Grigor Yeritsyan: Organizing Young People in Armenia to Be Positive Change-Makers
Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! Today I’m excited to cruise around Armenia with Grigor Yeritsyan, co-founder and CEO of the NGO Armenian Progressive Youth.
Spiffy: Welcome Grigor, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me! What can you tell me and our audience about the challenges that you are addressing?
Grigor: Thanks for visiting, Spiffy! I am very proud to talk to you about one of the largest youth movements in Armenia — the Armenian Progressive Youth (APY). APY started out as a small student initiative and has become one of the largest professional youth organizations in the country. This has been a long journey towards youth empowerment by working to develop the skills and knowledge of young people and engage them in community life. For about 11 years, I have been actively advocating for more youth participation and more youth engagement in civic, political and economic domains. Through APY, I have organized young people around initiatives aimed at positive social and political changes, trying to inspire and motivate young citizens to take the lead and act as change-makers.
Spiffy: Be the Change! What motivated you to devote yourself to the youth of your country?
Grigor: When my friends and I founded APY 11 years ago, we did so with a simple and bold idea: to give a voice to young people. From our first small community project back in 2009 to now being one of the most dynamic and fast-growing youth organizations in Europe, our mission has never wavered. Thousands of young people joined our mission and made APY a movement that transforms lives. Having grown up in a society defined by power, corruption, and injustice, I have always believed that I have a responsibility to make a difference and shape a better future for myself and my generation. This is how APY came about — to support young people to achieve their full potential and become movers and shakers who influence positive change.
Spiffy: With this clear vision, how is APY working towards a more equitable world?
Grigor: Well, Spiffy, boosting the potential of young people, empowering, engaging, and inspiring them to succeed as citizens, entrepreneurs, and change-makers: these things are at the heart of our efforts. We do this by building capacity, helping youth acquire new knowledge and skills, providing mobility opportunities, and engaging youth in volunteering programs. Within our current programming, we provide capacity development training on entrepreneurship and soft skills. In the long run, we aim to foster the employability and self-employability of the young population in Armenia and decrease the levels of poverty and urbanization.
Grigor Yeritsyan facilitating an international workshop for 35 young people from 15 different countries. (Photo courtesy of Grigor Yeritsyan)
Spiffy: What about any new initiatives? What have you been working on lately and what kind of impact is it having?
Grigor: In recent months, APY has shifted its scope of work and launched a rapid humanitarian assistance initiative to support displaced families, particularly women and children from Nagorno-Karabakh — a landlocked region where a deadly war left thousands of people homeless in 2020. Since the war broke out on September 27th 2020, APY mobilized young people across Armenia to support displaced families by providing food, cloths, hygiene items, and other basic necessities. Through our active volunteer network, APY has worked tirelessly during the entire COVID-19 pandemic and war to support as many displaced families as possible. APY has supported about 30,000 war-affected people by helping them to survive poverty and hunger.
Spiffy: That’s amazing, Grigor. With all this hard work, have you ever experienced failure? What did you do and what did you learn?
Grigor: Well, Spiffy, like so many people and organizations, APY faced unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just when our communities and vulnerable beneficiaries needed us the most. My colleagues and I were in a state of uncertainty and despair due to a myriad of simultaneous challenges — a funding crisis, the war on our doorstep, and the urgent need to cover the immediate humanitarian needs of our community. We had to either stop our operations or find an alternative solution. That is when we decided to stop all our ongoing projects and shift the scope of our work. Together with my team, we have transformed our office into a Rapid Response Center for refugees, offering psychological, social, educational and humanitarian support to war evacuees and the displaced. It's been one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences.
Spiffy: I’ve learned so much from you today, Grigor. Thank you for talking to me about the situation in Armenia, and sharing about the contributions of your country’s youth. It’s been an honor!
Grigor Yeritsyan is a co-founder and CEO of the Armenian Progressive Youth NGO, a One Young World Ambassador and an elected member of Yerevan City Council, the legislative body of Armenia’s capital. Mr. Yeritsyan is a political scientist and community leader with considerable experience in organizing young people. He is the founder of several civic initiatives, non-profits and an author of articles and publications on civil society development and youth empowerment. (Nominated by One Young World)