to further the need for long-term sustainability of the association.