New program to strengthen civil society will engage diaspora expertise to help Armenian non-profits provide better services
On June 26, AGBU Armenia officially launched its BRIDGE4CSOs program implemented in collaboration with the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and financed by the European Union. The three-year, 2.2 million euro program aims to help Armenian civil society organizations (CSOs) enhance their skills and deepen their knowledge by tapping into the expertise of the diaspora.
With more than 5,000 NGOs registered in Armenia, the lack of funding along with the lack of professional skills often hinder the sustainability of the non-profit sector, leaving many CSOs inactive. Charities, associations, CSOs, and foundations address the needs of the citizens in many different areas, ranging from education and youth and women empowerment to culture and health. BRIDGE’s main goal is to strengthen the capacity of the Armenian nonprofit sector to effectively contribute to decision-making processes in Armenia and to better respond to citizen’s needs.
The program started by building a database of CSOs and conducting their needs assessments. The more than 200 Armenian non-profits and experts surveyed have stated that they are more and more willing to acquire new skills and better knowledge. This is where BRIDGE truly helps by providing funding and expertise, and finding the most relevant pro bono consultants from the diaspora to help local organizations on a specific project or task.
As the first step in the program’s implementation, BRIDGE4CSOs conducted sector-related professional needs assessments of more than 200 Armenian non-profits and experts working in the fields of education, healthcare, art and culture, sports, youth and gender issues. The research findings revealed that Armenian CSOs are willing to become more professional, and believe that peer-to-peer trainings, on-site consultations and coaching are among the most efficient methods to improve their skills. Most of the CSOs also consider social entrepreneurship as key to self-sustainability and are looking for more opportunities to form networks and consortia to experience exchange and to build links with overseas organizations working in the same area.
Through the program, Armenian CSOs will have the opportunity to participate in thematic trainings and a university-based, non-profit management certificate program; benefit from free consultations; and apply for small grants. ”Bringing the expertise of diaspora Armenians to Armenian CSOs is a win-win situation for all,” said head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski.
“As a global Armenian organization, AGBU is committed to strengthening civil society in Armenia by shaping its resilience, sustainability and impact,” said Vasken Yacoubian, President of AGBU Armenia.
A unique component of the program is the engagement of diaspora talent and potential in the development of the Armenian non-profit sector. “Through our program, any qualified individual can be a consultant, become a board member of a local organization, conduct a specific training or workshop, become a supporter of a non-profit’s projects and thus contribute to diaspora involvement in advancing Armenian civil society,” said Arsen Stepanyan, the team leader of the BRIDGE4CSOs program.
A free, web-based Together4Armenia.am platform, jointly managed by AGBU Armenia and UNICEF in Armenia, will allow for the transfer of knowledge and skills from a network of experts based in the diaspora. Experts and CSOs can register on this platform, and the BRIDGE4CSOs team will then match them. BRIDGE4CSOs is not limited to three years as it intends to enact a new approach to linking Armenia and the diaspora. A tool for change-making in the long term, the program expects to turn a new page for the Armenian world at large with EU support.
For more information on BRIDGE4CSOs project, please visit http://www.agbu.am/en/bridge-for-csos.
Established in 1906, AGBU (www.agbu.org) is the world's largest non-profit Armenian organization. Headquartered in New York City, AGBU preserves and promotes the Armenian identity and heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs, annually touching the lives of some 500,000 Armenians around the world.
For more information about AGBU and its worldwide programs, please visit www.agbu.org