Georgia has one of the most vibrant social enterprise and ecotourism scenes in the Caucasus region.

Wherever you go in Georgia, you’re almost guaranteed to encounter an organisation or individual working on a solution to one of the country’s social or environmental challenges while engaging locals and visitors alike on the issues that matter most.

Many of these orgs run cafes, shops, artist studios, accommodations and tour services that are open to the public. During my various trips to Georgia and time spent living in Tbilisi, I’ve tried to visit and support as many of them as possible.

A man holds a basket full of grapes in Kakheti, Georgia.
Many of Georgia’s social enterprises are located in Kakheti wine region.

Although there are some great networks and organising bodies, it can be difficult to track down small social enterprises in Georgia – particularly in rural locations and especially if they’re not accredited. I haven’t been able to find a list that includes organisations across all sectors (handicrafts, ecotourism, social enterprise). So I decided to create my own.

This page is a directory of sorts to help you link-up with different organisations around the country and put your money behind the social and environmental causes you’re most passionate about. There are many more charities in Georgia that are worthy of a mention, but for practical purposes I’m only listing public-facing operations that offer high-quality products and services. Some are social enterprises, others are not-for-profits or associations.

At the end of the directory you’ll find some general tips for being a responsible tourist in Georgia.


Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.


Why is responsible tourism important in Georgia?

In the travel community, Georgia is fast gaining a reputation for its boundless natural beauty and overflowing hospitality. But like any other nation, Georgia faces its fair share of social and environmental challenges.

Some are fairly apparent to even short-stay visitors. Others are deep-seated, complex, and all but invisible to the average traveller. Part of being a responsible tourist is having at least a superficial understanding of the issues at play. Here are a couple of the big ones to be mindful of.

Poverty: Like most other countries that were part of the USSR, Georgia has faced significant financial challenges since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Things may be trending in the right direction now – thanks in no small part to the tourism industry – but poverty is still a big issue. According to the latest data published by GeoStat, around 20% of people in Georgia live below the absolute poverty line, most of them in rural areas. The average monthly income is a little over $100/person. There are a range of local charities and international nonprofits working to protect the financially vulnerable, including Total Courage Georgia. Many of the social enterprises listed below also focus on this group.

Persons with disabilities: Georgia has a disability state pension and allowance system, yet people with diverse physical and mental capabilities still face a range of obstacles, especially when it comes to finding employment. There are dozens of organisations (including Ialoni and TEMI Community) working to advocate for the human rights of persons with disabilities.

IDPs: There are more than 300,000 IDPs (internally displaced peoples) in Georgia, most of them driven from their homes by past and ongoing regional conflicts. Some have been displaced for well over a decade and remain ‘stateless’. Association Atinati in Zugdidi and Ikorta Enamel in Tserovani are just two examples of organisations that work with displaced peoples from Abkhazia and South Ossetia respectively.

Women’s rights: Gender inequality manifests itself in many ways in Georgia, traditionally a patriarchal society. UN Women has a strong presence here, working to address issues such as the labour force gender gap and women’s participation in entrepreneurship. There are a range of startups and independent enterprises focused on women’s financial, social and political empowerment, many of them listed below.

Preservation of culture: Georgia is culturally and ethnically diverse and boasts an incredible material and intangible cultural heritage that spans wine and cuisine, handicrafts, music, polyphonic singing – and much, much more. Many organisations work to preserve ‘disappearing’ traditions and create an income stream for vulnerable people in the process, particularly women in rural Georgia.

Environmental issues: Air pollution, water pollution and deforestation are just a few of the environmental problems that threaten Georgia’s biodiversity. Citizens are extremely active in this space, as the recent protests against a proposed dam in northwest Georgia proved. The fast development of tourism infrastructure in fragile ecosystems (especially in the mountains) also poses a threat.

Animal tourism: Circuses, zoos, keeping animals in captivity for entertainment purposes – all these practices are unfortunately still commonplace in Georgia. There are now a number of organisations working to promote ethical animal tourism (especially horse riding), provide a safe haven for animals rescued from captivity, and to shelter stray dogs and cats.


Social enterprises in Tbilisi & surrounds

My Sisters

My Sisters is a Tbilisi-based social enterprise dedicated to empowering women in rural areas. The group works with artisans on product development and skills training, helping to bring their handicrafts to market. A percentage of profits are reinvested in village infrastructure.

Products made by My Sisters – including felted slippers, handcrafted jewellery and homewares – are sold at retailers in Tbilisi and Batumi (see the Facebook Page for a list of stockists).


EthnoDesign

Managed by the Georgian Heritage Craft Association, this social enterprise has been operating since 2015. They now support almost one hundred master craftspeople around the country, protecting traditional skill, modernising traditions and providing opportunities for gainful, fair employment.

EthnoDesign’s boutique in Tbilisi and gift shop at Vardzia Cave Complex both offer a huge selection of handmade pottery, feltwork, knitting, woodwork, Lurji Supra blue tablecloths and much more. This is my favourite place to pick up a souvenir or gift in Tbilisi.


Ikorta Enamel Jewelery Studio

Founded by social entrepreneur Nana Chkareuli in 2012, Ikorta employs internally displaced people from South Ossetia living in the Tserovani IDP Settlement between Tbilisi and Gori.

As well as producing fine cloisonne enamel jewellery by hand according to traditional Georgian techniques, the women at Ikorta also offer hands-on workshops to visitors at their Tserovani studio. Their handiwork can be found in Tbilisi, Mtskheta, Borjomi and beyond (see stockist locations here).


Babale

Managed by the Georgian Down Syndrome Association, Babale works with children and adults from the community to design and produce a colourful range of socks, accessories, home decor and gifts.

They often appear at pop-up markets in Tbilisi and they have their own gift shop on Diuma Street in the Old Town (see location here).


Potteria

This social enterprise was founded in 2018 to promote traditional Georgian pottery techniques. Potteria employs women in conflict with the law, offering them a second chance to earn a steady income through selling handicrafts and to reintegrate with society.

Online orders are available through the Facebook Page (link above).


Madloba Gifts

Madloba Gifts is a curated, customisable gift box service that brings together a range of handicraft and food products made by Georgian social entrepreneurs and women. Offerings include hand-made gifts from My Sisters, locally grown dried fruit from social enterprise Chirikela, natural beeswax candles, and other goodies.

Order online through their Facebook Page for delivery in Tbilisi.


Cafune

Please note: Cafune is temporarily closed.

Located in the city of Rustavi, approximately 30 minutes south of Tbilisi, Cafune is a social enterprise cafe that trains and employs probationers and ex-convicts. Alongside the cafe they also have a catering service.


Parki ar Minda

Parki ar Minda (Georgian for ‘I don’t want a plastic bag’) is a non-profit eco-educational project that promotes eco-friendly lifestyle choices. The group runs an ‘eco taxi’ recycling pick-up service, holds talks and clean-up events, and consults with businesses on green practices.

You can find their reusable plastic bag alternatives at gift shops around Tbilisi.


Soplidan

Soplidan is not a social enterprise but rather an organic grocery supplier that does amazing work supporting rural farmers and artisanal food producers. Through the platform you can buy fresh and seasonal veg, rare cheeses, small-batch wine, honey, preserves and much more direct from the source and for a fair price. There’s even a special section on the website for products made by women.

Online orders can be placed through the website or on Wolt or Glovo for delivery in Tbilisi.


Sobissuri

Founded in 2011 in a village close to the South Ossetia conflict zone, this social enterprise cooperative employs local youth to produce organic apple juice, apple cider vinegar, quince jelly and rose hip puree. The overarching aim of the project is to empower youth, foster an entrepreneurial mindset and revitalise the small village.

Shop their products online at GreenShop or find them at specialty supermarkets in Tbilisi (see the Facebook Page for locations).


Social enterprises in Kakheti

TEMI Community

One of Georgia’s best established social enterprises, TEMI Community started in 1989 and now employs about 70 people with different backgrounds and abilities. The organisation provides stable employment, secure housing and entrepreneurial opportunities with the goal of helping all members to become financially independent.

TEMI produces organic wine and fruit juice from the orchards and vineyards, runs an on-site restaurant, and offers a range of hands-on activities for visitors including wine tastings, Churchkhela workshops, and fall wine harvest experiences. See the full program of offerings here.


Qedeli Community

  • Qedeli (near Sighnaghi)
  • Social enterprise cafe; artisanal food products; handicrafts
  • Facebook Page

Founded by pianist Lali Khandolishvili in 1999, Qedeli Community is a residential unit for adults with disabilities. The social enterprise runs occupational therapy workshops, including a woodworking studio and weaving workshop, produces organic fruit, veg and herbs, and runs a cafe-bakery in Sighnaghi. Qedeli’s mission is to reduce stigma and create opportunities for people of all abilities.

Visit the Art Cafe Qedeli in the centre of Sighnaghi (see location here) to support the social enterprise and purchase handicrafts.


Knowledge Cafe

Located in the small city of Tsnori, Knowledge Cafe generates profits for educational projects in Kakheti region. The venue includes a contemporary cafe, a library, bookshop and informal education space for young people from the local area.


Pesvebi Art-Studio

Founded by artist and social entrepreneur Nino Bakhutashvili in 2005, Pesvebi is dedicated to restoring and developing traditional Kizikian handicrafts. The studio in Dedoplistskaro (near Vashlovani National Park) employs local women who practice traditional rug and tapestry weaving techniques. Pesvebi is one of few craft projects in Georgia that works with natural dyes – a tradition that has been all but lost to time.

Bags and accessories made from wool and leather are available to purchase at the studio-shop, through Facebook, and at retailers in Tbilisi, including EthnoDesign. The workshop is open to visitors who want to observe the dying and weaving processes.


Nukriani Workshops

A project by community welfare organisation Nukriani Union, this social enterprise aims to preserve craft traditions while employing disadvantaged women from the local community. Profits from the sales of dolls, bags and jewellery are reinvested into the Union for initiatives that benefit the entire community.


Neighborhood Kakheti

Founded by regional nonprofit Iris Group – Managing Diversity, Neighborhood Kakheti is a multi-functional community centre, educational and cultural space for use by the local community.

Handicrafts and artisanal food products produced by Neighbourhood are sold at pop-up markets in Tbilisi.


Social enterprises in Western Georgia

Eight + 1

Located in Guria region‘s biggest city, this social enterprise cafe was established by the local Young Teachers Union as a community gathering place. The comfy cafe is open to the public and doubles as a library/meeting area.


Community-based tourism projects & responsible accommodations in Georgia

Rural Booking

If a farmstay or homestay in rural Georgia is on your wishlist, this specialty accommodation platform is a great place to start your search. Rural Booking brings together 170 of the country’s best specialty accommodations in 9 regions.

Members of NGO Biological Farming Association Elkana’s rural tourism network, properties all offer guesthouse accommodation, food, wine, and experiences that allow guests to connect with cultural traditions. The booking website connects visitors directly to hosts who might not otherwise have an online presence, allowing you to easily reserve a room online.


Feel Local

Focused on Adjara region, Feel Local is another excellent accommodation platform that connects visitors with homestay owners and agritourism providers. Funded by the EU and CENN through a COVID rapid response grant, the project aims to bring more tourists to remote areas and assist local families to recover from the crisis. Local entrepreneurs receive 100% of the service fee.

Beyond just accommodation, featured projects offer agro tours, gastronomic experiences, craft masterclasses and volunteer opportunities – so you can really get a feel for rural life.


Pankisi Valley Tourism & Development Association

A grassroots organisation founded by members of the Kist community, the Pankisi Valley Tourism and Development Association (PVTDA) is developing sustainable rural tourism in Pankisi Valley through offering grants and support to small business owners. The Association’s overall aim is to foster economic independence, regional stability and peace in the region.

The project includes a network of guesthouses (including Nazy’s Guest House) plus small tour companies that offer cooking classes, horse riding, dirt biking and other activities.


Embrace Tsalka

A joint project by regional NGO CENN, Embrace Tsalka is a community-based initiative that engages the diverse communities around southern Georgia’s Javakheti region. The aim is to facilitate employment opportunities and halt the poverty cycle through sustainable tourism.

Focusing on entrepreneurs, women and youth, the project provides grants to business owners and startups to fund guesthouses, restaurants and other infrastructure projects with the goal of putting the area on the tourism map.


Ecotourism projects in Georgia

The Transcaucasian Trail

The TCT is a trail-marking project that spans Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, aiming to improve visitor access to the region’s natural landscapes and cultural heritage. Once complete, two 1,500 kilometre-long trail corridors will bring the benefits of sustainable tourism to some of the area’s most remote mountain communities.


Altihut 3.14

Altihut is a mountain cabin in Kazbegi with a mission to reimagine hiking tourism in the Greater Caucasus along sustainable and responsible lines. Located at the foot of Mount Kazbegi, Altihut offers a waste management solution for hikers to limit the impact of trekking on the environment as the trail becomes more popular.


Ethical animal organisations in Georgia

Dog Organization Georgia (D.O.G.)

D.O.G. is a private, not-for-profit dog rescue organisation and shelter located near Lisi Lake. As well as operating an adoption service to re-home strays, D.O.G. hosts regular community events where you can take one of their pups for a walk.


Horse Riding in Georgia

If you’re interested in horse riding in Georgia but want to ensure you choose a company that treats its animals well, check out the list published by Horse Riding Georgia. Every stable and guide is vetted for a range of factors including rider safety. The group only promotes Georgian horse riding companies, so you can be sure you’re supporting a local business as well.


Bears Sanctuary in Georgia

The illegal poaching and capture of native brown bears continues to be an issue in Georgia. Bears Sanctuary was founded in 2010 and now provides a home for a dozen bears rescued from captivity with the aim to release all of them back into the wild.

The shelter is located just outside Tbilisi and is open to the public – call ahead to arrange a visit.


Animal Project

Animal Project aims to raise awareness of animal welfare issues in Georgia and assist strays. They don’t currently offer any hands-on activities – but if you’re passionate about animals and want to support their work, the nonprofit does accept donations (details on the Facebook Page).


Social enterprise, ecotourism & startup networks in Georgia

If you’re interested in learning more about Georgia’s social enterprise scene or you want to find more projects, I recommend starting with these websites.

Social Enterprise Alliance Georgia

SEA is Georgia’s main platform for social enterprises. There are currently around 35 members in the Alliance, many of them mentioned above.


The GoCaucasus Portal

GoCaucasus is an online directory for ecotourism businesses in Georgia as well as neighbouring Armenia and Azerbaijan. You can use the platform to find agri-guesthouses, village experiences and outdoor activities, all with an environmental focus.


Georgian Heritage Crafts Association

The country’s main organising body for protecting heritage crafts. The Association’s member network spans dozens of independent workshops and social enterprises across the country.


Georgian Ecotourism Association

As part of their work to promote ecotourism in Georgia, this nonprofit operates a members’ network of tour and service providers. You can find the listings here (the website is in Georgian, but the individual links open to Facebook).


Social Enterprise Alliance Georgia

SEA is Georgia’s main platform for social enterprises. There are currently around 35 members in the Alliance, many of them mentioned above.


CENN

CENN is a regional NGO with projects across the South Caucasus. A range of grassroots-level projects (including Embrace Tsalka, mentioned above) focus on promoting the sustainable management of resources, building healthy communities, and empowering women and girls.


Startuperi

Though not limited to social enterprises or ecotourism, Startuperi – a program by TBC bank – is one of the leading startup support networks in Georgia, providing mentoring and financial support to micro businesses across a range of areas.


Impact Hub Tbilisi

As well as operating a popular co-working space in Fabrika, Impact Hub offers mentoring and networking to startups and small business owners. Many of their clients are social entrepreneurs.


Map of social enterprises in Georgia

Click here to access and save the map through Google Maps.


Responsible travel tips for Georgia

Here are a few general tips for being a responsible traveller in Georgia.

  • Support small & local businesses: From family run guesthouses and small-scale tour operators to mum-and-pop restaurants and shops, there’s no shortage of local businesses in Georgia – and no excuse not to put your money behind them.
  • Support social enterprises: Social entrepreneurship will only continue to become more popular in Georgia. This list is a great place to start.
  • Buy local: This is especially important when it comes to agricultural products and souvenirs. Support local makers and artisans whenever you can.
  • National parks & trekking: Stick to marked trails and manage your impact. Never leave rubbish behind on trails or in campsites.
  • Avoid single-use plastics: Say ‘Parki ar minda’ to plastic bags and always carry a reusable water bottle with you in Georgia – the natural spring water here is a gift.
  • Animals & wildlife: Stick to reputable, vetted horse riding companies and avoid supporting businesses that keep wild animals in captivity.
  • Visiting churches & religious sites: Observe the dress code and be respectful. Note that many active churches and monasteries do not permit photography inside. Avoid smoking, running or yelling in outdoor areas near sites of worship.
  • Urbexing/visiting abandoned buildings: Be mindful of trespassing on private property and be aware that some places are off-limits. In Tbilisi for example, the abandoned railway carriages at Gotsiridze are a popular photo spot, but people have been apprehended by police for taking photos in this area. The same applies in the semi-abandoned spa town of Tskaltubo. Be careful when geo-tagging abandoned buildings or sharing locations as this often leads to vandalism (for example the abandoned cable car station off Rustaveli Ave).
  • Ethical photography: Ask before you take someone’s photograph. Note that some cultural groups in Georgia may prefer not to be photographed at all. Avoid photographing children.
  • Political & social sensitivity: Be sensitive to past and present conflicts, breakaway territories and occupied zones. Though most Georgians do not mind talking about political issues, it’s best not to raise these subjects with strangers.

Responsible travel in Georgia is a topic close to my heart. I hope this list of social enterprises and organisations has given you some inspiration to support social and environmental causes when you visit the country.

Do you have any organisations to add to the list, or any additional tips you’d like to suggest? Let me know in the comments below.


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The best things to do in Tbilisi: Favourites, hidden gems & local picks

35+ best restaurants in Tbilisi: Where to eat Georgian food

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