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Why Does a Nonprofit Need a Comedy Show?

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Old 09 Nov 17, 17:17   #1 (permalink)
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Post Why Does a Nonprofit Need a Comedy Show?

1A’s new show “The Spyurk Report” features stars, Sergey Sargsyan and Narek Margaryan; two comedians who have become local celebrities in recent years for their poignant take on Armenias oftentimes cartoonish politics. (Photo: ONEArmenia)

With the launch of its latest project, The Spyurk Report, the nonprofit organization ONEArmenia, 1A for short, makes its debut in the world of televisioner, social media video serieser, whatever it is exactly the kids are watching these days.

The new show features stars Sergey Sargsyan and Narek Margaryan, two comedians who have become local celebrities in recent years for their poignant take on Armenias often-cartoonish politics through their popular YouTube-turned-television show ArmComedy (often referencedas the Armenian equivalent of The Daily Show).

The Spyurk Report will be featured monthly in English and will air exclusively on social media channels. Its purpose, according to 1A representatives, is to offer the spyurk (dispersion)the term for the millions of ethnic Armenians situated across the globe who make up the countrys widespread diasporaa monthly dose of local politics in a way thats both accessible and humorous. The first episode launched last Friday on a new YouTube channel, and the nonprofits ad-savvy founder, Patrick Sarkissian, is its executive producer.



It was about five years ago that Sarkissian pitched the idea for 1A in his talk at TEDxYerevan. Its goal at the outset was to disrupt the traditional model of philanthropy in Armenia through six small-scale crowdfunding campaigns per year, promising transparency in a country where charity dollars tend to dissipate into thin air.

Today, 1A limits itself to only two campaigns per year, as opposed to six (Deep versus wide, explains Sarkissian), but the scale of its initiatives, which started in Oct. 2012 with a $20,000 campaign to build a kindergarten for the village of Moshatagh, continues to grow. Its most recent campaign, to build winetasting capsules all over the country where tourists can purchase wines from small growers, just finished raising over $60,000. To date, the nonprofit has raised over half a million dollars.

In addition to crowdfunding, the organization has allocated a great deal of time and energy in initiatives that have a much more unconventional impactand this is the angle from which we can view The Spyurk Report. These projects are uniquely curated, out-of-the box, and internally funded through the organizations annual board dues and a percentage of the operational fees generated from their campaigns. They range from simple gestures, like placing a chalkboard in one of Yerevans parks where residents can document their mood, to elaborately orchestrated affairs requiring film crews and international travel, like the collaboration between ONEArmenia, Tumo Center for Creative Technologies and Brett Novak that resulted in Kyanq: A Short Skate Film.



These initiatives, which sometimes seem far-removed from the organizations goal of providing relief to the countrys poorest, are best understood through the paradigm of brand-building.

Sarkissian, a digital advertising expert who founded his own award-winning ad agency nearly 20 years ago, has worked on campaigns for brands like Ford, Mazda, and CNN. The willingness to take chances and invest in ventures like these (which require a great deal of resources that are precious for an organization with no more than a handful of employees on the ground in Armenia at any given time, and lack a strict expectation for the kind of return theyll yield) characterizes the ad industry. (The most extreme example of this is Red Bull with its exorbitant adventure-related marketing campaigns, which led an article in Mashable to remark that the beverage company has become a publishing empire that also happens to sell a beverage.)

This businesslike approach to banding is new in the nonprofit world, where the insistence on quantifying impact and a dependence on strict outside funding usually limits creative explorationparticularly when it requires a financial investment. But nonprofits led by organizations like Charity Water and Pencils of Promise, whose New York City founders backgrounds in business and advertising, have paved the way in recent years. And with Sarkissian and 1A, it comes to Armenia.

As a former employee, Ive thought quite a bit about this. I joined the team in its third year of operation, back when it was still carving a niche for itself in the infuriatingly bureaucratic world of NGOs in the former Soviet bloc. Im well-versed in touting its virtues, but Im also well-acquainted with the challenges of being a part of such a disruptive force in Armenias NGO sector.

My experience working there was unlike any other not-for-profit outfit Ive since been involved within Armenia or elsewhere. It ran more like a business: the stressful and impulsive environment of a startup and the high turnover rate, all combined with the pressures of humanitarian work. I left at the end of 2015 to pursue my own projects, but before I did I participated in one of these brand building ventures: a local map we called Inside Yerevan, which the organization continues to update each year.

It didnt provide drinking water to those in need or healthcare to remote communities. In fact, all it really did was help well-to-do tourists get around Armenias capital. But its strategic value was profound. No such guide existed in the city up to that point. It filled a very real need in the countrys tourism landscape, and while doing so it tapped into a Western, English-speaking audience primed to care about Armenia and with the financial resources to make a difference (i.e., fund our campaigns). In the case of Inside Yerevan, those who have visited the country and had a good time there will be more likely to stay involved after the fact.

This is important because brands like 1A operate on the principle that participationin any formis a virtue. A share on social media. A like. A view. Even telling a good story from your recent trip to Armenia to your American friends.

But more importantly, the beautyand also the painof a nonprofit that is tied to a specific place as opposed to a more universal cause (like ending poverty worldwide), is that the line between the organization and the place itself becomes increasingly blurred. When Armenia thrives, you thrive. It can thrive in so many ways. And so the resulting possibilities are literally endlesswhich has its perks. Hence, the freedom to make a mood board, or a map, or a comedy show. But it also has the capacity to spread you pretty thin.

Tapping into the success of ArmComedy, The Spurk Report presents a unique opportunity to foster a more empathetic and aware diaspora. Its first episode gives a run down on some of the countrys most outlandish recent political events (like the fistfighting in Armenias parliament) against a Western cultural backdrop, with cheeky references to American corporatism (You cant say Just Do Itits a trademark thing, and you never know in the U.S) and current events (ArmeniaAKA, the only place where no woman filed a complaint against Havey Weinstein).

The show is also a reminder that Armenians across the globe and those involved in the countrys development should try not to take things so seriously all the time. Yes, there are many obstacles ahead. But Diasporans, who are often removed from the day-to-day goings on of Armenia proper, have a tendency of filling the void with negativity.

Branding 101 will tell you that a brand built on crisis can only go so far. For too long, charities have operated on that premise alone, and the time seems ripe for Armenia, especially, to take a comedic intermission. And who better than 1A to pave the way?

The post Why Does a Nonprofit Need a Comedy Show? appeared first on The Armenian Weekly.


1A’s new show “The Spyurk Report” features stars, Sergey Sargsyan and Narek Margaryan; two comedians who have become local celebrities in recent years for their poignant take on Armenias oftentimes cartoonish politics. (Photo: ONEArmenia) With the launch of its latest project, The Spyurk Report, the nonprofit organization ONEArmenia, 1A for short, makes its debut in the world of televisioner, social media video serieser, whatever it is exactly the kids are watching these days. The new show features stars Sergey Sargsyan and Narek Margaryan, two comedians who have become local celebrities in recent years for their poignant take on Armenias often-cartoonish politics through their popular YouTube-turned-television show ArmComedy (often referencedas the Armenian equivalent of The Daily Show). The Spyurk Report will be featured monthly in English and will air exclusively on social media channels. Its purpose, according to 1A representatives, is to offer the spyurk (dispersion)the term for the millions of ethnic Armenians situated across the globe who make up the countrys widespread diasporaa monthly dose of local politics in a way thats both accessible and humorous. The first episode launched last Friday on a new YouTube channel, and the nonprofits ad-savvy founder, Patrick Sarkissian, is its executive producer. It was [...]

The post Why Does a Nonprofit Need a Comedy Show? appeared first on The Armenian Weekly.


1A’s new show “The Spyurk Report” features stars, Sergey Sargsyan and Narek Margaryan; two comedians who have become local celebrities in recent years for their poignant take on Armenias oftentimes cartoonish politics. (Photo: ONEArmenia) With the launch of its latest project, The Spyurk Report, the nonprofit organization ONEArmenia, 1A for short, makes its debut in the world of televisioner, social media video serieser, whatever it is exactly the kids are watching these days. The new show features stars Sergey Sargsyan and Narek Margaryan, two comedians who have become local celebrities in recent years for their poignant take on Armenias often-cartoonish politics through their popular YouTube-turned-television show ArmComedy (often referencedas the Armenian equivalent of The Daily Show). The Spyurk Report will be featured monthly in English and will air exclusively on social media channels. Its purpose, according to 1A representatives, is to offer the spyurk (dispersion)the term for the millions of ethnic Armenians situated across the globe who make up the countrys widespread diasporaa monthly dose of local politics in a way thats both accessible and humorous. The first episode launched last Friday on a new YouTube channel, and the nonprofits ad-savvy founder, Patrick Sarkissian, is its executive producer. It was [...]

The post Why Does a Nonprofit Need a Comedy Show? appeared first on The Armenian Weekly.


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