Youth in Yerevan: GFC’s first Spark Fund convening

By Nasra Ayub | November 8, 2022 | Europe & Eurasia | Youth Empowerment

In September, the Spark Fund kicked off its first convening, welcoming youth leaders from Europe and Eurasia to a three-day get-together in Armenia. In this blog post, Global Fund for Children Programs and Partnerships Associate Nasra Ayub reflects on the event.

The first-ever GFC Spark Fund convening took place September 6–8, 2022 in Yerevan, Armenia, bringing together Spark Fund partners from the Europe and Eurasia region. The partners had been chosen by a group of ten panelists aged 18–30 from the region through a participatory grantmaking process. As it was my first time attending a GFC convening, I was excited to see how it would go – and I wasn’t disappointed. Throughout the three days, incredible youth leaders from Moldova, Armenia, Ukraine, and Georgia networked, shared practices, and built relationships that continue to live beyond the convening.

One of the most important goals for the convening was to empower the young people who attended through participation in the panel discussions and presentations of activities for their Spark Fund Europe and Eurasia cohort. We heard from partner organizations on wellbeing practices, advocacy best practices, and tips on how to manage hybrid ways of working.

A group photo of participants in the Armenia convening

Representatives from Spark Fund Europe and Eurasia partner organizations and GFC staff pose for a group photo at the convening. © GFC

It was evident how important wellbeing and preventing burnout were to the cohort, with Queer Sista Platform emphasizing self-care and wellbeing practices as core organizational values and Invisible Labor stating that “time for you is important for your work” – something that we often forget but that is pivotal to mental wellbeing in the advocacy space.

We invited external speakers for a panel discussion on the topics of youth participation in activism and best practices in youth organizing. It was interesting to hear about the importance of youth advocacy in Armenia and the necessity of having young people involved in grassroots organizing, as well as how to secure funding. For some of the partners, the Spark Fund grant is the first grant they have received, so it was wonderful to see so many funding tips being shared by our panel.

GFC Senior Partnerships Manager Kieran Lewis’s fundraising session on how to pitch an idea or organization was a great way to get the partners thinking about how to build relationships with donors and ”sell” their organization to them. With only 60 seconds to explain, each partner gave an elevator pitch about what their organization does. This exercise was positively received and stood out in the partners’ feedback.

A GFC staff person leading an activity at the Armenia convening

GFC Partnerships Specialist Lida Minasyan leading an activity at the convening. © GFC

The Spark Fund chose Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia as the countries for the Europe and Eurasia cohort because of their geographic proximity to one another and relatively open civil society sectors. Unfortunately, history and politics continue to drive conflict in the region, and just after the first grants were awarded to the Europe and Eurasia Spark Fund partners earlier this year, Russia invaded Ukraine. A few months later, Azerbaijan shelled border communities in Armenia.

Against this backdrop, GFC believes that it’s more important than ever to support youth in civil society, and it’s a privilege to be able to do this through the Spark Fund. We were thrilled to have one of our Ukrainian partners present at the convening. They hosted a session on using theater to talk about difficult topics, and the partners created performance pieces to present during the session. At this point in the convening, I realized that a bond had formed between the partners – something that may not have been possible if we had met virtually. It was incredible to see how a cohort that was chosen by our youth panelists from Europe and Eurasia was now team building at the convening and using fun tools to create new ways to dialogue around youth activism and advocacy.

We ended the convening with the Spark Fund partners thinking of ways to come together in the future to collaborate on projects across the different Spark Fund regions.

The relationships that are built and the connections that are formed in these spaces truly can only be achieved in in-person meetings. Most of our partners shared that they were looking forward to continuing these new relationships and working together on future projects. Other feedback ranged from the convening giving “lots of food for thought on a personal and professional level” to “it’s important to see people whom you are working with.’’ I have no doubt that the partners will collaborate on some incredible initiatives, and we are excited to be a part of that journey ahead.



The Spark Fund is a youth-led fund that invests in youth-led and youth-focused groups tackling injustice and inequality and driving transformational change. Established by GFC and the Avast Foundation, the Spark Fund has empowered youth panels in the Americas, Europe and Eurasia, South Asia, and Southern Africa to design a grantmaking process and award funding to youth-led and youth-focused organizations in their regions.

Header photo: Two team members from Spark Fund partner Havasar Educational Foundation, which is based in Yerevan, Armenia. © GFC

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