Armenia joins the Edgeryders

Hello everyone,

My name is Vahagn and I am actively involved in youth work of different levels in Armenia, organizing trainings, activist and cultural events, co-organizing cycling critical masses and flashmobs in Yerevan (the capital of Armenia), supporting different initiatives related to creative activism, helping Armenians to connect to the world in order to learn, share and exchange ideas and inspirations. I am happy to join this platform and offer my help in connecting you with Armenia in a way that it possibly can grow into a real, fruitful and emphatic communication between us.

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Welcome!

Hi Vahagn, great to see you’ve found your way on Edgeryders :slight_smile:

Do you have links to the projects you’re most proud of, I’m curious? I know Critical Mass, the concept has reached all over the world, so would be very interested to see if it works and how it works in Yerevan in terms of impact. You know once people are in the streets making a point about their cause  helps (it’s always better than not speaking out), but is there a way to measure the impact? do you see more people every time? is there a reaction from public authorities?

Would you be up for going through your networks and beyond to help find more people like you doing interesting work? What have you noticed it works when trying to mobilize youth for social and cultural causes in Armenia? Is networking on social media and facebook organizing most useful? Or do you need more physical meetups and planning every step so you get longer term mobilization?   

By the way, are you based in Yerevan or traveling?

Ok, enough with the questions :)) Thanks for joining us and thanks to Pavlik for making the connection!

Hi Noemi, thanks for welcoming me here! :slight_smile:

Yes I have links to some of the projects I took part in or co-organized, here are some of them:

Ökotopia: Experiment für eine bessere Zukunft – DW – 20.08.2010    this link is in German, it is about an annual environmental conference to which I brought groups of Armenian young people two times in the frame of EU Youth Program a few years ago, and the connections made during the conference later on helped to develop a good environmental activist atmosphere which later became a part of an environmental movement in Armenia, and it’s growing.

http://www.cultural.am/hy/norutyunner/lurer/nor-mshakutayin-tarr-mer-qsghaqum      This one is an article in Armenian about a cycling action called “Tie and Wind” :) but at least in the pictures it is visible what makes this cycling action unique - we cycle in more or less official clothing in order to promote the idea of cycling not only as an alternative for environmentally conscious people but also as a lifestyle that can be for everybody, including people who have to wear official cloths due to job requirements. This action was initiated by me and a few friends in 2013 and is becoming more and more known among the cyclist community in Yerevan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vk2Yy_80wDg&list=UU_vL5J8oU3G9HOX9lqRqSXA&index=5    Here I am sharing the video I made about a nice cultural initiative that took part in Germany in 2011 - Artsummer Wiesenburg. The idea was to get together and share ideas and experiences about upcycling and to create upcycled art together. As an outcome of this we later participated to other upcycling events in Germany and Latvia, multiplying the learned knowledge and gained experiences to wider public and opening it all up for the Armenian young people who took part in the project in Latvia called “Give a Chance to Upcycling”

This is a video I made in the frame of a professional development project in New York city in 2007, when I was experimenting on alternative ways of communication and using creative means of self-expression for voicing out deep societal issues and speaking out for human rights. The project was called Artquake and is being implemented in different forms continuously during my travels and collaborative actions with like-minded people around the world.

There is really a lot more to share, but not to make it too long, I’d just like to reflect on the impact that this kind of ideas and actions had and keep having on the minds of people in Yerevan, when being implemented locally. One of the first I would mention the “Tie and Wind” action which is something like a small scale critical mass that aims to attract people towards cycling not by just talking about the benefits of cycling, but also by showing that cycling can be stilish and eyecatching and fun:) This is an approach that helps to get more attention and works as a good advertising tool by itself. It is also a logical continuation of the traditional critical masses that are being regularly organized in Armenia, and evrry time there are more participants, which shows that the people start liking and getting really into it.

So, answering your question about measuring the impact - yes, there is a way, and it can be for example the amount of smiles we get when cycling in suits, or the statistical numbers of bicycles sold in Armenia annually (within a few years the numbers jumped up from a few dozens a year to about 15000 a year by the end of 2013!) Public authorities also got really enthusiastic and as a proof of it - I have a meeting with the vice-mayor of Yerevan, the representative of transport department of municipal office and a representative of the city police department this Thursday at 17:00 in Yerevan, to talk about the final cycling route plan of the center of Yerevan. Things start moving and it inspires even more:) I suspect that by the end of spring we may have a few cycling paths in Yerevan - the first functinal ones.

I think this is a good start and should be multiplied to more networks so we plan to implement more creative actions to reach a bigger number of cyclists in Armenia and to be able to demand better cycling infrastructures in the country. And this is just about cycling, but there are other fields that we are active in and when I say we I mean a few hundreds of people who keep moving towards realization of ideas that earlier sounded either impossible or very hard, and now they are becoming real day by day.

I like the task of mobilizing youth for social and cultural causes in Armenia, because even if from the first glance the youth in Armenia seems to be inactive, when you inspire them, unbelievable things start happening, and this is really interesting for me.  Facebook and other social networks are really active in Armenia, much more than in many other countries that I visited. I am still trying to understand why:) But I kind of like it because it helps to reach out people. And at the same time I have some preference for real meetups, face to face communication, tea evenings (teavenings:) , cinema nights, cycling events and picnicks etc, because that is when a more real connection can be made and real inspirations can be generated.   

By the way, are you I am mainly based in Yerevan / mountains nearby, but this year I plan some travels, mainly around Berlin, probably Sankt Petersburg, Portugal, Ukraine, Sweden etc. In the coming months I will be 50/50 in Armenia and outside, but since a lot of interesting things are happening spontanously, I don’t like planning too much, I leave some chance for being flexible in plans and I am freelancer, so quite free to decide where to be and what to do.

Wow, this was a long session of not only sharing but also self-reflection. Thanks for creating a reason by asking those questions Naomi:)

Thanks dear Pavlik for connecting us!

Looking forward to our collaboration on this platform and anywhere else where the platform brings us!:slight_smile:

Impressive

Hi [Vahagn], this seems an impressive collection of achievements. Congratulations!

And this:

even if from the first glance the youth in Armenia seems to be inactive, when you inspire them, unbelievable things start happening, and this is really interesting for me.

This resonates with the experience of most of us. What you say about Armenians is very likely true of everyone else as well. Humanity is more resourceful than it seems. 

I am curious about the “few hundreds of people” moving in the same direction. Can you tell us more about them? Who are they? What do they do? What sort of projects are they trying to create?

Thanks Alberto!

Hi Alberto, thanks for your encouraging message!

I agree, this same idea can work for everyone everywhere. Humanity is more resourceful than it seems, you are right. We just need to look deep enough to see it.

The “few hundreds of people” moving in the same direction - they are the mostly young people who are driven by some inner natural force not to agree on what’s wrong and keep trying to realize what they believe in. They may at times exaggerate in the ways they express anger and act against the system which is mainly the reason for anger, but in general they try to find the most creative and peaceful solutions and they mostly generate and send very powerful messages to the public, especially when they act totally independent from primitive energies of this or that political party…   Who are they? youngsters, students, educated youth or just people of very different ages, affected by the system in some negative way and motivated to make a change. Depends on the case. Armenia is a country with so many issues that once you get into activism - you hardly find time for yourself anymore. The typical projects that they are trying to create are environmental campaigns against mining companies or whatever others that act against the law and damage the environments etc… There are a few initiatives of creative activism too.

In general I think Armenia is a very interesting country not only because of rich history and culture, but also because of the dynamics of social and cultural changes, that can be very different depending on the case, but in average they are happening quick, with lots of energies involved, in addition to the Caucasian temperament already present by default:)