IREX Visiting Scholar

IREX Visiting Fellow to Spend Semester Studying NGOs at Armenian Studies Program

Hye Sharzhoom, October 2002, Vol. 24, No. 1

Tatevik Ekezian
staff writer

Dr. Harutyun Aleksanyan from Yerevan, Armenia, is visiting California State University, Fresno on an IREX Contemporary Issues Fellowship. His three-month stay, formally hosted by the Armenian Studies Program, began August 29, following a three day orientation in Washington DC. Barlow Der Mugrdechian of the Armenian Studies Program is acting as faculty sponsor/advisor for Dr. Aleksanyan while he is in Fresno. Dr. Aleksanyan will participate in a one-month internship in Los Angeles to conclude his stay in the United States.

Dr. Aleksanyan is the president of the Elegia Cultural non-governmental organization. He is also an institutional assessor for the NGO Strengthening Program of the World Learning Organization in Armenia. He also taught history of the Armenian Diaspora and modern world history at the “David Anhakht” Humanitarian University in Yerevan.

Dr. Aleksanyan is delighted to share his experiences with non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). His purpose in coming to the United States is to get acquainted with how non-profit organizations function. Since NGOs are relatively new in Armenia, he intends to investigate how NGOs in the United States function. He is studying the related literature in the field as well.

He wants to help Armenia with its NGOs and their improvement in development, challenges, and perspectives. Most NGOs in Armenia are dealing directly with social issues. Each is basically set up as a union of people who work to improve the country’s social and environmental problems.

Dr. Aleksanyan hopes to be able to return to Armenia with a compatible paradigm from the United States that he can implement in his native land. This way, he hopes the model he puts together after his analysis and research in the United States can improve the organizational capacity of NGOs in Armenia. For example, Armenian NGO governance, operational and management systems, human resources, financial resources, service delivery, external relations, and advocacy would all improve tremendously.

The NGOs in Armenia are in their developing stages. Dr. Aleksanyan wants to work to help increase organizational skills by providing training and the understanding and application of better skills in these organizations. He wants to acquire skills and go back to Armenia to apply what he has learned and to teach and train others.

While in Fresno, Dr. Aleksanyan has attended several seminars in personnel development, grant writing and management, and financial control. He has focused especially on financial control because there is a lack of fundraising strategies in Armenia. He is sitting in on a variety of courses at the university, including a course in non-profit management. As an international guest he was invited to participate in a Fresno area “Non-Profit Organizations in the 21st Century” conference.

Dr. Aleksanyan is President of “Elegia” NGO, whose main purpose is to support the development of Armenian culture; to assist and facilitate creative groups, talented artists, and children active in culture; to facilitate the development of capacity building in the area of art business; and to preserve and develop the culture of national minorities. “Elegia” also helps talented children involved in culture and contributes to creating cultural networks nationally and internationally as well. They have created programs with Georgia and Azerbaijan, and have put together joint projects to create organizational networks, exhibitions, and concerts, hoping that all these activities will assist in political stability in the region.

Dr. Aleksanyan plans to share his experience in Armenia, doing assessments using the IAI (Institutional Analysis Instrumental) method, developed by World Learning Organization, to establish each non-governmental stage of development.

Dr. Aleksanyan has lectured to an Armenian Studies class at Fresno State and he discussed “Advocacy and Coalition Building” to a group of students from the American Humanics Program at Fresno State. He also went on a field trip with students to the “Stone Soup” NGO in Fresno to conduct an assessment of the organization.

The reason Dr. Aleksanyan believes that the United States can set good examples for the NGOs in Armenia to follow is because America’s civil society has been developed over a long period of time, and Armenia’s civil society only since its independence in 1991.