CSO DePo “CSO Sustainability Strategy” Grant Supports 21 Organizations

The Civil Society Organizations Development Program (CSO DePo), implemented by Eurasia Partnership Foundation in a consortium with local partners, launched its “CSO Sustainability Strategy” grants program to be implemented from February 2018.

CSO DePo received over 120 applications from across the country in response to an open call for project proposals. Of those, twenty-one were selected for funding. This grant opportunity will allow seventeen CSOs to strengthen their organizational capacity and sustainability through innovative solutions, staff training, and development of procedural norms, introduction of effective systems, and other tools. The remaining four CSOs will implement projects targeting the development of the CSO sector as a whole.

Under the second direction - aiming to contribute to CSO sector development and creating resources, methods and tools to increase CSO sustainability – the following four projects were selected:

Alternative Project Group Expert NGO (APGE) completed its “Legislative Alternatives” project. The project aimed at empowering CSOs to become more involved in the legislative processes of Armenia. As part of the project, 75 CSO representatives received training on how to develop and promote a legislative initiative. The two-day trainings were conducted in Gyumri, Vanadzor, Yerevan and Goris and the training modules were compiled into three guidebooks: “Participation of Civil Society Organizations in Legislative Initiatives”, “Practical Skills for Initiating Legislative Amendments” and “How to initiate the amendments in the Constitution”. As part of the project, short animated videos were created for raising awareness among CSOs, to promote the guidebooks, and APGE’s service to assist CSOs to compile their legislative initiatives. The short videos: “Become a Lawmaker”, “How to be engaged in lawmaking through a citizens’ initiative” and “How to initiate the amendments in the Constitution” are available also in the DePo portal and after the formation of new Parliament will be better promoted. Another sustainable output of the project is the “Suggestions’ bank” online platform, which makes up part of CSO’s website, which can be used by CSO representatives to approach the APGE for their assistance in order to develop a legislative amendment.

In September the CSO organized the project closing event to bring together the members of the Parliament and CSO representatives, who were the direct beneficiaries. The event served as an occasion to promote and disseminate the materials and products of the project, as well as to create a networking platform for MPs and CSOs. The event was featured in the media via: Epicenter (since 34’40) and Armenia TV.

This project was an important capacity building exercise for APGE. For the first time, the organization received funding from an institutional donor, and all project implementation stages, including communication and reporting were carried out with EPF’s accompaniment. More information about the project is available at APGE’s website.

The Child Development Foundation (CDF) (Yerevan) completed its “Let’s Play to Develop” project as of July 2018. The project initially involved 30 experts and child-care specialists and at the final stage of the project 25 experts including (16 CSO representatives, 3 team leaders, 3 designers and 3 members of the CDF staff) managed to develop three new child development games, which will be added to the game catalogue of CDF’s social enterprise -ZarMan LTD. As a result of the project, a methodical module was developed for training experts, specialists and parents on how to elaborate child development games. A guidebook with CD was printed and distributed among relevant stakeholders and the electronic version of the guidebook was made available for wider dissemination. Due to DePo support, the CDF developed and published a catalogue of its production of child development games – this will enable better promotion and sales of the games, which will be a direct contribution to CSO’s sustainability. From the feedback of the participants and quality of the produced materials and resources, we can state that the project objectives were achieved and the resources will be continuously used by the CSOs working in this field.

The Journalists for Future (JFF) continued the implementation of its “Key to Open Data” project. Promoting data-supported problem analysis, data visualization for reporting, and strategic thinking skills among Armenian CSOs – these are the objectives of the “Key to Open Data” project.

The JFF NGO summarized its own expertise of data use and visualization into a capacity building module and guide for CSOs. As a result, JFF developed a training module for CSOs and a guidebook available for all interested CSOs.

The training module was applied during the three-stage training with selected CSOs to teach them how to use local and global open data resources and solid sources of information, while revealing the sectorial problems to make strategic recommendations, as well-as presenting information through user-friendly data visualization methods. These skills can be useful for most of the CSOs in their communication and fundraising efforts.

Following the four-day training for the selected CSO representatives, JFF started the series of webinars: How to work with large-scale data, Gender neutral design and data visualization, How to increase the efficiency of CSO communication in social networks, Skill for using Timeline – as data-communication tool. It was the first time that JFF applied trainings via webinars, and in this regard, it was a learning experience. Later these webinars are made publically available for a larger audience and will be included in the “Key to Open Data,” the online manual of data-visualization, which is one of the project components.

The project outputs include:

The Civic Development and Partnership Foundation (CDPF) The Civic Development and Partnership Foundation (CDPF) aims to support the increasing number of CSOs running social enterprises(SE) with on-going consultancy in effective business management.

CDPF set-up the Social Enterprise Center for engaging business experts in CSO support fields, and analyze existing challenges in the field of SE in Armenia to provide tailored consultancy services. Resources on legal, financial, and administrative management were produced and provided to beneficiary CSOs.

CDPF piloted SE services with 15 social enterprises from Gegharkunik, Lori and Armavir regions. Following the consultancies, a practical guidebook will be developed on “How to manage social enterprise” and it will be a consciously disseminated among CSOs. 

The Social Enterprise Center will strengthen CDPF’s position as one of the lead CSO support organizations in Armenia. CDPF will consider developing its own SE based on the consultancy service developed through the SE Center.

  • CDPF summarized its experience of supporting small businesses in support of CSOs running Social enterprises.
  • 11 CSOs received tailored consultancies and improved their production or other aspects of businesses: such as new product development (MWCC), design, marketing, business plan development, cash flow development, fleece manufacturing and other themes.
  • 6 experts were hired to provide business and technical consultancies to SEs.
  • A Manual for CSOs “How to do social entrepreneurship” was developed.


Projects for building CSO internal capacities

The Armavir Development Center NGO (Armavir) managed to build an effective electronic system for document management (e-DM), which is now under deployment. The electronic system allows the user to automatically generate service contracts, payment orders and all other frequently used documents within 5 minutes by saving at least one hour of work time and reducing the number of errors. During the reporting period ADC presented the system to interested CSOs – offering its consultancy system for developing similar systems and organizing the documentation flow. More than 15 CSO representatives attended the presentation and were interested in setting up similar systems and revising the documentation flow of the CSO.

Focus NGO (Yerevan) reworked it communication and visibility strategy, thus developing new branding. During the reporting period, Focus NGO launched the independent online library: Libraries.am, which has the mission to make specialized literature related to arts, culture and social sciences - available to the wider public. The KOHA system is used as software support, which will allow long-term maintenance and support. During the reporting period seven libraries joined the network. As of October 2018, the network counts 7 libraries and more than 250 registered users. It has unlimited expansion possibility. 

On September 14th, Focus held the launch event of the network, more than 50 guests from various organizations, libraries and printing agencies participated in the event, and there was a wide coverage from more than 10 media outlets including: Public TV: Aravot luso, Shoghakat, A1plus, Public Radio: Vernatun, Radio Sputnik: Artbox, Champord.am, Epress.am, Hetq.am, Irates.am and Eritasard.am.

Focus NGO managed to form a large circle of partners around the network: cooperation is provisioned with the State Academy of Fine Arts, Yerevan Brusov State University of Languages and Social Sciences, Ayb Educational Foundation, Armenia Art Foundation. MediaLab, and others. There is an initial agreement that the Ministry of Culture will support the maintenance of the platform.

The Child and Family Development Foundation (Kotayk) had remarkable achievements: from “one-person NGO” now the organization recruited staff members and volunteers, hired consultants to develop its three-year development strategy, PR and communication procedures, and got trained on fundraising. As part of the project, CFDF conducted a crowdfunding campaign – Charity run, which became “learning by doing” exercise - allowing to expend the network of cooperation and generate some moderate unrestricted funding. The CSO cooperated with more than 15 organizations and entities, which assisted in organization, logistics, and promotion of the event. Romanos Petrosyan, the Regional Governor of Kotayk attended the event and gave awards to the participants.

Now the CSO is member of the interregional coalition dealing with the issues of children with disabilities and frequently receives invitations to take part in various events and discussions, such as the Kotayk-based NGO. There are good networking opportunities indicating that the CFDF managed to get a good reputation.

A major development for the CSO was its own office-space, which was allocated by the Community Council for 15 years without rent. The CSO has already applied to five funding opportunities and continuously seeks for more resources and partnerships to continue its mission.

The Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities NGO (Lori), though this project invests efforts in developing new skills and competencies of its staff members to be able to diversify its services. EREO staff received graphic design, photo-video shooting, and editing courses. They purchased professional cameras, which will be used to provide services and for improving the communication and visibility of the CSO. EREO managed to film two promotional videos (about the social enterprise and products). CSO redesigned its communication materials and launched their own website: ereongo.org. The organization improved its service providing capacity, defined the list of services and income management cycle.

During the project the organization moved to a better office space and was awarded with a new project in the coalition with the Journalists for Human Rights NGO (another DePo grant recipient) and “Power of Right NGO”.

Sose Women Issues NGO (Syunik) made considerable steps forward due to DePo funding: hired two team members, launched regular events and discussions with its beneficiaries, got office space for the first time since its registration, received funding for two projects and managed to move to a better office. All these efforts contributed that the organization embarked on operational mode.

Due to this increased level of activity, CSO staff started to receive many invitations for various local and international events, conferences, and trainings. Sose developed communication strategies and launched its website: sose-ngo.am. All these developments were direct outcomes of DePo funding and give indication for CSO sustainability.

Skarp NGO (Yerevan) completed the project implementation as of July 31. The project allowed them to considerably improve the internal and external communications of the NGO. Due to the recommendations of CSO consultant, Skarp has revised its administrative procedures and now its work is more structured and better organized. CSO has developed a number of procedures, a strategic development plan, and amended its Statute. These all are direct contributions to the sustainable development of the CSO. The CSO considerably improved its visibility and launched a well-designed website, Skarpngo.am. At the completion of the DePo funded project, Skarp received support from new donors to boost its social enterprise.

The Azatan Community Center NGO (Shirak) relaunched its activities as part of this project. Previously, the CSO was working mostly on community problems and during the reporting period together with the consultant, they have defined future development directions. As a result, the CSO started to focus on youth participation in community life. During the reporting period, CSO staff members and volunteers had a number of meetings for designing the communication materials of the organization. Azatan NGO is hosted by Alvan Tsaghik NGO in Gyumri, this allows them to cooperate with most of the CSOs in Gyumri. The CSO’s staff has developed five proposals in response to various small-scale grant opportunities.

Spitak Helsinki Group NGO (SHG) (Lori) invested considerable efforts in staff capacity, by planning trainings and meetings with regional and local authorities, as well as gathering necessary materials, and developing policies and procedures for the CSO. During the reporting period, CSO launched the “CSO Campaign” and visited Children of Armenia Fund to discuss how COAF manages to diversify its program portfolio, combine various programs, and work with donors. After the meeting, a file for compiling lessons-learned was compiled as a contribution to forming the institutional memory. Later, SHG staff members visited the Media Initiative Center to learn about CSO communication and media relations. The next visit was to Gyumri’s A.D. Sakharov Armenian Human Rights Protection Center NGO and Youth Initiative Centre (YIC), in order to study CSO management practices and partnership building practices. Here SHG received cooperation offer from the YIC to implement a joint project. The last visit of the campaign was to Goris’ Goris Press Club and the Women Development Resource Center in order to learn about social entrepreneurship, diversification, staff development and motivation. These visits were occasions that SHG presented its profile and capacity to possible partners, which might consider SHG for various joint projects.

All of these visits served as rare opportunities for the SHG staff to learn and later redefine the mission and vision of their own CSO, to reconsider their fundraising and communication strategies, and to redefine their strategic development plan. The CSO also launched its website: spitakhelsinki.org.

Mayri NGO (Yerevan) invested considerable efforts in developing its staff training and its resource center for becoming a hub of specialists who work with children with disabilities. Mayri’s staff acted as trainers by conducting methodical trainings for their peer specialists. These trainings were occasions that attracted the attention of various stakeholders, with hopes to enlarge the cooperation circle of the CSO. For the first time Mayri NGO developed training modules to share its methodology.

As part of this project Mayri NGO managed to invite international and local CSO consultants, rethink its services and social enterprise concept for ensuring long-term sustainability and self-sufficiency. The organization launched a new well-designed website – for improving its visibility: mayri.am.

Journalists for Human Rights NGO (JFHR) (Yerevan) aimed at strengthening its capacities as journalists’ organization defining human rights in targeted intuitions such as army and prisons. As part of this project JFHR invested efforts in improving the CSO’s visibility and communication. For example, social media ads allowed them to attract more readers, and allowed them to expand their reach. Now the Facebook page has 8,000 follows, up from previous 3,000 just within 3 months since the launch of the project.

The CSO staff got the possibility to travel to the regions, take interviews and write better content. For the first time, the CSO organized a training for journalists to share its expertise on how to work in the field of human rights and journalists’ ethics. Later the training participants contributed to JFHR with articles on various cases of human rights violations. Thereby, the JFHR enlarged its circle of contributing journalists. Though the JFHR has been operating for many years, it has never had plans for its strategic development nor to improve its organizational capacities. Due to DePo funding, they invited a CSO consultant to evaluate their internal capacities and help them define an action plan for short term developments.

The project deliverables were fully met:

  • Development of CSO strategy, review of CSO stakeholders, members, and systems.
  • Improved communication systems between the CSO and public.
  • Better reach to a broader group of stakeholders.
  • Improved visibility: social media followers increased by 150%.
  • Training module on ethics of journalism in human rights violations
  • More journalists trained to cover on HR themes.

Hay Santa Charity Foundation (Yerevan), during the reporting period the CSO staff and network continued having the meetings for strategic planning. For the first time since its establishment the CSO managed to create a website: haysanta.am. The CSO went through a rebranding, redesigned its logo, communication, and visibility materials.

Also, Hay Santa got some office equipment, which will make the operation of the CSO more effective. All these efforts allowed to broaden the scope of CSO activities – such as the opening of more art education rooms (Havesin Senyaks) in borderline communities..

The CSO focused more efforts on defining its strategy on “Alternatives for Overcoming Poverty”, which implies a number of actions and involvement of various stakeholders including both the government and civil society. In order to make the first steps towards implementation of this strategy, Hay Santa filmed a PSA in cooperation with the Ministry of Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction National Platform (ARNAP Foundation).

Given the fact that the CSO’s sustainability mostly depends on crowdfunding, Hay Santa decided to organize a charity event and auction for generating certain funds for opening one more Art education room in the village of Khachik. This gave the staff experience on how to organize a large scale event, invite various stakeholders, and organize the process of collecting donations. A large scale event was organized on December 16th and more than USD 3,000 were raised during the concert and auction sales.

Disability-Info NGO (Yerevan) due to DePo funding Disability-Info did a rebranding of the organization, renaming itself as the “Disability-Inclusive Development” NGO, and it launched a new website: didarmenia.am, which is fully adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. The CSO revised its Statute in order to have a clearer definition of its mission and vision. The CSO also revised most of the policies and procedures, including its membership policy, board management, strategic plan and communication procedure. For the first time since its establishment the NGO organized a strategic retreat and discussed developmental priorities. The organization’s new branding improved its overall visibility and communication effectiveness.

The Youth Cooperation Center of Dilijan (Tavush) continued to strengthen it capacities focusing more on communication and visibility. During the reporting period, YCCD invested considerable efforts in developing the website and revising its content. The CSO worked on the concept of the leaflet and annual report, which will be published for the first time. Also, the organization continued to revise its policies and procedures towards the strategic changes. The CSO renewed its registration to be able to have entrepreneurial activities and appoint new board members. The YCCD hired a business consultant who will assist to redefine the services of the CSO. Due to DePo support, the YCCD was able to hire a new employee, who is assisting with various administrative and organizational activities, so that the core team could focus on fundraising and strategic developmental needs. The CSO finalized its two-year strategy, membership policy, board management policy and implementation plan.

Agate NGO (Shirak) considerably improved its communication and visibility, especially with their new website (agatengo.am) that was created and adapted to accommodate to the broader needs of people with disabilities. The CSO hired a new staff member responsible for Communications and PR. The staff developed communication procedures, launched new pages in social media platforms (Twitter and Instagram), and prepared leaflets and quarterly newsletters. Due to improved communication, Agate received partnership offers and a new donor invited them to submit an unsolicited proposal. The CSO staff and consultants developed a strategic development plan and a fundraising and financial development plan. The organization moved to a better office space and purchased office furniture for improving working environment, now being able to host more beneficiaries for in-house trainings and events. 

The Armenian Book Center Cultural NGO (Yerevan) continued working on its new service direction, that is promoting young authors. For this purpose, ABC opened a new tab on its website and launched the platform 6:40 – where authors, critics, and readers can get together to discuss one of the authors’ work. ABC selects several promising authors, then edits, designs, publishes and promotes their works and books. This kind of services are very expensive, and young authors rarely have chance to be published or promoted; as a result, most of their works remain unrecognized. During the project, six authors benefited from this opportunity, and the 6:40 platform became one of the permanent services of the organization. This served as solid launchpad for the organization to apply to the Ministry of Culture to restart the publication of “Actual A” magazine, which will publish the work of young authors for some honorarium. Another possible extension of the 6:40 platform can be comic book publication, as this direction is not very popular in Armenia. Due to DePo grant ABC brought some printing equipment and furniture for the office that will contribute to the effectiveness of their work.

The Astghavard NGO (Gegharkunik) completed its project during the previous reporting period. During the recent months the organization continued to promote its services, which now has more of a professional orientation. The NGO extended its partners network and start to cooperate closer with doctors and Yerevan based child-care services.

Project deliverables were met:

  • Strong cooperation with regional hospital and doctors.
  • The child care evaluation process was considerably improved and unified methodology was developed, which will be recognized by other specialists and healthcare centers.
  • CSO expanded its scope of activities and started to work with parents of children with disabilities.

The SME Cooperation Association (Yerevan) during the reporting period, the organization was going through a reorganization process as the Head of the CSO was appointed Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Investments. Later in September, the conversations started about parliamentary snap elections, which created the need to reload the established Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs)-Parliament Council. These changes entailed revisions in the project’s activities and budget. The revised version had more of an emphasis on developing the capacity of the organization so that when the parliament is formed the organization will relaunch the activities of SME-Parliament Council, will have more and better services for SMEs.