Editor’s Note: The 10th Homenetmen General Convention in Armenia (Sept. 2011) approved a detailed strategic plan that gives a clear direction to our organization. The final outcome of this strategic plan is to bring the necessary CHANGE within the organization to keep it vibrant, effective, beneficial as well as timely and relevant to the current and next generations. The underlying principles of the strategic plan are: a pan Armenian approach, flexible solutions to global challenges, and the necessity of culture change. This plan, the blueprint of which is being presented below, is currently at the beginning of its implementation phase.
BY SHAHE YENI-KOMSHIAN, M.D.
Two major developments that evolved over the past few decades have left a lasting impression on the Armenian national geopolitical situation. First and foremost, with the advent of independent Armenia in1991, once again the Republic took center stage and grabbed the focus of the Armenian nation. Over the past 21 years much improvement has occurred in Armenia but it is fair to say that the state and its government have not been willing to prioritize social values in support of the advancement of a civil society. Parallel to this, and over four decades, sociopolitical developments in several Middle Eastern countries elicited emigration of a large numbers of Armenians to western countries. The combination of these two geopolitical events compelled the old Armenian Diaspora to become more heterogeneous. As a result, today’s Diaspora is comprised of a number of well-organized communities with the complexity of multiple subcultures, and of others that lack critical mass and/or an organized infrastructure.
Due to this new reality, the Armenian nation is now facing new challenges. A large Russian Diaspora has emerged and is just beginning to get organized. At the same time, the older Diaspora of Armenians residing in western countries and to a lesser extent the Middle Eastern societies, is experiencing the stress of integration with local societies. Concurrent with the above, globalization of the world as we knew it has changed with alarming rates, and information technology has impacted all aspects of our lives and in particular the lives of our youth. The result is a new and vibrant generation of young Armenians with dual identity existence, one of Armenian ethnic origin and another of the country of birth (or residence).
Those are serious national challenges that any concerned leadership needs to address. It is clear that neither the Armenian identity (in its traditional sense) will be sustained in the Diaspora nor would good citizenship be developed in Armenia, by a passive approach. Accordingly, an organization such as Homenetmen that strives to impact our society through scouting and sports will not succeed in its mission without adjustments and strategic change. Well conscious of the above, Homenetmen has analyzed its national responsibilities and has begun the journey of change through strategic planning, by attempting to define itself better, enhance its image, and most importantly find better solutions to an array of internal challenges.
Homenetmen is now a pan Armenian organization, active in the Republic as well as in the Diaspora. One would expect that an experienced youth organization with a solid infrastructure such as Homenetmen gathers a high strategic relevance with respect to the Armenian nation’s overall national aspirations. With its broad appeal and its apolitical yet patriotic mission, Homenetmen is the organization that is best suited to inspire and educate a large majority of the Armenian youth, including the disengaged youth.
The reality is that when it comes to national relevance, Homenetmen needs to improve its image within the Armenian nation. Common sense implies that no Armenian organization or institution should work in a vacuum; all should seek the same ultimate national outcome which is to forge a stronger Armenian nation. Each organization has its activity niche and program priorities. For Homenetmen this translates into educating the adolescents, the youth and the next generations to develop better values, helping them become successful and engaged citizens while strengthening their Armenian identity and commitment to the Armenian nation. The methods which Homenetmen uses for this purpose are through scouting and sports.
As a collective group, Homenetmen’s contribution to our nation, society and to the communities that it serves, has been and continues to be highly undervalued. Yes, Homenetmen is perceived as an organization that creates long lasting friendships through scouting and sports. Homenetmen is also considered a good vehicle to visually show the Armenian collective force of its critical mass in parades and flag ceremonies or when organizing successful tournaments, jamborees and marches. In some countries, its success in soccer games has translated into national pride. However the true national value of Homenetmen transcends emotions. It resides in the fact that a truly large critical mass of young Armenians , at any given time tens of thousands, are being imbibed for many years in a healthy Armenian environment and consequently a significant number of them become leaders and activists in a multitude of other organizations and institutions, and or engaged supporters.
Homenetmen is the national institutional “factory” which at a younger age molds the future Armenian. No other organization has its critical mass and very few have its draw. Strategically this is a reality that needs to be better appreciated by all policymakers and stakeholders of the Armenian nation, because if handled successfully it will have a tremendous effect on the future of our nation. BUT IT IS UP TO HOMENETMEN TO IMPROVE ITS IMAGE and MAKE ITSELF RELEVANT. Homenetmen and its leadership have realized this important strategic national role, and given more recent national challenges, there has been further conviction of the necessity to modernize our organization. Our Strategic Plan and the process of change have this vision in mind.
Internally, Homenetmen first has to reinvent itself by becoming an efficient, modern and more attractive organization, and secondly, reemphasize the core principles of its Mission. These are not mutually exclusive. This implies that the organization has to captivate the interests of today’s youth, but make sure they are having fun while being mentored to become responsible socially engaged individuals, willing to also serve the Armenian nation. This also implies that Armenians from all different subcultures should feel welcomed and be served by Homenetmen, including those who do not speak the Armenian language. Going forward, as a policy, Homenetmen will focus equally on adolescents and young adults who have limited or no ability to communicate in the Armenian language.
There has never been any doubt about our members’ individual and collective commitment and dedication, but as an organization, at times, we forget to be outcomes oriented. It is essential not to confuse the organization’s ultimate Mission with mere activities or projects, however important those projects may be. The act of organizing a sports tournament, or any event, is the threshold or lowest denominator of the desired outcome and should not be considered as the final objective of any activity. The objectives of our activities, programs and projects have to transcend the immediate social or financial benefit and should strive to achieve the added benefit of proper knowledge, positive behavior and solid values, affecting a large majority of Homenetmen members, particularly the young scouts and athletes. Homenetmen has a well-defined value system for its course of action and the scouts have 12 excellent core values articulated in the scout law. We should abide by those and act accordingly. This does not preclude having fun and enjoying the moment; it merely emphasizes the leadership’s understanding the importance of linking any project or activity to a beneficial change. As it relates to the Armenian Republic, there is need for a clear differentiation from the pack, which means that our organization Homenetmen – HASK needs to train and educate its scouts and members with such moral and social values, that as Armenian citizens they have a reasonable chance to positively impact the nation and its civil society. This is the only way that Homenetmen can justify its relevance and this is why developing a solid Strategic Plan is necessary to clarify our future path and operationalize future outcome oriented activities.
The implementation of such a goal is hard work and implies a change in the current culture, values and operational processes of our organization. The Strategic Plan will attempt accomplish these tasks. The plan was reached and agreed upon after a thorough evaluation of many factors including analysis of the Homenetmen tradition and experience, review of its Mission and Core Values, evaluation of the current challenges of the Armenian nation and the need for more synergy with other Armenian institutions. Geopolitical changes and demographic shifts, as well as the implications of unequal critical mass and the need for operational flexibility, were analyzed. The challenges with the use of the Armenian language were acknowledged. The much essential embracement of technology and new methods in attracting the youth were also addressed. In this process the entire scope of Homenetmen programs/activities were screened, the decline of the experienced dedicated human resources was evaluated and the value of volunteerism and need for professionals in governance were acknowledged. Last but not least, necessary innovation in operations and the organization’s structure, and financial planning and transparent accounting, were evaluated.
It is with a broad pan Armenian (Republic of Armenia and Diaspora) national perspective and an outcome oriented vision, that Homenetmen’s 10th General Assembly adopted the details of the Strategic Plan. The Central Executive Committee endorsed the idea of change and appointed a Strategic Planning Implementation Committee to guide this process of change. Admittedly we have an ambitious plan, but it is intended to be realistic. The success of this Strategic Plan will depend on the ability to produce the necessary change within the culture of Homenetmen, as well as the selection of hard working and flexible leadership at all levels, who are brave enough to endorse the difficult changes and are dedicated enough to implement the plan. Identification and mobilization of true believers, or change agents, in all Homenetmen Regions and its 104 Chapters all over the world, and prioritization of goals, will greatly help the implementation of this plan.
As we look into the future of the Armenian nation, be it in the Republic of Armenia or the Diaspora, it becomes clear that reemphasizing the unique Homenetmen values by focusing advocacy efforts on wellness and fitness, public service, education, and strengthening of Armenian families, is where we should direct our efforts. Historically our organization has been serving those in the youth who are fluent in Armenian but now our target is all of the youth, Armenian speaking or not. Engaging the Armenian youth with their Armenian identity and providing them opportunities to be in sync with Armenian issues will be one of the most, if not the most, important national objective. The challenge is to balance all of the above strategic objectives with enjoyable and fun activities.
It is the youth that will anchor the necessary support to the Republic of Armenia in the very near future, and it will be the youth that will take over the governance reigns in the Diaspora. Without a patriotic, motivated and dedicated youth who is properly educated about its Armenian identity and is able to transform its dual Armenian and non-Armenian identities from a seemingly conflict status into an asset, no national goal can be pursued. If this is not a nationally relevant objective, what is?
Homenetmen serves a large critical mass of the Armenian youth, all around the world, and its Strategic Plan will try to realize just that.