The Government of Armenia has launched “iGorts” - an unprecedented program that invites Diaspora Armenian professionals to work in Armenia's state institutions. Within the framework of the program, Diaspora Armenian professionals are placed in state agencies in need of their expertise and have the opportunity to lend their experience and knowledge toward improving and developing the state institution and its policies and programs.
Diaspora communities exist across cultures, continents, and peoples. Diasporas are traditionally viewed as communities that have migrated in large numbers to at least one country outside of their home nation. Armenia, however, is a unique case among different diaspora communities in that there are more Armenians currently living outside of Armenia than within its borders - the current- Armenian population is about three million, whereas the global Armenian population outside of Armenia is about ten million.
The Pan-Armenian Potential and the Armenian Diaspora are national values of Armenia. The Armenian Government is committed to ensuring sufficient conditions for Armenians to assemble in their historical homeland. To this end, the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs of Armenia launched the iGorts program to encourage professional repatriation and to promote the inclusion back into the Armenian collective of those who have been separated from the Armenian environment.
Following an application and interview process, every year 50 Diaspora professionals are placed in state agencies across different sectors in need of their expertise. The Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs covers the costs of the Program. The selected participants receive a round-trip air ticket; a monthly stipend to cover living expenses for the duration of their fellowship; emergency medical insurance, and the fee for a one-year residency permit (if the participant does not hold Armenian citizenship).
The objectives of the Program are:
- Professional repatriation
- Improvement and development of Armenian public institutions.
To become an iGorts participant applicants undergo a selection process. The Diaspora Armenians must meet the eligibility criteria:
- Bachelor’s degree with at least 5 years of relevant work experience or a Master’s degree (or higher) with at least 3 years of relevant work experience;
- Must have studied and/or worked in the Diaspora for at least 5 years;
- Fluency in spoken Armenian is highly desirable.
After the shortlisting phase, the applicants are interviewed by the corresponding state institutions and the Diaspora Office. The successful participants get invitations and arrive in the homeland. For the duration of the 12 months of their program, they work on different projects, offer their knowledge of international best practices and offer advice as to how to improve the government systems.
The program also offers excursions/work tours to the different provinces of Armenia to its participants in order to encourage their knowledge of the country, as well as encourage the creation of ties between the participants and their homeland. Networking events and opportunities are also created for the participants in order to promote opportunities for future employment for them as well.
The key benefits of the Program are as follows:
- Promote inclusivity of diaspora Armenians within the public sector
- Encourage the exchange and implementation of international best practices within the governmental sphere.
The program is successful as over 70% of the participants stayed in Armenia following the first year. Most of them continued working in the same institutions they were placed at the beginning of the program, some of them were appointed high officials within the Government (Deputy Minister of Economy, Head of the Tourism Committee, Director of the National Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship etc.).
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
This Program is innovative as:
- It offers diaspora to come and have an active and effective impact on the development of the country in terms of policy making and strategy bringing innovative ideas to relevant spheres and initiating new projects.
- It promotes repatriation and facilitates the integration process of the repatriants.
- It created a new platform for government institutions for collaboration.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Currently we are greeting the new cohort of experts arriving from 14 countries around the Globe to be placed within over 25 state institutions and agencies. Meanwhile we are improving our policies based on the lessons learned and monitoring results of the first stages of the program.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Currently the program works with over 25 state institutions and agencies (including Ministries, the Parliament, Constitutional Court, Office of Human Rights Defender, different Specialized Committees and Commissions, National Film Centre, Central Bank, local self-government bodies and inspectorate bodies, etc…). Private foundations agreed to set up a unique Public Service fellowship providing opportunity for some alumni to continue their work for another year.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
iGorts participants benefit by working in the Public sector efficiently implementing various projects in the field of their expertise. It is also a great opportunity to learn how the Government system works and how the state institutions function. The Public institutions benefit by hosting experienced professionals of Armenian origin who bring new, innovative ideas to the corresponding spheres thus improving the public institutions and their policies.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Over 60% of the participants stayed in Armenia following the end of the program. Most of them continued working in the same institutions they were placed at the beginning of the program, some of them were appointed high officials within the Government (Deputy Minister of Economy, Head of the Tourism Committee, Director of the National Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship etc.).
Most of the program participants initiated and implemented innovative projects within the Government. We conducted a quantitative survey among the iGorts participants and 80% of them expressed overall satisfaction with the results and about 75% to 80 % of the state institutions assed the program positively.
Challenges and Failures
Seeing as the program is still new, the challenges are mainly related to the timely the integration of the participants within the program and their job placements. Participants require a lot of support on part of the iGorts staff during their first three months in the program in order to facilitate their integration within their jobsites. They face cultural shocks and other challenges related to diversity issues.
Conditions for Success
The support from the iGorts staff comes in the form of constant assessment meetings and entry orientations. In order for the integration of the participants to be successful, the jobsite staff and supervisors also have to be incorporated within the integration plan of the participants.
The program can be replicated by other governments. It can be adjusted to specific needs of the given government inviting foreign experts to work on specific projects, to do research on specific themes, to recommend solutions to identified problems. “iGorts” Progarm was included in the Repository of Practices of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) as best practice for promoting repatriation. The IOM Repository of Practices showcases replicable practices to inspire those working to implement the Global Compact for Migration from global, national, regional and local levels.
- Participants require a lot of support on part of the iGorts staff during their first three months in the program in order to facilitate their integration within their jobsites and life in Armenia. This support comes in the form of constant assessment meetings, entry orientations and consultations of the paperwork needed.
- In order for the integration of the participants to be successful, the jobsite staff and supervisors also have to be incorporated within the integration plan of the participants.
- Mentorship program- during the second year of the program we have learned that our alumni are a very good resource in order to help the new participants’ integration.
In 2021 “iGorts” Progarm was included in the Repository of Practices of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) as best practice for promoting repatriation. The IOM Repository of Practices showcases replicable practices to inspire those working to implement the Global Compact for Migration from global, national, regional and local levels.
- Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
- Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
- Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
20 January 2023