Diaspora-based organisations play vital roles in engagement, development as well as monitoring and evaluation in their homelands. We had a chat with Lirim Krasniqi to tell us more about his organisation, Germin where he is the Co-Executive Director.
Please tell us more about Germin, and its activities
“Germin is a non-governmental organisation focused on diaspora engagement for the development of the home countries in the Western Balkans. It is based in Kosovo but was conceived in the diaspora after a study Behar Xharra and Martin Wahlisch (co-founders) did back in 2011, entitled “Beyond Remittances: Public Diplomacy and Kosovo’s Diaspora“. In the beginning, the idea was to improve diaspora engagement with the home countries, which by the time was mainly related with remittances, to a more comprehensive professional, cultural and social engagement. The name “Germin” came from the Latin word derived from Émile Zola’s novel “Germinal’ which means “seed”; the novel describes the hope for a better future that seeds amongst the miners. The word itself, means ‘to grow, to prosper’. This was a term brought up by Liza Gashi (co-founder), who spent years studying and living in Latin America, and returned Kosovo to run Germin for almost 6 years, until she became Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora of Kosovo Government, on April 2020. The term Germin has been used in many settings throughout its rich background of historical and linguistic contexts, continuously underlining the importance that change has had in the advancement of societies. It has started first by targeting and second generations of Kosovo emigrants and then to broaden up to a more general audience of the Albanian diaspora.
Germin was first registered as a non-governmental organisation in Kosovo in 2014 and since then, it has been working and developing different activities with the main goal of improving diaspora engagement for the development of the countries of origin. At the moment, we are collaborating with 250 plus diaspora- based organisations, and we have created a network of around 30,000 Albanian diaspora professionals all over the world. We have been able to organise the Diaspora Talks Conference in Pristina, Kosovo in 2018 where we gathered more than 300 diaspora professionals from over 24 countries all over the world from Australia to Canada, to engage and connect directly with the public institutions, to cooperate and advocate for their economic, social and political rights. Currently, we are very focused on a project that aims to engage diaspora professionals to further develop a circular migration component, by using the intellectual and professional potential of Diaspora member for the development of Kosovo and Albania.”
Which regions does the operations of Germin cover?
“We are based in Prishtina, Kosovo, and we are in the process of opening our offices in Tirana, Albania. We have a global outreach, with a particular connection with the countries where Albanian diaspora is more concentrated (Germany, Switzerland, USA, Austria, UK, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Sweden, etc.).”
Does Girim have any upcoming activities?
“As part of the engaging diaspora professionals, we conducted a survey at the beginning of this year to assess the perceptions of diaspora members about their potential professional engagement at home countries; key findings from the survey will be published next week on the 28th of July 2020, where we’ll have a virtual panel (on that day) featuring representatives from Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora of both Kosovo and Albania, and also local and international practitioners and professionals in the diaspora engagement sector.”
Please tell us a bit about Lirim Krasniqi
“I am very passionate about what I do because diaspora and migration issues represent both my academic and professional interests. I studied Political Science, and especially in my last Master’s degree program at Central European University, I am focused more on the migration development nexus. I have been doing research about immigration/emigration, and how migrant and diaspora communities are related with the development of especially underdeveloped/developing countries.”
Does Germin have any affiliations with other diaspora-based organisations?
“We are an independent organisation, but we are also a founding member of Global Albanians Foundation (a US-based diaspora foundation), which is a platform for crowdfunding and fundraising to promote Albanian Diaspora philanthropy and charity to support local organisations at the home countries. As I mentioned previously, we are also partnering with more than 250 diaspora-based organisations which work on different causes and issues.”
As a Specialist in the area, can you advice diaspora-based organisations on how to improve their structures as well as engagement for development?
“We, as Germin, had a lot of difficulties at the beginning, because it was very difficult to first create a sense of engagement, trusted partnerships, and advocation for diaspora members’ rights, as well as pushing our agenda within the policy makers and decision makers in Kosovo’s institutions. But we have been persistent and never stepped back or given up on our causes and activities. It took time obviously to place ourselves in this field, but it’s good to see the impact and the promising and talented people that Germin has around now.
Another important thing, which we have been experiencing during all of this time, is getting to know Diaspora communities. They are evolving all the time, as they are very diverse even within the same ethnicity or nationality. Being always proactive in getting to know the diaspora communities is a very important in order to first connect with them, and then collaborate.
We as Germin have been very active also in advocating for diaspora’s rights at both home and host countries. This was very important in the trust-building process with diaspora groups and organisations. Once you are seen as a trusted partner, then you can not only collaborate, but also connect and network even diaspora members and groups with each other. It is very important to work on empower through a two-sided communication, and support diaspora groups and organisations. The more powerful they are, they are more likely to connect, engage and impact positively developments at their countries of origin.
Also, in the process of trust-building, it’s important to hold governments and other state institutions accountable regarding diaspora-related policies. We have been monitoring and overseeing all the policies developed by Kosovo institutions regarding diaspora communities, by giving our inputs in most of the policies for citizens living abroad, but we have also been very critical when things went wrong and when promises were not kept. This has helped us to be trusted among the diaspora communities because we have proved and they have seen us as an organisation that works with and for them in their countries of origin, sometimes even more than the institutions.
So, if I would have to give three recommendations or suggestions to improve diaspora-based (or focused) organisations, they would be:
persistence, getting to know your diaspora communities and empower their groups and organisations, and try to be as critical as possible (in a positive manner) towards governments when it comes to diaspora/migration policies.”
For more information on Germin, please visit: https://germin.org/
Interview by: Theresa R. Fianko
Images Credit: Germin.org