Qusar, Azerbaijan, 18th – 22nd October, 2011
There was plenty to do and think about. By the end of the first day all participants had talked about why they believed an 'À' grade should be awarded to them for their contributions and learning .It was quickly realized that making any kind of change involved breaking old habits that hold us back and trying out new habits that can serve us better. For many this was their first experience of workshops where they were asked to consider the implications for themselves – what would they have to do differently, think differently, say things differently, if they were to change their own ideas or perceptions on the basis of new information or evidence.
Seeing problems for what they really are was stressed as a key part of having a positive outlook – stop making it personal! It was noted that we're all prone to over reacting, jumping to conclusions or looking for someone else to blame and this was much to the fore when examining personal reactions to examples of discrimination, prejudice or stereo-typing behaviour.
Sessions on active listening skills realized the need for continuous practice to acquire the ability to hear and understand accurately sometimes unspoken or partly expressed thoughts, feelings and concerns of others. It was a revelation that all they had to do was listen and yet this proved to be extremely difficult for many. The key learning points stressed not to assume that everybody does things or values things in the same way. And that we learn about differences by carefully observing and asking and by noticing when others respond to things differently than we do.
The heart of the YouthBank training involved the combination of assessment and decision-making skills. In part this involved a complex interplay of social and emotional skills. It involved looking at how participants could have a positive impact on each other, to persuading or convincing others in order to get support for ideas or suggestions. These processes helped to provide practical lessons on the importance of working cooperatively as part of a team, as opposed to working separately or competitively. Above all it was stressed that teamwork was about enjoying shared responsibility and the rewards for team accomplishments.
The next step now is for all participants to return to their respective communities to set up their own YouthBank teams. Some will be invited to step up and join a support team with the task of running introductory workshops on essential YouthBank skills and knowledge for new recruits. So there is much to look forward to as the emerging Azerbaijani YouthBank network welcomes new volunteers in its expansion into rural regions of the country.
The Azerbaijan Youth Fund is a youth-led grant-making program established by Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) to provide small grants to fund good ideas that young people believe will benefit their local communities. A testament to the project’s success and sustainability, the Ganja Youth Fund is among the first of Azerbaijan’s youth fund committees to obtain external funding and implement a project independently. As winner of the Open Society Institute-Assistance Foundation’s Youth Initiatives competition, the Ganja Youth Fund will receive a $1,000 small grant to implement its Street Law project in Ganja City. Click here to read more.
Previous Work with the Eurasia Partnership Foundation in Azerbaijan.
YouthBank is currently engaged in fulfilling an eighteen month contract with the Eurasia Foundation to facilitate the establishment of five youthfunds in a range of regions in Azerbaijan.
This work began in March 2006 with the delivery of an intensive training programme in Baku involving 35 prospective young-makers as participants.
Delivered by a team drawn from personnel from the Community Foundation YouthBank office and the New Lodge and Ballymena YouthBanks, this work forms part of a wider aspiration on the part of the Eurasia Foundation to nurture the establishment of indigenous philanthropic foundations at locations across the South Caucuses region.
The efforts to create a young people-led funding programme in Azerbaijan were sparked by Eurasia Foundation personnel seeing the potential benefits of youth-led grant-making programmes after attending a workshop on the subject run by the YouthBank NI Co-ordinator at a conference in Athens convened by the European Foundation Centre.
In Azerbaijan there are now five youthfunds based in Quba, Goychay, Ganja, Leukaren and Shaki.
Further training will take place in Baku in mid october 2006 with a small team of young grant- makers from the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.
A group of young grant-makers from Azerbaijan visited Northern Ireland in 2007 to share experiences with local YouthBanks.