Bringing people together from across the world, GERMIN is hoping to bring a brighter fuutre to Kosovo - Grese Sermaxhaj found out more about them.
The Kosovo diaspora presents an enormous potential for the home country, and it connects the bridges between Kosovo and the rest of the world, serving on a day-to-day basis as the country’s best ambassadors.
This is what GERMIN stands and works for every day, since its first initiatives dating back to 2012, and its formal founding in 2014.
With the primary aim to connect diaspora with their homeland, GERMIN is a non-governmental organisation that uses technology and virtual channels to connect and engage Diaspora in advancing the development and democratisation of their home countries.
A group of Diaspora professionals ranging from the field of public policy, finance, information, technology, law, education, security and diplomacy run and support GERMIN.
It has a wide network of professionals and part-time collaborators, currently residing in 24 countries including the Balkans, Western Europe, and North America.
Shpetim Shujaku, GERMIN Project Officer, in this exclusive interview with Youth Time, shares more on their work, emphasising one of their major programs: Youth and Education.
Promoting Kosovo’s Image
Initially, he asserts that those living abroad have the passion, willingness, financial resources, networks, and know-how that, if put into action by the home country, would positively affect its economic and political developments.
“Their engagement can be efficient and effective, also because of their familiarity with the local culture, language and lifestyle,” Shujaku adds, while reminding us that the word ‘Germin’ is of Latin origin meaning ‘to grow’, ‘to prosper’.
In addition, Shujaku elaborates that the fundamental idea behind GERMIN was to establish a stronger and structured bridge between the diaspora community and the homeland countries, and engage them beyond remittances and financial relationship.
“Prior to the formalisation and official establishment of GERMIN, one of the first initiatives was in 2012, with the launching of the Kosovo Diaspora platform.
“This platform is a crowdsourcing digital engagement and diplomacy platform that connects Kosovars to the world, and the world with Kosovars.”
It uses social media to highlight and celebrate the achievements of individuals, groups, and organisations related to Kosovo.
“This platform strives to co-operate with all Diaspora communities, governmental and non-governmental agencies, private entities, and individuals to help strengthen the links between Diaspora and our home country and enhance the image of Kosovo through public and digital diplomacy.”
As GERMIN’s work lies in 24 countries, he shares his say on how the organisation builds cooperation with people in different countries.
“Thanks to the new technologies, and the strong network that we have developed through our projects, the partnerships with different organisations in the diaspora, surveys, and the power of social media we have been the go-to organisation for the Albanian Diaspora engagement.
“GERMIN uses a multi-dimensional approach for program delivery and social impact through our programmes which are: Advocacy and diplomacy, Diaspora Investments, Diaspora Philanthropy, Diaspora Professionals, and Youth and Education.
“Through our projects which fall within the five aforementioned themes, we engage different members of the diaspora community to take part and contribute to them.
“The development of the technology and different virtual channels, has facilitated our mission of engaging the diaspora members in our projects even without their physical presence in the home countries.”
The very first extensive project was The Structured Dialogue for Diaspora Rights (SDDR) which aimed to establish a collaboration between communities living abroad and public institutions in Kosovo, using contemporary technologies and informal channels of collective advocacy; by facilitating a two-way discussion between the Diaspora communities and Kosovo institutions on key national public policies.
Shujaku explains GERMIN used the new technologies and a powerful network created through SDDR to advocate for the diaspora voting rights.
“The network includes over 260 organisations, and over 30,000 community members regarding representation at the home country and direct participation through voting in the Kosovo election.
“As a Democratic Society Promotion (DSP) grantee, GERMIN has impacted a policy level, public discourse, structural aspect, and representation of Diaspora voices into policy-making through their direct engagement and feedback mechanisms created.”
GERMIN has established a diaspora professional task force and has been recognized many times for its approach and progress.
To put this in perspective, Shujaku recalls, since 2017, the number of the out of country voters who have applied to vote in the Kosovo Parliamentary Elections has increased over six times.
In 2017 being 20,103 applicants and in the latest Early Elections for the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo (2021), 130,168 applicants.
A Thousand Participants, 26 Countries
Further, we talked about the Diaspora Flet Conference (ENG: Diaspora Speaks), leading Global Albanian Diaspora Conference.
Hosted bi-annually, it aims to connect industry professionals, businesses, communities, activists, and experts from around the world to reflect on the Albanian Diaspora engagement in the 21st Century.
Both 2018 (physical) and 2020 (virtual) conferences have been huge successes, gathering over a thousand participants from 26 countries around the world and receiving rave reviews from them.
Bridging the Gap
Through know-how and skills transfer initiatives from diaspora to the homeland, we aim to bridge this gap, especially among youth.
For this, Germin has been implementing two projects.
DiasporaED an initiative that aims to engage highly qualified Diaspora professionals to share their know-how and skill transfer through presentations, talks, and design-thinking workshops to high school students age 15-18 in Kosovo and Albania, to develop and improving their soft-skills and preparing them for career development.
This initiative is very much needed and important for the future of our countries, as these youngsters lack knowledge and qualifications needed for the 21st century market needs.
Diaspora School which engages Diaspora, Albanian and Kosovo young professionals (age 18-35) to connect, share knowledge, and provide community solutions to some of the most pressing issues at the local level and brings together local and diaspora participants and experts, to see how they can work together to benefit people across the community.
Diaspora School in Kosovo
Diaspora School in Kosovo is an innovative initiative that aims to engage Diaspora, Albanian, and Kosovo young professionals (age 18-35) to connect, share knowledge, and provide community solutions to some of the most pressing issues at the local level.
The first DSK pilot project was held in 2017 in Prizren and Malisheva and brought together 50 youngsters from 17 different countries (26 from Kosovo and 22 from Diaspora and two from the region).
The designed, multidisciplinary diaspora school brings together local and diaspora participants and experts, to see how they can work together to benefit people across municipalities, the region, and beyond.
“Specifically, this project aims to facilitate the exchange and co-creation of ideas between Diaspora professionals and their Albanian counterparts in the areas with the most potential impact on local economic growth, while providing innovative and cost-effective solutions.”
Improving professional exchange will directly benefit people through knowledge exchange, technology transfer, and develop professional networks that will benefit Albania, Kosovo, and Diaspora young professionals in the future.
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