Armenia (August 2018) — International development organisation, Near East Foundation UK (NEF) and the Women’s Development Resource Centre Foundation (WDRCF) are implementing a project co-funded by the European Union entitled EU4Women: Economic Empowerment through Social Enterprise. The project aims to strengthen sustainability and increase resources of Armenian civil society organisations (CSOs) involved in advocacy work and programs on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
In early 2018, business model innovation trainings began with the goal of helping a group of Armenian CSOs rethink their operational and finance models around a clear mission to introduce new financing approaches such as private sector funding, crowdfunding, and establishing social enterprises. The ultimate goal is for CSOs to realign their resources, processes and revenue formula, and proactively navigate trends that will ensure their future in delivering women’s economic empowerment programs in their communities.
Since June, trainings have been conducted for thirty representatives from twelve CSOs in the Yerevan, Lori, Gegharkunik, Syunik and Aragatsotn regions. NEF Armenia Country Director, Arpine Baghdoyan, commented on the progress so far, saying “It’s so exciting to see how participants are inspired by the project. Social entrepreneurship is a new field for most of the participating CSOs, so it’s a huge responsibility to coach them in this interesting journey. Local organisations start thinking not only about their future but try to initiate projects which are to the best advantage for local women. We will do this together!”
Nvard Khachatryan, a staff member from the Meghri Women Resource Centre, also spoke about attending the training. “Now, after Business Model Innovation trainings, we have a clear vision about the project which we want to implement, we see the risks, we see our weak points, and we are ready to go on learning. We are not afraid of challenges, and we are ready to find solutions.”
The next step for Nvard and other participants will be targeted coaching paired with a small grants averaging EUR 1,500 for each participant CSO to begin implementing their strategies. The project will also incorporate a series of roundtables bringing together CSO’s and private sector actors to explore opportunities for collaboration and produce plans for joint actions. Results from these business model innovation activities will be replicated through regional mentorship circles, which will incorporate a range of CSOs and private sector actors to enhance sustainability and replication of these efforts.
Ultimately, the project builds on the capacity of twelve civil society organisations to develop business plans and capitalize on co-financing support. At least six hundred women will benefit from the improved abilities of the CSOs, which include economic empowerment programs and advocacy campaigns to advance economic rights and equality for women. A portion of these women will benefit from direct involvement with the social enterprises once they are established.
A second round of training and coaching will focus on social entrepreneurship as a financing approach and will serve to guide CSOs through market research and developing business plans. CSOs with viable plans will receive a grant, averaging EUR 20,000 (USD 23,252), to launch social enterprises with continued coaching and mentoring from NEF and WDRCF. CSOs social enterprises will have the opportunity to participate in market fairs while receiving marketing support. Additionally, NEF aims to develop a microfranchising model involving social enterprises as franchisees.
European Union Delegation to Armenia
Since 2014, the EU has provided close to €120 million of financial support to Armenia with a focus on areas such as economic development, innovation and personal development, improving the rule of law and the business environment, electoral assistance, and connectivity. Furthermore, Armenia has also benefited from funding for multi-country projects. Transport infrastructure development and energy efficiency has been supported under the Neighbourhood Investment Facility, while further EU support is aiming at delivering concrete results to citizens in areas such as judicial reform, access to finance and economic development, connectivity, education and mobility. Since 2014 Armenia has benefited from €70 million of grants from the Neighbourhood Investment Facility, leveraging €412 million of investment.
Near East Foundation UK
Near East Foundation UK is an international development organisation that works to build inclusive, prosperous, and sustainable societies in the Caucuses, Middles East, and Africa by providing vulnerable and disenfranchised people with the skills, training, and resources to fully engage and prosper in their own communities and economies. NEF field staff, all from the countries in which they work, partner with local organisations to find grassroots solutions to development challenges (www.neareast.org/uk).
Women’s Development Resource Centre Foundation
WDRCF is a Goris-based organisation that empowers the women of southern Armenia in their political, economic, and social lives. Being established in Southern Armenia, WDRCF enlarges its activities throughout Armenia, strengthening international and networks.