EU and CENN for youth empowerment, JAMnews

EU and CENN for youth empowerment

CENN and the NGO Green Lane, with the help of the European Union, are trying to bring young people living in Georgia and Armenia together and raise their awareness of environmental issues. In this article, we talk about precisely how.

Study visits for young people in Armenia and Georgia

Ani Aivazian is 20 years old and from Gyumri, Armenia. Ani is one of the young people who came to Georgia this year on an educational visit to learn how local social enterprises work.

Study visit to Georgia. Photo: CENN. EU and CENN for youth
Study visit to Georgia. Photo: CENN

There is a tailoring business called “Leeder” in Gori, and a napkin factory “FAMILY” in Ninotsminda. They make new products by recycling waste – sewing fabrics, and the factory by secondary recycling of paper. In my opinion these are excellent environmental initiatives, which I now talk a lot about in my homeland,” Ani says.

Ani tells us that the study visit helped her to know local youth better, and that she wants to learn more about local green entrepreneurship and make more visits in the future.

EU and CENN for youth empowerment

The study visit for young people was planned by CENN under a project financed by the European Union. The project, called “EU4Youth: Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED) for Green Growth in Cross-Border Regions”, has been going for three years, with the support of the European Union and partner organizations (KRDF and Green Lane NGO).

The goal of the project is to discover and develop the entrepreneurial potential of young people living in Georgia and Armenia, to strengthen their skills in the direction of social entrepreneurship and green innovation, and to promote the employment of young people.

Study visit to Georgia. Photo: CENN. EU and CENN for youth
Study visit to Georgia. Photo: CENN

Like Ani, fifteen young people from Armenia participated in the study visit organized by CENN. Another twelve, on the contrary, went from Georgia to Armenia on an educational tour – “Discover social entrepreneurship in Armenia”. They visited innovative knowledge hubs established in the Shirak, Tavush and Lori regions. There they got acquainted with local examples of green entrepreneurship.

“It was interesting that solar panels are used in Armenia. I especially liked one of the permaculture centers we visited – it was my first experience with permaculture. I think we should have many such places in Georgia. It is important to discuss problems and challenges, talk about common ways to solve them,” says Tako Gegelashvili, a 20-year-old environmentalist from Gori, believes.

Tako tells us that an innovative knowledge hub has been opened in her hometown by the CENN project. It is a free space that allows local youth to gather and discuss issues of interest to them, and plan initiatives.

EU and CENN for youth empowerment

Study visit to Georgia. Photo: CENN
Study visit to Georgia. Photo: CENN

“As a result of both visits, they planned joint activities, were in hubs, had workshops, visited social entrepreneurs and planned regional campaigns and an ideathon”, CENN representative Lamara Malkhasian says.

Regional ideathon for Georgian and Armenian youth

“A challenge into an opportunity” – CENN and the European Union also held a regional ideathon of green and social entrepreneurship for Georgian and Armenian youth under this title.

Young people from 14 to 29 from both countries participated in the ideathon, where ten new initiatives were announced.

“Teams presented ideas, the best ones were selected, later thematic trainings and workshops were held on environmental topics, agriculture, of course entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. There was also a mentoring component, ideas were developed and presented to the jury. We had four winners in total. Prizes were awarded, including cash, which will be used to make the ideas. A few of them have already started their activities”, Malkhasian tells us.

17-year-old Nvard Petrosian participated in the ideathon with nine peers. During the process of generating ideas, they argued a lot, but in the end they united around one goal:

“I am one of the members of the initiative group of Lori Innovation knowledge hub. We have done a number of projects related to environmental and public initiatives. When the information about the ideathon spread, the head of the hub motivated us and convinced us of the need to participate in it.”

Regional Ideathon for Georgian and Armenian youth.  Photo: CENN
Regional ideathon for Georgian and Armenian youth. Photo: CENN

With the money received from the ideathon, they bought the necessary products and got down to business. They started making illustrated fridge magnets from waste, particularly from ice cream sticks. They also make hair clips and sew pillows. From time to time they teach tapestry and macrame techniques to others.

“We have created social pages on Facebook and Instagram, we are taking orders, participating in fairs. We used the earned money to purchase a sewing machine and increase our assortment. We all have a specific function, and for us this initiative is a best practice for developing teamwork and entrepreneurial thinking.”

Green camps

One of the latest regional initiatives under the “EU4Youth: Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED) for Green Growth in Cross-Border Regions” project are “regional green camps” held in the center of Bulachauri. Lamara Malkhasian tells us that in this case too, the main topic between young people was social entrepreneurship.

Green camp in "Bulachauri". Photo: CENN
Green camp in “Bulachauri”. Photo: CENN

The camps lasted for ten days each.

“During this time they were trained in environmental, social entrepreneurship, marketing, branding – everything related to business. They had practical work, mentoring, as a result of which they refined their ideas and then presented their finished business models to a jury. So far, about ninety young people living in Georgia and Armenia have participated in the regional camps,” Lamara tells us.

Ani Gevorgyan accidentally heard about the camp on Facebook:

“I read the details, I realized that this is what I need, because it is very important for me not only to help my community and region, but also to cooperate with our neighboring country.”

Green camp in "Bulachauri". Photo: CENN
Green camp in “Bulachauri”. Photo: CENN

On the first day of the camp she got to know the members of her own team and became close. She says that they soon came to a common idea and decided to clean up Gyumri and make toys for children:

“We will also have courses and teach participants how to make these things. This program is very important for our city, because it will not only get it clean, but also increase employment opportunities for young people”, Ani Gevorgyan says.

EU and CENN for youth

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