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					Ron Brown Alumni Forum held in Ohrid

The Ron Brown Alumni Forum took place on October 1-3, 2010, in Hotel Millenium Palace,
Ohrid, Macedonia.
At the Forum, 58 Ron Brown Alumni from 9 countries (Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria,
Kosovo, Serbia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia) took active
participation in the work at this gathering. In addition, three representatives from other
European Alumni Associations from Italy, Hungary and Azerbaijan participated at the Forum.
Also, four Macedonian alumni from other programs were guests at this event, as well
representatives from the US Embassy in Skopje, US Embassy in Ljubljana and the US
Ambassador in Macedonia and students-interns that were supporting the organization of the
Ron Brown Alumni Forum.

The goal of the Forum was achieving sustainable and accountable Ron Brown Alumni
Network that contributes in discussing and addressing global, regional and national issues
from diverse spheres important for the citizens in Central and South East Europe.

The objectives of the Forum were:
- To establish Ron Brown National Alumni Association Chapters that will further
    strengthen the cooperation and collaboration among the alumni from all participating
    countries
- To institute the annual Forum as regular top notch event of the Ron Brown Alumni by
    setting date and format
- To gain knowledge and share best practices in public accountability in order to increase
    our understanding how to be more accountable and seek for accountability from all
    relevant stakeholders
- To exchange information and get update about individual achievements of the alumni


Achieved results:
    Established two Ron Brown National Alumni Association Chapters in Slovenia and
      Macedonia
    Alumni from three participating countries (Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo) expressed
      readiness to proceed toward formal establishment of National Chapters
    Alumni from four participating countries (Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Bosnia and
      Herzegovina) motivated to revive the communication among the alumni in their
      respective countries and to share the idea for establishing Ron Brown National Alumni
      Association Chapters
    Initiated establishment of a representative body of the Ron Brown Alumni Network on
      regional level that will represent the Ron Brown Alumni in the Eurasian Network of
      the American Alumni Associations-ENAM
    Alumni selected the location for the next Ron Brown Forum to be held in 2011
    Development of the web portal www.ronbrownalumni.org
    Alumni drafted future strategic direction of the Ron Brown Alumni Network on
      national and regional level

Implemented activities:

Experiences in Establishment of National US educated Alumni Associations
Two Ron Brown Alumni – Rok Habinc from Slovenia and Zoran Martinovski frm Macedonia
participated at the Paris Alumni Enrichment Workshop in June 2010 and shared their
experiences with the participants at the Forum.

The workshop, hosted by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Paris
gathered leaders of European alumni associations of U.S. government-sponsored exchange
programs. More than 40 participants from 23 European countries participated to share their
best practices of managing alumni associations. The important issues regarding management
of alumni association, fundraising, strategic planning, membership development, partnering
with private sector and regional networking were discussed at the workshop. Ron Brown
alumni shared information about the network and discussed the challenges and issues that
should be overcome. The workshop resulted in the creation of a Network of the European
Alumni Associations with aim of fostering interaction between alumni associations in Europe
and some of the initiators of this idea are present at Ron Brown Forum and will share their
experiences.

Ron Brown network are challenged with the same issues and the Forum is excellent
opportunity to tackle some of the most important issues such as the strategic directions of the
network, creation of national associations and fundraising.


Italian, Azerbaijani, and Hungarian Experience on Establishing Alumni Associations
Three representatives from alumni associations were invited as guest speakers at the Forum in
Ohrid. Mr. Massimo Cugusi, President of the AMERIGO (International Cultural Exchanges
Program Alumni) from Italy, György Kovács from the Hungarian Fulbright Association and
Jeyhun Karamov from the US-educated Azerbaijan Alumni Association (AAA) shared their
experiences with the Ron Brown alumni,

Mr. Cugusi shared the experience of the AMERIGO association and the activities conducted
by the association. AMERIGO has 170 full members spread around the country participants
in different US supported programs. The association has four local chapters and four
professional networks (media, government, education and business). Due to geographical
distribution of its members, communication was the main challenge of the association and it is
handled mostly on-line. There are two types of activities conducted by AMERIGO – on-line
activities that are exclusively for the members such as fireplace talks, business luncheons,
company visits and off-line activities accessible to the public by invitation such as seminars,
conferences, media award and photo contest.

The association is very successful in establishing and maintaining relationships with the
private sector for corporate sponsorships, support in organizing events, cooperation with
travel and media partners and with NGOs. In their experience, partners in corporate
sponsorships and organizing events are private companies that contribute cash for the
association. Their partnership with the travel company results with support in providing
tickets for traveling in the country and abroad, while the media partners promote the events
organized by the association. The cooperation with the NGOs is based on joint projects,
database sharing and co-branding/co-marketing.

Mr. Cugusi shared with the Ron Brown alumni that their events are very successful due to
carefully selected audience for each event (members, opinion leaders, government officials,
selected media professionals), and participation of non-members only upon invitation of a full
member. Also, the association involves professional networks in the program development
and promotion, and organizes special events with partner organizations such as AmCham,
Italy. All activities incorporate opportunities for networking among all participating in them,
which further promote the association and its mission. One of the biggest achievements of the
association so far is attracting new members through offering sense for membership, value for
money and rich membership package.

The most important lessons learned that Mr. Cugusi shared with the Ron Brown alumni are to
build and manage an internet-based organization, to bring the concept of the State Alumni
Community with the alumni, to cooperate with the local US Mission actively and keep the
level of the programs as high as possible. Mr. Cugusi also shared with the Ron Brown alumni
the next challenge that is initiated by AMERIGO, which is the establishment of the Eurasian
Network of the American Alumni Associations (ENAM). The Network will promote all the
cultural exchange programs administered by the Department of State and bilateral
commissions alike. ENAM will design and implement projects and initiatives through its
member organizations such as, conferences, seminars, workshops, awards, information
campaigns, editorial products. In close cooperation with the Department of State, ENAM will
support the creation of new American Alumni Associations and provides mentoring to newly-
established organizations.

Ron Brown alumni showed large interest for the opportunity ENAM is offering to be more
active not only on national and regional level, but also on international level and in their
opinion Ron Brown Network should seize this opportunity and become active member in
ENAM. ENAM is additional impulse for the national chapters of Ron Brown alumni to
proceed in the establishment of associations on national level.

Mr. Kovács presented the work of the Hungarian Fulbright Association (HFA) and shared
their experienced regarding networking and fundraising as the major challenges that are also
faced by the Ron Brown Alumni Network. HFA has regular activities such as Fulbright
Coffee, meet the scientist program, cooperation with other alumni groups. Mr. Kovacz shared
ideas and suggestions with the Forum participants for tackling the challenges. Ron Brown
alumni were interested to hear how the association is maintaining the updated database of the
alumni contacts, one of the major challenges that the Ron Brown Network is facing and the
establishment of an on-line portal where each alumni can update its information on a regular
basis seems like good idea that Ron Brown Alumni embraced it.

The US-educated Azerbaijan Alumni Association (AAA) has more than 1.600 members and
provides information, assistance and networking among the US-educated Azerbaijanis, and
serves as a platform for them to give back to their communities, similarly to the aims of the
Ron Brown Alumni. The only difference is that Ron Brown Alumni Network operates on
regional level compared to the national level where AAA operates. According to Mr.
Karamov, the association and its members are seen as opinion-makers, service providers, and
reliable partner. The most notable activities of the AAA are career newsletter & career
workshops, Azerbaijan Business Case Competition, job fair, weekly guest speaker series and
ambassadorial dinner series.

Ron Brown alumni discussed that some of the activities can be also organized by the Ron
Brown Network on regional level and the expertise of the alumni can be used in shaping and
organizing such events. Once more it was stressed the importance of developing on-line portal
where the most updated information on alumni expertise will be available and they will be
engaged in organizing events on national and regional level.


Small Group Discussions and Conclusions
The small group discussions were shaped around five important questions for the future of the
Ron Brown Alumni Network. First, participants discussed about the overarching goal of the
network through defining its mission, fundraising and developing networking/partnership.
Second, the participants discussed the issue of registering national Ron Brown Associations
and what would be the mission and goals of each of the associations. Next, the small groups
discussed the issue of establishing a sustainable communication platform for the Ron Brown
Alumni. Last, but not the least, the groups discussed the establishment of a representative
body of the network.

The conclusions from the small group work are that there is a need for become more
organized on national level through establishment of national associations that will be united
and represented through the regional body or other form as decided by the alumni. On
regional level the representative body should facilitate information and knowledge exchange,
promote cooperation, advance local societies and facilitate social change. In addition, this
body should develop and implement actions at regional level and secure cooperation among
alumni, national associations and active participation in ENAM.

The activities of the national associations and regional network should be taken on both
individual and group level. The areas for action are defined based on the programs included in
the Ron Brown Fellowship and include education, social sphere, business, media and
environment, which gives broad perspectives for undertaking actions in the individual areas or
cross-cutting. The important issue is that alumni through their associations should give back
to their societies on a voluntary basis. There should be incentives, but no payments on market
price.

One of the key challenges for the national associations and for the regional network would be
the issue of fundraising. On national level, the registered legal entities (national associations)
are imperative for receiving funds. Regional fundraising should be done with joint efforts of
the national associations through the representative body and the coordination should be done
mostly on-line, but effectively. The regional membership fee and the Embassies support could
be covering the operation of the regional body, but also corporate sponsorships should be
considered as a significant part of the functioning of the representative body. However, the
most important issue is that the membership fee must bring benefits.

Networking should continue to be done mostly through having updated database, which will
be more efficient if alumni can update personally as soon as a change in their profile emerge.
For that purpose, a regional portal will be developed with two aims. First aim is to inform the
alumni and the public about the activities of the national associations and regional network on
a regular basis. Second aim is to develop member area where alumni can share personal
information, information about professional development opportunities, but also sharing ideas
for next activities and project both on national and regional level. The domain for the portal
has been purchased at www.ronbrownalumni.org and the development is under way.

In addition, the national associations and the regional network should cooperate and partner
with national AmCham organizations, other alumni programs, European and Asian regional
networks, educational institutions and professional associations to increase the impact of
undertaken actions.

The major challenge for the Ron Brown alumni is to motivate and engage alumni from
countries that are not represented at the Forum, but also at the past forums and one of the roles
of the representative body can be to intensify the communication with alumni from those
countries that will commit themselves to engage other alumni from their respective countries.
Also the web portal will facilitate the establishment of communication with alumni that have
not been active in any way in the past, as well as the group established on the social network
Facebook.


Deciding on establishment of Representative Body of the Ron Brown Alumni Network
As a response to the establishment of the Eurasian Network of the American Alumni
Associations (ENAM), the participants at the Forum discussed the necessity of establishing a
representative body of the Ron Brown Network that will represent the national alumni
chapters. According to the participants it is easier to have one body representing all chapters
on international level since all of them are sharing the same vision and goals and more
effective in terms of sharing information with all chapters. The representative body members
will be selected potentially from each participating country on a volunteering basis i.e. alumni
who are committed to devote time and energy to the work of the body.

At the Forum, all participants were involved in doing the visioning for the future of the
Network on regional level. The process showed that alumni consider the network consisting
of like-minded people from many countries, with diverse professional background that share a
life-changing experience. The alumni have a feeling that they are making a difference and
have influence in their respective communities.

Also, the alumni feel strongly to stay in touch through regular gatherings and are committed
to the vision and mission of the Network. The alumni share the belief in education and
cooperation and besides being active in their own countries they want to cooperate regionally.

For that reason, there is a need for meeting of the representative body to develop the goals and
future activities of the regional network, especially the support and sharing information with
the national chapters based on the shared experiences with the other alumni associations.


Location of the Ron Brown Forum 2011
The participants at the Forum decided to hold the next year Forum in Slovenia/Croatia (Istria)
i.e. the organization will be joint effort of the alumni associations from both countries. The
time period will be set for September/October 2011 and the topic of the next Forum will be
discussed and decided in the upcoming period. The planned workshop for the representative
body in early 2011 will be used also to discuss the possible topics that are of common concern
for the region and have a potential to motivate alumni for greater presence than at the 2010
Forum.


Informal Discussion with the US Ambassador Philip T. Reeker
The informal discussion with the US Ambassador in Macedonia H.E. Philip T. Reeker opened
questions about maintaining links that are vitally important, such as the links that Ron Brown
alumni are having, although the program ended almost five years ago. Especially, it was
discussed the quality of education provided through the Ron Brown Fellowship program and
the need to share this information and lessons learned as wider as possible and to motivate the
governments of the recipient countries to consider pursuing this type of support education
programs for the generations to come.

In addition, the participants have opportunity to ask questions and discuss with the
Ambassador issues related to NATO plans for the Balkan region, the issue of the dispute
between Macedonia and Greece on the name, the intentions of the European Union in
supporting quality education programs for student from developing countries and the situation
with the leadership crisis in the region.

Evaluation of the Ron Brown Forum 2010
The participants evaluated the Forum as highly positive event regarding its content and on-
time sharing information with the alumni. The participants are motivated to get in contact
with alumni that were not present at the Forum and initiate the establishment of the national
associations as important prerequisite for functioning of the regional network. One of the
participants stated: “Thank you for offering us the opportunity to share ideas and concerns
with each other and also learn from the successful experience of other associations. It is
encouraging to see that, after the conference, we have got lots of ideas on how to proceed in
the future.”

Networking and deepening the relationships among the alumni is one of the greatest values
that Forum facilitated, which according to the participants is a must for future cooperation
among the national associations, but also on regional and international level through the
opportunities offered by ENAM. One of our guest speakers stated that “he was truly
impressed with the powerful network that Ron Brown alumni have built; this network is not
only professional, but also built on strong friendship ties. Indeed, you had to be part of the
session to see how strong has been the impact of the Ron Brown program. I was blessed to
meet the Ron Brown alumni from different countries representing major businesses,
government agencies and civil society. They are truly the leaders, who are leading major
changes in their respective countries, and through which are demonstrating a positive
outcomes of the Ron Brown program. One of the most astonishing factors in the conference
was, the strong cross-regional network built by alumni. And this is a momentum for RB
alumni; the conference was a unique event allowing all alumni to realize their strong power,
and felt inspired to do more and help generate new generation of American alumni.”

All participants are supportive to the idea of establishing national alumni associations, but
also strongly support a regional cooperation that will foster the engagement of the alumni
both on national and regional level.

				
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