My Road

22.02.2024
Thoughts
Shaping Armenia's Future: Perspectives from Nazareth and Hrayr
Shaping Armenia's Future: Perspectives from Nazareth and Hrayr
 
As Armenia confronts a pivotal moment in its history, marked by significant challenges, a strategic approach to its development has become more pressing than ever. The Engage Armenia Forum 2024 in Europe, a meaningful initiative by Repat Armenia, brings together influential voices in this endeavor. Among them are Nazareth Seferian and Hrayr Barsoumian, two individuals whose diverse backgrounds and experiences offer a comprehensive insight into the potential paths Armenia can take, driven by the collective efforts of its global community.

Nazareth Seferian, a key figure in sustainable business and social entrepreneurship, has been transforming the landscape of corporate social responsibility and social enterprise in Armenia since 2008. His journey from managing sustainability projects to becoming an independent consultant reflects a deep commitment to creating a sustainable future for Armenia. As a board member of Impact Hub Yerevan, Nazareth has been integral in nurturing a community dedicated to social innovation and impact, a testament to his belief in the power of collective action.

In parallel, Hrayr Barsoumian's expertise in financial management, business consulting, and risk management offers a pragmatic perspective on Armenia's economic landscape. Having repatriated in 2018, Hrayr's experiences in different countries enrich his understanding of global best practices, which he now applies in his role as founder and CEO of Optimize Consulting. As an instructor and mentor, Hrayr is actively involved in guiding the next generation of Armenian entrepreneurs and business leaders.
 

Personal Motivations: A Call to Action


The motivations driving both Nazareth and Hrayr to participate in the Engage Armenia Forum 2024 are deeply rooted in their personal connections to Armenia. For Nazareth, the essence of his involvement in the forum is to bridge the significant gap that exists between the Armenian diaspora and the homeland. He perceives this relationship as a "two-way street," where both the homeland and the diaspora must mutually strengthen and enrich each other, emphasizing the need for a shared vision for Armenia's future, a vision that is more critical now than ever given the existential challenges that Armenia faces.

Having moved to Armenia in 1998, Nazareth has lived through the country's transformations while maintaining strong family connections across the globe. This unique experience provides him with a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities in forging a stronger bond between Armenia and its global community. He speaks of the diaspora's engagement with Armenia often being limited to short visits or cultural affiliations. "Many [Armenians in the diaspora] do not feel a strong connection to the Republic of Armenia as it exists today, not even those who have strong Armenian identities and are active in their communities. Engage Armenia will allow me to better understand how some of our compatriots in Europe see things, and it will allow me to discuss how they can connect more meaningfully with our homeland," he says. 

Hrayr echoes this sentiment, highlighting the richness that comes from engaging with Armenians worldwide. "It's about new ideas, new perceptions, and new horizons," he notes, underlining the importance of diverse perspectives in shaping Armenia's path forward. Born in Lebanon, Hrayr moved to Armenia nearly six years ago. As a former member of the Armenian diaspora, he firmly believes in the necessity of engagement with our homeland. “Armenia is the homeland of all Armenians worldwide, and each of us can find a way to connect and contribute that aligns with our priorities. It's essential to always stay connected and engaged with our homeland. We all share the responsibility of contributing to its rise and prosperity," Hrayr notes. 

Nazareth's work in social entrepreneurship and Hrayr's expertise in business consulting converge on a common goal: empowering Armenia through sustainable and economically viable initiatives. Nazareth's vision for social enterprises is not just about addressing social challenges but also contributing to Armenia's economic growth. The VIA Fund, the first impact fund for social enterprises in Armenia, exemplifies this approach, offering a sustainable investment model that continuously supports impactful businesses.

"We already have several investors from the Diaspora who have contributed to our fund; their contributions are redistributed to social enterprises as non-interest loans, which come back to the fund and are then given to other social enterprises," Nazareth explains. "Your contribution is not a one-time donation but an investment that keeps going from one impactful business to the other."

Hrayr, focusing on the business landscape, highlights the evolving role of consultants in Armenia's business decision-making. "Representing the business sphere in this forum, particularly from the consulting industry, I want to emphasize the growing significance of consultants in guiding business decisions and investments. I believe that the diaspora greatly benefits from having reliable partners and effective methodologies to enhance their business involvement in the homeland," he explains. 

Both speakers hope to educate, inspire, and learn from the Armenian diaspora through their participation in the Engage Armenia Forum. Nazareth aims to showcase the success stories of social enterprises in Armenia, encouraging the diaspora to invest in impactful and sustainable projects. Hrayr intends to provide a realistic understanding of the business environment in Armenia, helping diaspora members navigate the complexities of investing and setting up businesses in their homeland.
 

The Vision for Armenia's Future: Unity, Action, and Engagement


Both Nazareth and Hrayr emphasize the importance of unity and action. Nazareth urges the Armenian community, regardless of differing visions, to work towards a strong and stable Armenia. "I hope to share some great examples of the social enterprises we are working with and how this additional support is transforming lives in the country. I believe this will motivate them to join the impact investment movement, giving [Armenians in the Diaspora] a new avenue to engage with Armenia and contribute to meaningful and sustainable change," he says.

Drawing on his rich experiences in Lebanon and Armenia, Hrayr emphasizes the importance of thoughtful engagement in Armenia's development. "It is important to consider every detail to achieve successful projects and avoid disappointments when engaging with Armenia. Often, disappointments result from a lack of research, professional processes, and accurate calculations, leading to businesses and investments being based more on emotion than actual studies," he says. 

Both Nazareth and Hrayr are poised to offer strategic direction and insight at the Engage Armenia Forum 2024. Their narratives, rich in enthusiasm and real-world wisdom, are set to provide a grounded yet inspiring vision for Armenia's future. 

As the tour embarks on its journey through key European cities, it promises to be a dynamic platform for dialogue, learning, and collaboration, strengthening the ties between Armenia and its global diaspora. This event stands not just as a series of discussions but as a catalyst for actionable change and a renewed commitment to Armenia's prosperous development.​​​

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