If you are driving through Dilijan and see the painted and “happy” trash-bins with ‘smile’ signs, or if you are visiting Armavir’s little zoological garden and see the space cleaned, with rocky trash-bins and painted benches, or if you notice a little nice playground in Byureghavan village of Kotayq, hidden among dusty neighbourhoods, you will know these are a few examples of hundreds of small projects that YouthBank committees have supported in the villages of Armenia with the help of thousands of volunteers.
Eurasia Partnership Foundation in Armenia works in such core competence areas as building viable civil society, confidence, and dialogue across the conflict divides; youth leadership and empowerment; independent media and freedom of expression; regional cooperation and European dimension; evidence-based research, policy recommendations, and thought leadership. EPF is both a program implementer and a grant maker, a unique ‘think & do tank” with close partners operating in three countries of the South Caucasus and CIS.
EPF has been implementing a youth capacity building and leadership program called YouthBank (YB) since 2007. The program is based on a model developed in Northern Ireland to help youth overcome conflict and poverty. The YB employs a unique, participatory learning model designed to involve young people in civic and community activism. (More: www.facebook.com/YouthBankArmenia).
The YouthBank Armenia is part of YouthBank International Network (www.youthbankinternational.org) operating in 27 countries worldwide and applying similar methodology of youth-led participatory grant-making. All YouthBanks follow the Golden Rules of equal and inclusive participation.
The program aims at youth empowerment though a very unique and innovative methodology - participatory grant-making and community philanthropy. Participants are not required to have specific skills prior to joining YB, such as foreign languages, computer literacy, higher education, volunteer experience, project management, etc. They can belong to very diverse social, cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. By involving in the YouthBank, youth committees, consisting of 5-7 individuals between 16-27 years old, receive intensive training from EPF, become grant-makers and promote activism by funding youth-led grants implemented by their peers (between 200 – 500 USD for each project). The YouthBank members are responsible for every stage of the grants award and implementation process: from needs assessment, announcing grant competitions, fundraising, mobilizing matching resources from communities, working with media and informal youth groups, selecting and funding small-scale projects, working with young applicants to improve the quality of projects, organizing public events, writing reports, and making fair and responsible decisions about financial expenditures and accountability.
YouthBank promotes two types of volunteerism – among young people and among host civil society organizations that contribute space, equipment, mentoring, networks in YBs operations, without much influence on decision-making.
YB is also a personal development program that builds young people’s self-esteem and confidence, YouthBank initiates a big number of volunteer and charity actions and projects in their communities. In fact, participants have indicated that participation in the YB program has a positive impact on their employability in competitive positions.
Hundreds of 13-25 year old youth, who receive grants and implement projects also develop skills through volunteer action, take pride and credit for making real changes in communities. (Learn more by watching YouthBank Armenia's Youtube channel).
EPF supports ten YouthBank committees across Armenia, with more than 75 young people involved as members every year. Since 2007, during the grant-making cycles, YB committees have received and reviewed over 3000 proposals, funded and monitored 500 youth-led community projects, with more than 1200 young people involved in project implementation and other 3500 volunteers across country supporting those projects. YBs have also initiated and implemented additional volunteer projects varying between charity actions, trainings for communities, helping with environmental actions and others.