Topic NGO Leadership
Date March 16, 2017
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NGO Leadership with Keyvan Ghavami

Do you volunteer and participate in social projects? Are you maybe thinking of joining or even starting your own NGO?

See what Keyvan Ghavami, the President and Co-Founder of Act On Your Future (a non-profit foundation that works to strengthen civic engagement among the next generation of socially active youth) has to say about running an NGO and what kind of impact it can make on social stability of the world.

"Make sure you have defined your topic of interest in which you can make a difference at. Make sure you are surrounded by good partners and supporters who believe in your cause and who would be willing to help you kick start it."

What is the event that sparked your interest and passion to start your NGO? —Ainul M

I worked for 3 years at Human Rights Watch, first as an intern then as an associate in the development (fundraising and marketing) and outreach department, I wanted to help other young professionals to engage in a cause and help them better understand why human rights should be important to us.

Who inspired you to join and be a part of an NGO community? —Sara W

Not only the people I met during my time at Human Rights Watch, passionate advocates defending human rights at the cost of their lives, but also young professionals and students here in Switzerland, our generation, who wants to do well while doing good!

I wanted to work in something which would enable me to join my values, the need of having a purpose in life and running a social enterprise.

What do you recommend to do in order to start a non-profit? —Eraani R

Make sure you have defined your topic of interest and that you can somehow make a difference at your level. Make sure that you are surrounded by good partners and supporters who believe in your cause and who would be willing to help you kick start the entity – legally, financially, on communication, management, etc

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Could you please tell us how your organisation works? How do you strengthen civic engagement among the youth? —Isheen A

We have two main programs :

1) the Human Rights Watch Prize which enables students from local high schools to write their end of year work on a topic related to human rights. After two rounds of selection and interview, the winner gets an internship at HRW Office in Geneva and attends their annual Dinner in Geneva.

2) The Human Rights Photography Prize which enables art school students and young artists to produce a project related to human rights issues such as freedom of expression or migration. A panel of experts selects the 5 best projects which are exhibited in an art gallery in Geneva for 10 days. The winner gets a budget to produce an exhibition in line with his/her project.

3) We also work with foundations and family enterprises to engage their network and introduce them to social causes, we organise workshops during our exhibitions with our partner schools and we work with a refugee center in Geneva.

What does it take to establish and finally continue an NGO on the shoulders of its stake holder? —Ashish S

It takes a lot of energy, goodwill and (human) resources, then obviously, being convinced that what you do is not only important to you but to the people surrounding you.

I’m still at the beginning of the adventure I’d say! This said, i guess you need a few good years to proof your concept, be seen as a credible actor and recognized for the work you’re doing. Being patient is a MUST in this sector and making sure you show that you can achieve a lot with limited funding.

What motivates you to keep going? —Rauf A

My motivation is waking up every morning knowing that you use your energy, talent and goodwill for a cause that is greater than you and that matters to people important to you.

Can we join an NGO even if we haven’t graduated in the social work field? —Dikshya T

Yes you can! Actually NGOs do need a lot of people with different set of skills such as communication, legal background, event management, journalism, etc., as long as you are interested in their work and can contribute to their cause. Of course some NGOs will need you to have a more specialised background than others.

Do you want to establish your NGO in any other places? Or do you have dreams of opening NGO's in different countries? —Sara W

I would love to – first we proof the concept in Geneva and then we replicate the model in other cities in Europe and elsewhere.

What are the key indicators by which you measure your impact? —Janmejay M

Several key indicators are important depending on the projects we organise: number of students we made impact on, number of partner schools, number of partner organisations, number of guests who participate in our events, number of students who take part in our competition, number of projects submitted, the people following you online, the number of articles written about your projects, etc.

However just like with any indicator, at times it is difficult to measure our success. Sometimes quality is more important than quantity!

I really love helping other people, especially I would like to solve the poverty in my countries, so should I start my own NGO or anything else? And what major should I learn? —Erin O

If you know that poverty is your topic of interest and/or your cause, make sure you learn as much as you can from local players who are already doing a lot to solve the issue. Then with a few good years of experience, and if you a confronted with an issue that could be solved differently or for which you think you can contribute, find a way to launch this initiative.

Do you have to pay taxes? —Samuel RK

No, as we are tax exempt, we do not have to pay taxes in Switzerland. This said, as an individual, I do indeed have to pay taxes 🙂

I started an NGO that helps people in poorly conditions. So far I’ve donated books and we're starting the process of making book shelves. However, I know there’s a lot of legal issues we have to take care of before it become official? What kind of documents would I have to fill out? —Maria AF

Depending on where you currently live, you have certainly a certain amount of documents to fill out. For instance we are a non profit foundation registered in Switzerland and had to fill out a range of documents to become tax exempt.

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Topic NGO Leadership
Date March 16, 2017
Category,
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