Two hundred thirty people from 14 countries, featuring 38 speakers – this was the scope of the International “Insights into Development” Conference. The eighth annual conference was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan from June 28-29th, 2017. The very busy conference schedule involved two full days of discussions, side events and master classes.
Conference organizers, partners and special guests welcomed participants at the conference opening. USAID Central Asia Mission Director Dr. Jatinder Cheema noted, “It is a great honor for me to be present here today. Nothing brings me such pleasure as attending events such as this one. Civil society is a backbone of any society. You all have relations between each other and other countries of the region. It is important for us to have an opportunity to work toward our common goals.”
In her welcoming remarks, Jamila Asanova, Executive Director, Civil Society Development Association (ARGO), stated “Our conference is being held for the eighth time. Eight years ago, it started from a small workshop for several dozen CSOs, and today the event brings together over 200 participants from more than 10 countries. This is a great achievement in the area of development for civil society institutes.”
Gulbara Sultanova, Committee for Civil Society Affairs, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society, said “The conference level grows every year. You stay on track with innovations. Our ministry is open for dialogue, and we are aiming to improve the sustainability of civil society organizations.”
During the official opening session, participants had an opportunity to ask questions to experts and share their views on civil sector development. Many questions were addressed to USAID Central Asia Mission Director, Dr. Jatinder Cheema.
During the first plenary session, “Innovations in Civil Society,” experts from Central Asia, Azerbaijan and other countries presented their own vision of processes, trends and tendencies related to development of the civil sector.
“Diverse nations have always co-existed in Central Asia – we see a mixture of different languages and diverse cultures in the region. And this is a very important factor because a society cannot develop without diversity,” noted international expert Philipp Reichmuth. International expert and honorable guest Alan Waddams further added, “In Kazakhstan we see support of civil society.”
“The main challenge that civil community in all regions of the world has now is to provide access to opportunities. We should throw off our old skin and see the role of innovations,” stated the leader of Innovation for Change, Alex Sardar.
Innovations were related not only to the content of the conference, but to the event format as well. One of the sessions was held in a “speed dating” format. For 10 minutes, 10 speakers presented their innovative methods of work for civil society development and in addressing public problems.
The first day of the conference was marked with one more event – launching the Global Innovation for Change Initiative, Central Asian Region, Afghanistan and Mongolia.
“We should be able to promptly respond to changes, and make decisions subject to changing needs in the region. This is one of the goals of Innovation for Change”, commented Maiwand Rahyab, Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society.
A significant event for civil society representatives was the awarding ceremony for best social projects. Almost 50 CSOs from six countries participated in the contest. More than 100 applications were submitted, but among those, only nine became winners. As noted by the participants, the CSO “New Vision Award” is the only award in the civil sphere in the Central Asian region.
Parallel discussions and side events were exciting and informative. This year, a wide range of topics were discussed, including local self-governance, interaction between CSOs and government authorities, work with target groups, charity, crowdfunding, and many other issues.
“A crowdfunding format is an opportunity not only to get financing for a project, but also to find associates, see one’s idea from a different angle, conduct a large-scale PR campaign, realize how viable the project is, and who needs it”, noted Anna Tadjimuratova, project director for Baribirge.kz, at panel discussion.
As part of the conference, a book of CSO articles from 2016 was presented, and authors of this year’s best materials were awarded certificates.
The International “Insights into Development” Conference ended with the adoption of a resolution. This document determines the main areas of CSOs’ development in the region on a wide variety of issues, including fostering dialogue between CSOs and the state, work effectiveness of Public and Advisory Councils, combating poverty, prevention of extremism, and climate change.