CSO School: Building Young People’s Capacity through Innovations

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A holiday season is finishing but it is still hot in Dushanbe. While many people are relaxing outside the city, everything is in full swing at the Atlas Hotel. It was here that the international public organization “Fidokor” and ARGO launched the School for Civil Society Organizations. For four days, 30 representatives of young civil society organizations learned how to develop projects using innovative tools.

At the school’s official opening ceremony, Fidokor Director Dilbar Khalilova stated that there were no such opportunities 20 years ago when the organization was founded.

“A wide range of socio-economic problems has contributed to the fact that social innovations began to play an especially important role for prompt resolution and mitigation of these problems. We have organized this school for young civil society organizations and young members of ‘experienced’ organizations to strengthen their capacity in the development and implementation of social innovation projects and programs”, – noted Ms. Khalilova.

школа огоAccording to the school’s coach, Muzaffar Avazov, at first not everyone welcomed the idea of training young CSOs in writing projects.  Mr. Avazov has taken several ARGO trainings himself, and is now applying the knowledge he has acquired in Tajikistan.

“We explained that it was not our desire but a desire of CSO leaders that we train young activists to develop and prepare project applications independently,” – added Mr. Avazov.

According to “Fidokor” program coordinator Rustam Bakhriddinov, even candidate selection for the CSO School was conducted in an innovative manner: a primary analysis of applications received was displayed via social media so applicants’ assessment and selection process could be done transparently by means of graphical data.

“Out of 65 applications received from representatives of 58 CSOs from all regions of the country, 30 candidates were selected. We invited those who participated in trainings least of all and who had the least chances to take such training. This was our informed decision. The fact that even peers in the Pamirs began to get interested in the “Partnership for Innovations” program is already a result. I am confident. Things are going to get even better further on”, – noted Mr. Bakhriddinov.

школа огоOver four days, 30 young employees of civil society organizations, as well as representatives of public initiative bodies (PIBs) who are active members of their communities, gathered from all regions of the Tajikistan. They learned how to identify social problems in target groups; for example, people with disabilities, migrant workers, youth, population from areas with environmental problems, and future volunteers. Working in small groups, they also learned to make an assessment of service recipients’ needs, develop indicators, work plans, and budgets, and distinguish between goals and objectives. In addition, they deepened their understanding of social partnership, and reviewed why success stories are so important in a project.

школа огоSpeaking of the objectives for the Partnership for Innovations project, country director of this programm in Tajikistan Sokhiba Rakhimova highlighted that the first objective is sharing experiences between organizations that have a great experience and young CSOs, and strengthening cooperation between them. The second objective is network interaction, in order to adapt to changing conditions of the contemporary world, using new technologies.

“As CSO representatives we should meet life requirements: conduct training and research, and make needs assessments. All this can be done remotely, being located even somewhere in remote regions. There is an idea to create a CSO Network on promoting youth engagement in public life. This can be done through communications, via Internet, by introducing an innovative system of individual capacity building of CSOs through the Web Academy that was organized by ARGO”, – noted Sokhiba Rakhimova.

школа огоSchool participants became interested in Ms. Rakhimova’s story, noting that even needs assessment of one’s own community can be made remotely, through mobile applications, teleconferences and using other tools. Experienced infographics designer Akhliddin Salimov was invited as an expert to the school training. By providing simple examples, he helped the participants learn basic principles of creating multimedia tools in project application development.

“While developing a project application, it is necessary most of all to value the time of a donor who has no opportunity to go deeply into a large text with a problem description. It is here that graphical data can be used, or a problem can be shown in figures. In this case, your work will be remembered better visually”, – underlined Mr. Salimov.

школа огоThe training participants experienced the effect of using multimedia innovative tools. If on day one they made their presentations on flipcharts in small groups, using stickers and markers, on the next days they learned to present their project information in an electronic format, using tab and laptop software.

“This is my first participation in the school and a training course in general. For these four days I have learned many interesting things, including developing projects in detail. Although, as it seemed to me, it was not enough time to cover all the topics, I believe that we have learned the main thing – basics of writing project applications using innovative methods, which I am grateful to the organizers for”,- noted school participant Makhina Shoyeva from Dushanbe.

Indeed, most of the school participants are newcomers to what they are dealing with. For example, Salmonsho Rakhmonov from PO “Rukhafzo” is only 18 years old. He has become a student recently and considers that university studies cannot be a problem for his civic engagement. “I will do my best to apply all the skills that I have acquired at this school as soon as possible and to my benefit. There are so many ideas in my head; the main thing is to obtain support in order to implement projects. Each of us is ready to change people’s lives for the better”, – said Salmonsho.

Study at the CSO School “Innovative Approaches in Addressing Social Problems” helped the participants not only to learn to develop projects and programs independently, but also to consolidate their actions together, by uniting the efforts of several CSOs. Some people have already expressed a desire to apply their own ideas practically and prepare a project application on behalf of their organizations; particularly when they heard that a grant competition will be announced in October.

“This is not the end of our cooperation with young CSOs. We will carry out follow-up activities in order to meet them again, and look at the outcomes they have achieved after the school. Our plans encompass not taking control but rendering assistance to these organizations in tackling their problems – by advice, or small financial support; it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that these young organizations should not stand still, but should believe in their own capacity”, – noted Ms. Khalilova at the school’s closing ceremony.  “Fidokor” and ARGO jointly plan to organize many interesting projects in the future in order to increase the capacity of CSOs in Tajikistan.

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“This School has given me good knowledge. Everything here was so interesting. As I am new to my CSO, and earlier I worked in the public sector, the first days were challenging for me. I did not quite understand the need for indicators, or for a monitoring and evaluation plan. But when the project started to take shape, everything fell into place. If possible, I would like to ask the organizers to arrange training in social entrepreneurship in the future. I think that it would be helpful for many of us”, – shared Telek Sharipov, a participant from Laksh district.

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“Though our organization already has experience in implementing many projects, few people have so far had an opportunity to increase their capacity. For me personally, an innovation was to learn how to develop a monitoring and evaluation plan. The school has provided us many new opportunities”, – noted Zarnigor Radjabova, a participant from Dushanbe.

Upon the school’s conclusion, participants left with a store of knowledge and new ideas. As noted by the organizers, it’s not necessary to invent the  wheel, it is enough to recall old methods, process them using new instruments, and adapt them to the current situation. It is important to spend the time to develop and elaborate a worthy project and apply for a grant, so that one’s own idea can be ultimately implemented. The most important thing is to believe in yourself.

For many employees of public organizations working in the most remote areas of Tajikistan, trainings like this will become a stimulus to change the life of their communities for the better. The process is already underway: representative of the makhalla council of Mekhnatobod jamoat of Bokhtar district, Farkhod Jalolov, stated that upon return home, he will register his own public organization together with his fellow villagers.   школа ого