ASU takes ‘Kids Voting’ to Kosovo

May 7, 2008

ASU's Melikian">">Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies will implement a “Kids Voting” program in the world's newest state, Kosovo.

Funded by a three-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. State Department’s Division of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, ASU’s Melikian Center, in collaboration with the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED), will pilot the Kids Voting program in southeastern Europe. Download Full Image

Kids Voting, an American voter education program for school-age children, was established in Arizona in 1988 and has expanded to more than 40 states and the District of Columbia. Marilyn Evans, the first president and CEO of Kids Voting Arizona and Kids Voting USA, and now an academic associate at ASU, will serve as the on-site leader in Prishtina, Kosovo. In addition to her experience with Kids Voting, Evans has developed and implemented democracy and governance projects in five other countries: Armenia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Yemen.

The goal of the Kids Voting in Kosovo project “will be to engage young people in reasoned debate and simulated election voting,” says ASU Professor Stephen Batalden, a Balkan specialist and director of the Melikian Center in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Batalden is the principal investigator on the grant.

The Kids Voting model addresses the international issue of building civil society through meaningful citizen participation in the electoral process, Batalden says. “By design, the program motivates current and future generations to become dedicated citizens by engagement in the voting process. Consistently, across Kids Voting projects, adult voting participation increases, stimulated by their children's participation in the Kids Voting experience,” he says.

ASU’s Melikian Center will develop the curriculum, train teachers, and oversee the development of Kids Voting in Kosovo, working with their local partner – KIPRED – a Kosovar NGO with a broad range of democratic project experience.

“Educators and elections officials are central for project success, utilizing interactive curriculum lessons to prepare students as competent decision-makers about issues and candidates,” Batalden notes.

The curriculum will include homework assignments, purposely stimulating discussion among students and their parents about key community and national challenges. On election days, students will accompany their parents to voting centers and cast their own unofficial ballots. The student ballot, which includes all the official candidate races and issues, is tabulated after the polls close and results are given immediately to the news media.

In the past, comparisons of student ballot results with official voter results are intriguing; "next generation voters" often voice divergent perspectives from current citizen voters, Batalden says.

The Kosovo project's objectives include increasing voter turnout, which fell to only 46 percent of eligible voters in last year’s parliamentary elections, and assuring that minority populations are well represented as voters. The pilot project will support upcoming local elections in school programs to be launched in Gjilan and areas of Prishtina, Kosovo's capital. Gjilan, with 130,000 inhabitants, specifically was chosen due to its large concentration of minority Serbian population, Batalden says.

“Given the importance of the democratization process under way in southeastern Europe and, especially, in Kosovo, this pilot project will provide unique opportunities for middle school and high school students to be drawn into the important election process. It is a very exciting and timely project indeed,” Batalden says.

The Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies is a comprehensive international research and training center that has both instructional and research missions. The Kids Voting in Kosovo project builds off a series of significant the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) projects undertaken by the Melikian Center in Kosovo since 2001.

Most recently, the center received grant support from the Citizens’ Exchange Bureau of the State Department to facilitate a dialogue between Muslin and Christian leaders from southeastern Europe and Arizona. This past January, Bosnian Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders participated in a three-week seminar in Arizona as part of the exchange.

Another project was an educational partnership for the development of business management and public administration curricula within the University of Pristina. Funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the State Department, that project brought young faculty members from the University of Pristina to ASU.

One of the outcomes of the work with business administration at the University of Pristina led to another partnership project that involves the transformation of accountancy training at the Kosovo university.

Graduate students also aspiring philanthropists

May 7, 2008

Andrew Carnegie once said, “It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than it is to earn it in the first place.” Students enrolled in Philanthropy: Theory and Practice (NLM 550), a masters-level course taught through the School of Community Resources and Development in conjunction with the ASU Lodestar Center for Nonprofit Management and Innovation, learned this lesson first hand this past semester. In a class project that will culminate with a $20,000 check presentation to one Valley nonprofit, students were able to gain hands-on experience and a new insight into the ups and downs of being on a foundation board.

Taught by Roger Hughes, executive director of St. Luke’s Health Initiatives (SLHI), a Phoenix-based public foundation, the course gave students the opportunity to make a $20,000 to grant on behalf of SLHI’s Health in a New Key community development program. Students narrowed down a list of over 20 qualified nonprofits to five finalists. The class then divided into teams that worked with the potential recipients to develop persuasive proposals for support. Following team presentations, the students played the role of foundation board members and selected what they considered to be the “best fit” with the grant requirements. Download Full Image

Hughes explained that SLHI provides the grant in order to give the next generation of leaders in the nonprofit sector valuable experience in the actual business of philanthropy and to introduce them to the principles of strength-based community development.

Acting as both fundraisers and board members, students were forced to see things from several—often conflicting—points of view.

“It was a valuable lesson in what constitutes a strong grant proposal and the reality of the subjective nature of many funding decisions,” said student Genevieve Croker.

Fellow student Bethany Taylor agrees. “As a development officer, I always thought that raising funds was hard, and that giving money away, in comparison, must be easy,” she said. “But by participating in this exercise, I learned just how hard giving money away could be. When you are forced to choose between multiple worthy organizations, it is truly difficult."

In the end, Stepping Stones of Hope, an organization that offers grief and bereavement services to children and their families, was selected to receive the $20,000 grant.

“All the proposals were good,” said student Damon Lemmons. “But this one gave us the greatest sense of community leverage and sustainability."

This is the second year NLM 550 has been offered. Last year’s inaugural group awarded $10,000 to Girls on the Run of Maricopa County, a nonprofit that works to improve the physical and social development of young girls through an innovative running program in schools. Due to the growing interest in the course and the success of the first offering, this year SLHI was able to double its award contribution.

"Our educational curriculum is well known for bridging theory and practice through experiential learning based within the classroom experience. This is especially true in the case of NLM 550. What Dr. Hughes and St. Luke's Health Initiatives has made possible is a stellar philanthropic laboratory which is the envy of nonprofit and philanthropic studies educational programs nationwide," said Dr. Robert F. Ashcraft, director of the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation and professor of nonprofit studies in ASU's School of Community Resources and Development.

“This was an exceptional learning experience,” said student Saso Andonoski, who comes to the Valley from the Republic of Macedonia. “The class showed the ability to go beyond expressive philanthropy and think strategically. I have learned so much from this class. This was one of my best experiences at ASU so far."

The mission of Arizona State University’s Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation (formerly the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Management) is to help build the capacity of the social sector by enhancing the effectiveness of those who lead, manage, and support nonprofit organizations. As part of the College of Public Programs and in partnership with the School of Community Resources and Development, the Center provides knowledge and tools to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations, professionals, board members, and volunteers by offering research, technical assistance, workshops, conferences, classes, and capacity building programs. For more information, visit:">">