Thursday, May 29, 2014

Creating the Armenian Dream

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Samvel believes in an Armenian Dream..for a very bright future for his country based on creating a knowledge-based economy that will make Armenia the Switzerland of the Caucasus.
We could live all over the world, miles apart, and embody all the culture differences of the countries we were born and raised in. Yet, we are bound by this noble idea, this “Armenian-ness,” the Armenian Spirit that burns like an eternal flame in many of us. We are a proud and principled people. We view ourselves as smart, industrious, dedicated, generous, kind, principled, forthright, and honest. The Armenian Spirit is what bonds us. We know it when we see it and admire our countrymen who embody these virtues we so value.
Samvel's vision was to make the future open for each and every child in the Republic of Armenia.
Samvel’s vision was to make the future open for each and every child in the Republic of Armenia.
Allow me to introduce Samvel Movsisyan. He has at least a triple dose of the Armenian Spirit and the values we so cherish.
Samvel has a passion for Armenia and Armenians. He wants to help the people of Armenia to not only survive but thrive. He wants the Republic of Armenia to succeed. In order for that to happen, there must be meaningful jobs and career opportunities for Armenians in Armenia. The future must be bright enough with work and career opportunities that emigration is out of the question—and, in fact, turns into repatriation and immigration. Samvel has dedicated his life to these noble goals, and has created and manages three NGOs dedicated to this mission.
Like all young Armenian men, Samvel served in the Army of the Republic of Armenia. In the army, Samvel had the opportunity to visit villages all around the country. Like many, he got to see, appreciate, and love the rural Armenia and Armenians. Samvel saw how people were leaving the country because they could not earn a living, and he knew this was bad for the country. During this time, Samvel realized that he had a passion for communicating with the people not only in the army but in all walks of life. He has a special and deep affinity with the people of the Armenia.
After the army, Samvel studied IT at the European Regional Academy (ERA). He was advised to participate in the student council to enhance his leadership skills and give his education a service component. As members of the student council were expected to participate in service projects in the community, Samvel decided to implement a project in an orphanage. He researched various orphanages in Armenia, and found one named Hope that resonated with him. He called the director and arranged a group visit to this orphanage in Gyumri. They collected boxes of clothes, treats, and school supplies for the Hope orphanage. At the orphanage, Samvel did what he does: He talked to, well, everyone.
He especially spent time talking with the children. He met a child who was crying. Samvel asked him why he was crying. The child said he wanted to be like Samvel and to go places and help people. He especially wanted to go home. His father was a humble laborer who did not make enough to support all of his children, so this young fellow found himself in the orphanage. It was a defining moment for Samvel who decided, at that point, to dedicate himself to the education of the young who had no opportunities. The child was only 11. Samvel talked to him about the possibilities he could have, that he could maybe even become president of Armenia. The boy stopped crying and started smiling… Samvel then knew his life’s work.
Samvel is not one to leave today’s work for tomorrow. He started the Future is Open educational NGO (see the very next day. His vision was to make the future open for each and every child in the Republic of Armenia. This organization was created with the belief that equal educational opportunities for all children is one of the most important requirements for the comprehensive development of Armenia and the realization of future citizens’ potential. The mission is simple: “We believe that with educational programs for the endangered children (orphanages and special schools, disadvantaged families), which we have been conducting already for more than six years, we can help them to become decent citizens of Armenia.”
As the Future is Open began to gain traction and grow, more volunteers started to participate, both from within Armenia and abroad. The results were encouraging. Young Armenians were graduating from the orphanages and special schools with better future plans and perspectives. Yet, there was also the feedback from the volunteers that many young people didn’t see a future for themselves in Armenia. They were thinking about leaving the country because they could not earn a decent living. This saddened Samvel…but not for long. Samvel and his team do not wallow in such emotions.
Samvel and his team knew more was needed. For the future to be open for the youth he was serving in the Future is Open, there needed to be jobs and career opportunities. Armenia needed more entrepreneurs and leaders within the young generation to believe, organize, and work for the future of Armenia; and more innovators and “techno-preneurs” to work in the IT direction, which the team believes has the potential to become the growth engine of Armenia.
In order for Armenia to have jobs and careers, Armenia needs thriving companies to create and offer those jobs and careers. Samvel realized that Armenia could not rely on multi-nationals to provide opportunities in Armenia; rather, Armenians themselves would have to create the enterprises that would, in turn, create the jobs and careers.
It took years of hard work and research (including a course of study at the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) in India for Samvel), but in due time two foundations were established: the Leadership School and IT School Foundations. Samvel followed his academic focus and founded the IT School Foundation ( The vision of this foundation is to create, nurture, and expand a tech base for Armenia and make the Ararat Valley the Silicon Valley of the Caucasus.
Innovators and techno-preneurs are one of the most important requirements for the development of Armenia and its transition to the knowledge society model. “We believe that through future-oriented, practical and fast education, we can contribute to the formation of new generation IT specialists,” Samvel says. To foster entrepreneurship in Armenia, the Leadership School Foundation ( was founded in 2009. “In the global reality of accelerating changes, Armenia needs faster development, one of the most important requirements of which is the discovery and development of strong leaders within the young generation. We believe that in cooperation with prominent Armenian and international leaders, thinkers and organizations, we can support the development of future leaders.”
The Leadership School is an additional course of study for working people, generally ages 18-35, both non-college and college-educated. They leadership and entrepreneurship, business English, LINUX, and in the background of all this: self-confidence and pride. The Leadership School fills a gap that universities in Armenia do not. The school has about 20 students per year. The course of study is 200,000 dram (or approximately $700). The graduation rate is 50 percent simply because not everyone has the entrepreneurial fire to complete the vigorous program. The school has a cadre of about 150 professionals who give lectures once or twice a year.
From the Armenian Weekly community, Ken Hachikian, Ara Surenian, and I have all lectured, via Skype, to Leadership School students. Alumni help current students bring their ideas to the marketplace. The kinds of businesses started by graduates include dental clinics, IT, finance, and audit firms. There are even Syrian-Armenian refugees in the current cohort of students.
At only 31 years old, Samvel has created 3 registered foundations that are the vehicles in his steadfast mission to be of service to his country and his people. It is clear that the ERA, which has a distinct bias for “Practical Orientation of Education,” had an impact on Samvel. All three of these foundations are geared to providing practical, valuable, and immediately applicable training to their students. These foundations are fully registered with the government. I related that the Armenian government’s perception of the Armenian Diaspora is not the most positive, especially in regards to diasporans doing business in Armenia. His response was simple: “No matter what people think about the government, the rules for foundations are very clear and more aboveboard than ever before.”
Samvel acknowledges the concept of the American Dream. He believes in a similar Armenian Dream. His Armenian Dream is for a very bright future for his country based on creating a knowledge-based economy that will make Armenia the Switzerland of the Caucuses. He believes that Armenians need to do our best and to work hard. These three foundations exist to make this dream a reality.
This summer Samvel is coming to the US. He will be visiting New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He is not coming here to ask for money. He is coming here to ask for opportunity. Thus, his visit is not a fundraising trip, but rather a business development and alliance development trip. He is interested in meeting Armenian-American business leaders and entrepreneurs that would be interested in:
  • advising and doing business with Armenia-based start-ups;
  • contracting with the growing IT providers in Armenia; and
  • discussing business ideas that could benefit Armenia
To contact Samvel, e-mail, or Skype at smavel.movsisyan.

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