Expanding Education to Those in Need in Armenia with Samvel Movsisyan

August 4, 2020

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Samvel Movsisyan studied IT business management at European Regional Academy.

During a visit to an orphanage with a team of course-mates, they encountered a child who didn’t dare or have sufficient knowledge to dream or achieve anything for their future. So he founded Future is Open, an educational NGO to empower disadvantaged children (from orphanages to remote villages to needy families) and open the future for them by creating educational programs and connecting the children with volunteers from higher educational institutions. He also founded Leadership School Foundation which helps discover and empower innovative future leaders with diversified education, study of innovative ideas, analysis of unique work experiences, and effective practical projects.

With expanding efforts and contributions to our region of South Caucasus, namely the countries of Georgia and Iran, they are currently implementing Leadership School Regional Campus project to support the future leaders of the region and Diaspora for shared development and prosperity.

John Shegerian: This edition of the impact podcast is brought to you by the Marketing Masters. The Marketing Masters is a boutique marketing agency offering website development and digital marketing services to small and medium businesses across America. For more information on how they can help you grow your business online, please visit the marketingmasters.com.

John: Welcome to another edition of the impact podcast. I am so honored today to have my good friend, Samvel Movsisyan and he is from Armenia. He is calling in from Yerevan. Welcome to the impact podcast, Samvel.

Samvel Movsisyan: Thank you very much, Mr. Shegerian for this great opportunity. It is a great honor for me to join this conversation.

John: Hey, before we get chatting too much, I just want to also say hello to all of our wonderful friends and family members in Armenia. [foreign language]. I love Armenia and you were one of the main reasons I had such a wonderful first experience there. You were so kind enough and generous enough to ask me to share some of my experiences with your Leadership School and you are the founder of the Leadership School. Can you please before we get talking about all the great things you are doing with the Leadership School, can you share your journey a little bit, Samvel? How you got and where you are today? Growing up in Armenia, how you eventually created the Leadership School?

Samvel: Yes. Sure. Thank you very much for your question. First of all, I hate the idea of helping needy children in Armenia. With our student group, we visit to Gyumri and that time we had an orphanage in Cambridge called House of Hope. We visited there and we saw that there are more than hundred children who are living in that orphanage. We take with us some clothes, sweets, and different souvenirs as a gift for them. But later we understand that these children they need some communication. They need some love. They need some opportunity to interact. I asked the director if we can just have one hour, not official communication and he say, “Okay, your time started.” At that time, I just went to the second floor to see in which condition these children are sleeping. When I opened the door, I saw that in the corner there was an eleven years old boy sitting and crying. When I came to this guy and said, “Why are you crying?” And he told me that “Do you know I want to be like you.” This, “I want to be like you,” changed all my life. That moment I understand what is God’s gift to have family, friends, and opportunity just to live by yourself. That moment in our brief conversation with this eleven years old boy, we came to the point that he wants to be shoe maker and to be an orphanage director maximum. I told him, “Imagine that if you can be the president of Armenia after thirty or forty years,” and he smiled. He changed his face. He changed his attitude. Then I told him, “If you work hard and educate well, just do that that you can do. Impossible is nothing.”

Samvel: I took his hand and we went to the room where my other student colleagues playing with children and I told them, “Guys, from this day we have a promise and our promise, is to help children not with these gifts or souvenirs. We do help children through education.” Since 2004, I am keeping my promise and still we continue to do our projects. Why I told this brief story to you because it is very important. It is very fundamental for the Leadership School story. Because Leadership School is born from these opportunities and interactions with the children. Mainly, in 2006, our research shows that these children want to leave the country. They do not see their future in Armenia. We came to the point that we need more servant leaders in Armenia. With my friends, we decided to find Leadership School and we did a lot of research. We did a lot of conversations with different professionals. We came to the idea that we are going to find a Leadership School where we are going to educate as future servant leaders in our country. Step by step, we large our branches in our region. I am really very proud that now we are moving forward and we have this dream to be one of the best institution as a Leadership School in our region, South Caucasus region.

John: How many years ago was this that you founded it?

Samvel: It is already more than ten years.

John: Ten years? Wow. For our listeners out there, we have got Samvel Movsisyan and he is on the line with me direct from Yerevan, Armenia. He is the founder of the Leadership School foundation. For people who want to find it, they could go to www.leadershipschool.am. Where else can they find you, Samvel on LinkedIn, Facebook, and where else?

Samvel: Yes. I am very open to communicate and discuss possible collaboration with the people who see some partnership. Through Linkedin and Facebook, I am available to communicate and to discuss future opportunities. And of course, also in our website, we have also email addresses that they can reach and we are very actively replying to the emails.

John: Perfect. You know, Samvel, Armenia under this new leadership is truly becoming a nation with so much innovation going on. Can you talk about the importance of what you are doing with the Leadership School foundation and how you are driving more innovation in Armenia at a time where innovation is critical?

Samvel: Yes, sure. Thank you for your question. In Leadership School, we believe that theory plus practice you success because only theory is not enough. Only practice is not enough. Therefore, we try to combine these two directions that we can encourage young generation to do innovation. I am really very happy to see that they have a lot of professional alumna students who are running different businesses starting from Dental Clinic to IT companies, from Design companies to Finance Audit companies. These students are very hardworking and very innovative. Also, they have the spirit of giving back to society because we always teach this in our school that whoever you will be in your life starting from the top level of businessman or the country president, always remember you should give back to society. As I already mentioned in my story, Leadership School story also created on that example that we started to work with orphaned children, and then we started to develop, to work, and to educate more servant leaders. Regarding to innovation, we always try to connect different abroad professionals with the local students. For example, we had a project that we did with our alumna. We invited from New York the Medical Tourism Association president and she came to Armenia with her staff, three of them. Here, we had a discussion with the government and also with some of our students. For example, at this moment, after this visit, one of our students developing Dental tourism in Armenia project initiative. I mean different such opportunities that they are trying to connect. Also, for example, we did a project with UNDP, we invited the Sophia Humanoid Robot for Armenia and we tried to inspire young generation that they can think about artificial intelligence. That they can think about robotics and different opportunities of technology how they can create and innovate and make Armenia and South Caucasus bleak in the world map.

John: Understood, we are now living still, Samvel during this COVID-19 crisis, how have you adjusted your Leadership School Foundation teaching opportunities and learning opportunities during COVID-19?

Samvel: Frankly speaking, let us say I will divide your question in two directions.

John: Okay.

Samvel: First, difficulties. Of course, the current human interaction and communication. The second part, I want to mention that this is really a great opportunity because in Leadership School we teach our students that whenever you see a problem, see or find their opportunity and solution. In this sense, we also did as an institution in Leadership School, for example, when this COVID-19 came for life. What we did, in a very quick way, we change our model and from offline, we became an online institution. What is interesting that more than two hundred professionals around the globe and what is so interesting, most of them are not Armenians. They agreed to join to the program and to share their knowledge in the topics that we have in our curriculum. This is really very, very inspiring because there are a lot professionals who are involved in this way to our platform. Their hours are really very, very high and expensive. If you will think about covered expenses, we cannot. But these people understood the idea of Leadership School and also our initiatives to empower and develop young leaders in our region. They are giving their time and opportunities. I want to say a big thank you to those people because I think that I will also share this conversation with them. These people, professional people, who are sharing the knowledge with our students. These people makes Leadership School happen.

John: Yes. Do you believe in the future even once things get more normal after we get to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis? Will you integrate the online with the offline as a future opportunity to continue learning for and teaching at the Leadership School?

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Samvel: Yes, absolutely, we will do that. Because, for example, at this stage, we have more than four times classes in a week with our students. When these difficult days that will pass, we will keep this online opportunities to share knowledge to our students. But of course, we also have the offline opportunities because we have also a lot of professionals in Armenia and also in our region, also different cases that we should do in practice. We should take students to that platforms. We should, for example, we have a project for our students that we called business dinner etiquette. What we do, we do a dinner for them and we serve food. Professionals are sharing or introducing the way how they should behave or communicate near the table. And this, everything we do in practice. We have a case of communication, how a leader should give an interview to media. Again, we are doing practice in different such opportunities or directions that we have in our curriculum, we do this in practice. Also because as I mentioned in the beginning, I believe our team thinks the same way on the same path that theory plus practice is success and the same with education.

John: Understood, I know that you are working on the Leadership School Regional Campus Project, can you share with our listeners what the Leadership School Regional Campus Project is, and how it is evolving?

Samvel: Yes, thank you very much for this question because this is really very, very important for Armenia and also for our region. Even this COVID-19 somehow change our plans, but it will never change our vision and dreams because we are passionate to create this campus in Armenia. We are passionate to make this one of the best institution in our region. Regarding to this platform before the COVID, we already made whole plan how we are going to do the fundraising, how the platform will go because the fundamental point of this campus is that all people around the globe in Armenia, they should participate, they should be involved in the process. Because we do not want that this will be, for example, let us say supported by PU or USAID rather institutions only. We want that this will be supported by ordinary people like me who believe in education, who believe in innovation and development and they want to take a part in this campaign. It is a process. Therefore, what we did, we already change our model of campaign and soon will come to public. The first direction will be that we are going to have thought to volunteers around the globe. People who want to give their time to join to our team and to support us to raise money to create the curriculum, to create the directions of the education that we are open to have.

Samvel: The second is very important also that we have the initiative until the end of this year that we want to raise one million dollars. How do we want to raise? The idea is one person just donating one dollar and it will be one million dollars. It means we need one million people. Each of them will donate one dollar and we are going to raise one million dollars. Next year, we will start our construction, especially the three buildings on the campus that they can already open the area and start to work and then move forward the other buildings and other opportunities that we want to bring to the campus and to develop young leaders in the region.

John: Wonderful. I hope that happens because I know everything that you touch is good and only creates a better Armenia and a better future. You are always making an impact and everything you do. Talk a little bit about the future, besides the Leadership School Regional Campus Project, what future trends do you think will happen in technology and how all the technology play a role in that in Armenia?

Samvel: John, before I will come to this question, please let me divide your question in three parts.

John: Okay.

Samvel: The first part that always inspired me is the idea to help children in need.

John: Okay.

Samvel: I believe that we should stand by to children who has a dream. Who has a dream and we can support them to achieve because there are a lot of moments that I am thinking that maybe I am a child in an orphanage, that I am a child in far villages, border villages of Armenia. If there would be an opportunity that someone will give me an opportunity or some [inaudible] will empower me and inspire me, I will really make an impact in the world and in the country. Therefore, we believe in this first and important point that through our CSR direction to continue to help children in need through education– this is the first part. The second part is to make the Leadership School one of the best institution in South Caucasus region because we believe that in this concept of theory plus practice is success, we really have a lot of opportunities. We have a lot of dreams and ideas to make it happen. To educate not only Armenians but also Georgians, also Iranians. Lots of people who are hungry to learn and to innovate. Coming to your question to the third part, as I mentioned already that as we are trying to bring different people who are professional in technological theory. For example, we invited last year two years ago, Dr. Stephen Pemberton, by the way, he is the first internet user in Europe. Mr. Pemberton came to Armenia. He came to Armenia free of charge. He came to Armenia to teach the young generation here. He came to Armenia and he loved Armenia and he promised me after the COVID, he wants to be back with his family. People like Dr. Pemberton and you, Mr. Shagerian, people like you inspire us to continue to do more. Therefore, for technological development, we see, of course, Armenian people are talented. They have a lot of engineering skills that they can innovate. Also, very important that we do not want to be an outsourcing country. We want to be a country where we create innovative products that we are making worlds to bleak as a country, as a people who are creating innovative products. They are trying to use these resources of internet and to involve a lot of people around the block and to promote and to have a lot of opportunities to share our knowledge and know-how with [inaudible].

Samvel: They have such a different examples in our Leadership School community, for example, like Picsart. Picsart co-founder, for example, Artavazd. He is giving a lecture every year to our students. Also, he is hosting our students in their office. All the time, whenever we visit to that place, he is opening the doors and trying to inspire students that they can also not to think only about just leadership but to think about leadership plus technology, which will create and bring innovation. Therefore, a lot of such professionals, not only in Armenia but also Armenian [inaudible] that we are really very proud and thankful that these people are supporting different initiatives. Also, a very important point that Leadership School is not a business. Leadership School is an idea and we never ever ask any money from anyone around the globe. We are bringing ideas and people are coming. They are bringing that opportunities and we are trying to develop that together. Not only we are saying we can do everything and we know everything. No. Let us develop ideas. Let us work together. Because these unite platforms are successful. In the unite platforms that we are being inspired and also that opportunities we can create for our young generation as future leaders that they can think about leadership and that they can think about technology. They can combine and have opportunities of innovative ideas to make Armenia and our region blinking the world map.

John: I love it. For our listeners who just joined us, I am so excited today to have Samvel Movsisyan. He is the founder of the Leadership School Foundation. To find Samvel and his great foundation, you could go to www.leadershipschool.am. You could also find them on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook. I am on his website now and it is a beautiful website. Lots of information and lots of further reading and ways to interact with the Leadership School. Samvel, I know you are expanding your efforts in the Southern Region, and specifically, Georgia and Iran in the South Caucasus area, can you share with our listeners more of the work you are doing towards that area as well?

Samvel: Yes, of course. As I mentioned, for example, we started projects from 2013 in Georgia. We are doing a lot of classes in Georgia. We are doing a lot of exchange programs. We are also doing not only exchange programs for students but also exchange programs for professionals. For example, we already have a very, very good friendship with the American Chamber of Commerce president of Georgia, Mr. Michael Cowgill. It is already more than three years. Every year he is visiting Armenia and not only he is just visiting by himself. No, he always invites different professions around the globe and bringing them, inviting them to Armenia and trying to activate the relationship between our countries. People like, Mr. Cowgill, they are really very supportive because they are helping us to see the opportunities and to be in touch. Today’s world networking is very important.

If you have connections, if you have opportunities that you can try to create and collaboration between, it really will bring success. Regarding to Iran and same we did with Iran, in 2017, we invited more than fifteen Iranian startups to Armenia. It was really very inspiring to see a lot of interest between Iranian and Armenian youth to communicate and to work together. It is also very inspiring because we should work together in our region. Otherwise, Armenia or Georgia, we are too small. We should be united and to be an interesting and unique destination for different country people that they will be interested to visit or to collaborate with our market. My vision besides, as I mentioned in the beginning that this regional collaboration is very important. In the beginning, maybe I do not remember if I mentioned, we are not a political and not religious institutions. For us, it is very important just to educate young generation as the future business leaders.

Samvel: I really want to highlight this point because this is very important. For us, it does not matter who are these people, their religion, their beliefs their interest, we really want to communicate with the human who believes that hope for the idea that we can develop our region. Therefore, we continue our work with our Georgian, Iranians, and different other countries professionals. We believe that this partnership, not for five or ten years results, but we are looking forward to see twenty, thirty, forty years results that we believe in.

John: I know you are going to see the results because I met your students. You kindly asked me to come to share some of my experiences with your students at your school. It was one of the most impressive groups of young people I have ever met in my life. I know the quality of work you are doing and I will tell you what, I cannot wait to come back to Armenia and meet the next group of students at your school. Samvel, we are running short on time. I just want to ask you, do you have any final thoughts for our listeners out there before we have to sign off for today?

Samvel: As you mentioned that after your revisit, you had also this inspiration been interacting with Leadership School students. I just want to mention a point that all professionals around the globe that at this moment they are sharing their knowledge with our students. After every lecture, I received an email about this context that they are mentioning that they are proud and honored to give a talk to this Armenian students because they are very active. They are very talented and they are hungry to learn and to use this knowledge for the development of their country and region. In this context, I want to say a big thank you to the people who are supporting us with their knowledge, who are supporting with their connections and contacts because as I mentioned we do not ask for money. We asked to know-how, we ask network that together we can empower the future leaders in this region. Also, together, we can create an opportunity that these young generations will innovate and will empower the next generations that they [inaudible].

John: I love it. Samvel, I cannot wait to have you back on the impact podcast because you have so many great updates and you are constantly evolving. You are constantly innovating and collaborating. I am proud to know you and I am proud to be Armenian because of you and great people like you and great leaders like you. You are making such a great impact on Armenia. I just want to say thank you again. For our leaders out there and our listeners out there that want to find Samvel and the Leadership School, please go to www.leadershipschool.am. Or find him also on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. Samvel Movsisyan, you are making an impact in Armenia and you are important to me. Thank you for joining us today on the impact podcast.

Samvel: Mr. Shegerian, thank you very much for this unique opportunity because we already had your support and it is very inspiring because I remember after your lecture when you give and met with our students, we already saw that news in world-class information newspapers. It was really a great honor for us because we Armenians being inspired by the Armenians who are professionals, who are respectful like you. I am really very honored and proud of you. Thank you very much that you are being a source of inspiration for young people like me. Please keep your spirit. Keep your attitude and always remember that there are people who are hungry to change and to make one of the best place or country. Thank you very much.