The new three-year Project implemented by the Armenian Association of Social Workers aims to create opportunities for vulnerable families. Today, at least 700,000 people in Armenia live below the upper poverty line and the Project is expected to improve the quality of life of more than 11,000 of them and bring reforms in the practice of social work.
The "Promoting social inclusion and self-reliant livelihood activities in Armenia" Project of Armenian Association of Social Workers is implemented under the administration of the World Bank and financial support of the Government of Japan (through Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF). The Project budget (grant) is $ 2.7 million. The Project will be implemented in five marzes of Armenia: Ararat, Armavir, Kotayk, Shirak, Lori.
A Project of unprecedented scale
Ruben Markosyan, Project Manager
The Project consists of two main components, the first is dedicated to social work and the development of social case management methodology. The second component is aimed at promoting the entrepreneurship and self-reliant livelihood of the beneficiaries of the so-called "Paros" program of family benefits. These two components are interlinked as we try to promote business activities with the assistance of social workers.
At least 300 beneficiaries will receive a small grant (approximately $ 4,000 each), of which more than 225 business projects will be self-reliant at the end of the Project. 200 social workers, including social case managers of social assistance territorial departments and community social workers, will have the opportunity to master social case management skills.
This is an unprecedented Project in Armenia due to large scale of promoted entrepreneurship initiatives of the target group. As a rule, such projects encourage 20-30 businesses, thus we will deal with more than 600 business projects, of which at least 300 will be funded. It is also very important to note that this Project is implemented by the Armenian Association of Social Workers NGO, and no state funds are invested. The whole grant is provided by the Government of Japan.
The Project was launched at the end of 2020, now we are in the preparatory phase.
Outside of “Paros”
Hrachya Harutyunyan, Business Component Consultant
In Armenia many such projects have been implemented aiming to change the level of poverty, but there are very few successful projects.
First of all, the issue of targeting is very crucial, as people in these regions have different way of thinking. Humanitarian programs carried out for more than 30 years have had a negative impact on people's mentality. They do not want to go out of their "comfort zone" on their own, as they receive benefits monthly. The "Paros" Program is a mechanism of more humanitarian aid, the government must have it, and there will always be socially vulnerable people who for various reasons cannot earn their money. Thus now we come to the idea that there is a public need to provide the development as most beneficiaries can create their own livelihood and not receive benefits. We must achieve this change of mindset with our Project, we need to understand the potential and will of these people.
We have set strict requirements for the completion of the Project, we expect to reach 75% of stable, successful businesses.
Step by step
Hrachya Harutyunyan, Ruben Markosyan
We have taken into consideration several criteria in the selection of regions, we have considered the regions where poverty has a higher rate and there are more geographically favorable conditions for the implementation of the Project.
Now we are at a stage of formation of the list of families that are the project target beneficiaries in cooperation with the RA Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. There are currently more than 34,000 beneficiary families in the five Project targeted regions. According to the established criteria, we will carry out a technical selection and get more than 10,000 families from that number (combination of various criteria is applied, such as families with children, 18-63 years old currently unemployed family member, etc.). Later our social workers will work with the lists to get a sample of 1800-2000 people with whom we will start to work directly.
From 1800-2000 people we have to select at least 600 people who will take business skills trainings and get a general idea of how to sell, how to produce, how to promote and manage the business. We plan to support these people for at least a year. After the trainings we will implement the second phase - the selection of specific business plans (some micro businesses, such as garment manufacturing). A special committee will be set up from representatives of various organizations and government agencies to review beneficiaries’ projects and make the final selection.
From July 2021 we plan to start the selection of families, and in August-October the trainings will be started.
Who is ready for a change?
Business trainings will be attended mainly by people who see themselves as business person, have a business mindset and are ready to take the initiative.
In the process of trainings, participants will develop their own business plan and put their thoughts on paper. It will be submitted to the committee for evaluation, and a grant will be awarded if approved.
The final selection of beneficiaries should not be based solely on the fact of extreme poverty. Our previous experiences with this group show that it is very difficult to work with these people. We are short of time to make them realize that they do not need the benefit and can start a business on their own. That's why we focused on a group that has potential and is ready to work, can live without benefits, but is still in the benefits system.
We believe that this will lead to a chain reaction and others, seeing the success of these people, will try to follow them. It will also affect the social inclusion of this group.
Continuous and long-lasting value
Karo Gevorgyan, Project Business Component Coordinator
The combination of the Project’s two components will bring success. The beneficiary will have a reliable specialist in his region as a social worker, who will encourage him/her in the process of making business sustainable. The beneficiary will take a business capacity building training, and experienced consultants will support him/her throughout the start-up period of the business.
At the same time, we cooperate with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and by the order of the Minister, we have a joint Project Implementation Support Committee. In the framework of this Project we are going not only to support families in selected regions, but also to provide methodological and professional support to the activities of government agencies, which is a long-lasting value.
As a result of the two components, 11,000 people will benefit from the implementation of the Project, with the first component 6,000 people will receive access to various social services other than entrepreneurship, and 5,000 people will benefit from entrepreneurship support programs.
During the three-year Project, we also plan to organize seven fair trade exhibitions, where the businesses of our beneficiaries and other producers in the region will be presented in order to establish new networks.
Photos by Emin Aristakesyan
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