Since June 2019 till July 2020 the CI implemented a program designed to build the capacity of Artsakh‘s CSOs and civic activists to design and manage projects, and strengthened their network and partnership. They also learnt how to use online platforms effectively to implement viable initiatives in the era of the COVID-19.
In June 2019 the CI designed a program on project management that included the tools and techniques for better project planning, design, budgeting and implementation. Then it disseminated a call for participation via email and social media.
The first round of the workshops took place at the end of June 2019 in Stepanakert. On the first day of the workshop, the CI team presented the integral parts of project life cycle, the specifics of project management, bringing examples from the CI experience. The workshop was interactive: each participant was given an opportunity to speak about their own initiatives and analyze the shortcomings of the initiatives from the perspective of project management. Next day the participants were invited to informal group discussions. Each group discussed different project management processes – one discussed budgeting and financial reporting, the other – project design and application, etc. The participants asked for pieces of advice for their own projects and clarified the details they had vague understanding about. All the discussions were the exchange of experience between the CI team and civic activists in Artsakh.
The second workshop was held in September 2019. It was aimed to prepare the participants for designing their own applications with up-to-date techniques and skills. The two-day workshop included presentations and group work where the participants could practice and improve their skills.
The participants of the two workshops were invited to apply for small grant funds. The number of applications was unprecedented for the CI calls in Artsakh – 21, whereas the CI had to choose just 5, AMD 200 000 each. The initiatives were so good that the CI had to divide the selection process into two stages. In the end, the CI decided to provide small grants to 6 instead of 5 initiatives.
Here are all the initiatives:
New Year Story: Photo competition (December 2019-February 2020)
Vector NGO invited amateur photographers in Artsakh to apply for participation in a competition to capture special moments in different corners of Artsakh during New Year preparations. The photos were to reflect the life of families in the regions, and encourage dialogue about social issues of the families between citizens and employees of official institutions. The goals of the initiative were the following: to strengthen citizen-civil servant dialogue, which would address existing issues and draw state entities’ attention to them; to boost communication through photography – the culture that did not exist in Artsakh; to reveal the new generation of photographers in Artsakh and make them known via publication of their photos on a social calendar; and to create an attractive and informative product that could serve as a nice gift, which would also promote Artsakh. The best photos were selected by a jury consisting of three experienced photojournalists from Armenia and Artsakh.
Creative Group: English course (December 2019-January 2020)
Three students from Translation Department at Artsakh State University conducted 4 rounds of interactive English classes at schools in their home villages during weekends with the aim of boosting the children’s knowledge and interest towards English. The students had been inspired by their professor who implemented the Catharsis English Club in the framework of this project. Taking into account the positive feedback of schoolchildren and their enthusiasm, the girls decided to conduct the classes regularly during summer and winter vacations.
Karvatchar Mountains – Tourist Routes (December 21-23, 2019)
Artsakh Development Projects NGO from Artsakh in cooperation with Explorers Club in Armenia organized tours to three mountains in the region of Karvatchar, and succeeded in climbing the peaks of two out of these three mountains (Hayadzor, 2415m and Haravasar, 2551m); the third was out of bounds due to bad weather. The participants of the tours were experienced guides from Artsakh and Armenia who were eager to discover new routes for tourists in Artsakh. The results of the initiative were the following: cooperation between young guides from Armenia and Artsakh was strengthened, information on new tourist routes was successfully disseminated among target groups via social media, and the Artsakh Development Projects NGO gained the support from the Ministries of environment, culture and emergency situations in Armenia and Artsakh for similar activities in future. Here are the links to apps where the new tourist routes are available:
Debates for Schoolchildren (26 January 2020)
A young Armenian activist, working for Teach for Armenia at a school in the village of Tsmakahogh, Martakert region, in cooperation with counterparts at two other village schools, organized a one-day debate in Stepanakert for the winners of debates held at the schools. The teachers sat on the jury. At the end of the debate, the winners were awarded books. The main results of the debate were the following: the schoolchildren improved their argumentation skills and expanded their network with schoolchildren from other regions (because of underdeveloped infrastructure, there are few routes among the regions in Artsakh, thus children from different regions do not have many opportunities to communicate with each other). The debate was covered by local media and attracted attention of many activists. It boosted interest in arrangement of similar events.
Nraneh (January-March 2020)
A young Armenian activist, working for Teach for Armenia at a school in the village of Ishkhanadzor, Qashatagh region, organized a web design course for 25 students, so that they would learn web design skills and then practice them creating a website for their school in order to make it known in the nearest regions. This school was also one of the recipients of fiction books donated to the CI in the framework of the SSCF 139.19. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the website has not been updated, since the students who were supposed to maintain the website did not have access to Internet at home.
Catharsis English Club (December-February 2020)
English professor Lusineh Vanyan from Artsakh State University made her dream of starting an English Club at the university come true. The club worked for those who want to improve their knowledge of English via creative learning: through watching movies, role-playing and theater performances. The professor and her assistant organized regular informal meetings for 10-20 people almost each weekend. The Club also started its own Facebook page. The Club continued to exist after the CI project. After the break-out of the pandemic, it shifted to online platforms.
After all the initiatives had been implemented, on March 13-14 the CI trainers met all the implementing parties. The civic activists shared with the CI trainers their impressions, discussed with them the challenges they had had implementing the initiatives, then the CI trainers presented the civic activists the strengths and the weaknesses of their initiatives from the perspective of project management, drawing their attention to the importance of timely communication with donors, attention to details in reporting, etc. The activists whose initiatives were the best, were invited by the CI to the first workshop of the second phase of the project, so that they would present their success stories and inspire new applicants.
After the pandemic broke out, the CI team contacted the best participants of the project and discussed their challenges induced by shift to online activities. Subsequently, the CI conducted a webinar to share with them tools and techniques that can help in shifting to online platforms and effectively using social media despite the poor internet connection in Artsakh.