Learning about combating corruption in Georgia
30 NHH students travelled to Georgia to experience the grim realities of corruption and encountered difficult ethical dilemmas.
Deafening silence fills the lecture hall at the ISET business school in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. For four days, the 30 NHH students taking a master's course in corruption and anti-corruption work will learn about how Georgia has actively combated its problems with corruption. Everyone now has their attention focussed on the statesman at the podium.
The study trip is part of a collaboration between NHH, Transparency International and ISET. The project has a duration of four years and is financed by the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU).
Like most politicians, the retired Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, David Bakradze, does not emphasise what went wrong with the reforms he was involved in introducing. Two of those with a strong interest in Mr Bakradze's rough template for a corruption-free country are Stian Tvetene (26) and Kasper Vagle (26).
We are learning that the world is not simple and black and white. I constantly have to evaluate my ethical framework and check whether what I believe is still correct, Vagle says.
Vagle himself has had an internship at Transparency International's head office in Berlin and is writing his master's thesis together with Tvetene on whether or not companies actually benefit from corruption.
The NHH students follow a busy programme encompassing the former Soviet republic's culture and history. Meetings with local business leaders, panel debates and a visit to the well-known mineral water producer Borjomi fill the four short days the students are in Georgia.
I am extremely pleased with the programme ISET prepared for us, says Professor Tina Søreide who is responsible for the master's course.
These kinds of trips also teach you to value other societies and empathize with their challenges, whether this concerns corruption or something else. I am pretty certain that trips like this to Georgia make the students less inclined to become involved with corruption, Søreide says.
For Deputy Rector Sunniva Whittaker it was a special experience to be able to travel with the students to Georgia. She herself visited the country on several occasions as a travel guide in the former Soviet Union when she was a student.
I hope the students gain a deeper insight into corruption challenges in general and better knowledge about Georgia in particular. Eurasia is a priority area for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and future business leaders attaining first-hand knowledge of the country gives additional value beyond the learning benefits from the course, Whittaker says.
I hope to be able to work actively with the issues relating to economic crime when I finish studying at NHH and it has been extremely educational to see how this is actually combated in practice, says Kjersti Sagosen (22).
30 students from the master's course, BUS452 - Corruption - Incentives, Disclosure and Liability, travelled to Georgia from 5-10 April for a busy programme organised in collaboration with the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET) and Transparency International.
Among other things, the programme included meetings with former parliamentary leader David Bakradze, lectures from Transparency International, a panel debate with the World Bank, and visits to the interior ministry and political opposition. On the final day, the class travelled to the well-known Borjomi factory and visited Georgia's historic Chakhrani vineyard on the way back.
The project was granted NOK 1.82 million from the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU). The funds will finance an annual study trip to Georgia until 2019.
Impressed: There was no lack of enthusiasm among the NHH students who travelled to Georgia together with Professor Tina Søreide and Deputy Rector Sunniva Whittaker. I am very impressed about the depth and reflection in the students' questions to the speakers, Søreide says.
Learning about the realities of corruption: A total of 30 NHH students went on the study trip to Georgia.
Important lesson: Stian Tvetene (26) and Kasper Vagle (26) are writing their master's thesis on corruption. I think it can be difficult for Norwegians to understand how damaging corruption can be since corruption occurs in different ways in Norway. What Georgia has experienced and how the country has addressed its problems should be an inspiration for others, Vagle says.
Thivviya Sivakumar (22) and Kjersti Sagosen (22) are hugely satisfied. I obtained a much more nuanced picture about how corruption is combated. Of particular interest was the idea of whether it is right to sacrifice human rights to solve corruption challenges, as they have chosen to do in Georgia, Sagosen says.
Text: Kyrre Kjellevold