Arseh Sevom–The complete annual report for 2012 is now ready for reading. The report does more than outline our organization’s accomplishments and finances over the past year, it also presents an overview of the context for civil society in Iran. Board President Bert Taken says, “During my two short visits to Iran in the mid 2000s, I was struck by the energy, creativity, and warmth of the people we met traveling through the country. During one trip, we brought several students and docents of Amsterdam’s Rietveld Academy for a two-week trip. We had tried to make plans in advance and were a bit frustrated at the difficulty of actually getting our schedules completely booked in advance. Would the trip be a disaster, we wondered? From the minute we arrived, however, our trip went like clockwork. Artists, architects, designers, and others were generous with their time and experiences, sharing so much with the group. This really gave me faith in the power of surprise when it comes to Iran. It reminds me that even in the darkest moments, that energy is out there, waiting for the opportunity. Even now, there are people who want nothing more than to work for a better society. Iran is not done surprising us, of that I am sure.

Download the full report here: http://www.arsehsevom.net/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Arseh-Sevom_Annual-report-2012.pdf

Bert TakenDear Readers,

Arseh Sevom seemed to really hit its stride in 2012 with successful trainings and an increase in readership on its website. An evaluation done of the organization at the end of the year by an independent consultant gave us the boost we needed as an organization, writing that some of the people interviewed called the organization “a living exercise in democracy.”

We also learned that every once in awhile what we do, no matter how small, makes a difference. We are just one of many forces influencing civil society. We are not the only one or the most important one. We are not alone. There are others fighting for human rights, advocating for the marginalized, addressing issues of poverty, volunteering to clean parks and beaches, rebuilding homes destroyed by earthquakes, and participating in the life of society.

It can be frustrating and emotionally draining for individuals and groups working to build a better society when their efforts are consistently met with suspicion and 4 harassment as they often are in Iran. A blogger in Iran suggested that civil society organizations need to be more open about what they do and what their role is in society in order to increase public support for their work.(1)

The challenge to be open and transparent is one that NGOs all over the world would be wise to take up. It’s one of the founding principles of Arseh Sevom, to be as open and transparent as possible while being realistic about security. In light of that principle, we offer a report on our 2012 activities.

This year’s annual report is more than an overview of our accomplishments and finance. It also presents an overview of the context for civil society in Iran combined with information on how Arseh Sevom addressed a number of these issues with its content, through training, and with advocacy. The report ends with the question of what’s next for Arseh Sevom? Like many organizations, Arseh Sevom is feeling the pinch of insufficient funding. The organization will continue at a reduced level in 2013, which means losing some of the momentum of the successes of 2012.

During my two short visits to Iran in the mid 2000s, I was struck by the energy, creativity, and warmth of the people we met traveling through the country. During one trip, we brought several students and docents of Amsterdam’s Rietveld Academy for a two-week trip. We had tried to make plans in advance and were a bit frustrated at the difficulty of actually getting our schedules completely booked in advance. Would the trip be a disaster, we wondered? From the minute we arrived, however, our trip went like clockwork. Artists, architects, designers, and others were generous with their time and experiences, sharing so much with the group. This really gave me faith in the power of surprise when it comes to Iran. It reminds me that even in the darkest moments, that energy is out there, waiting for the opportunity. Even now, there are people who want nothing more than to work for a better society.

Iran is not done surprising us, of that I am sure.

Bert Taken
President of the Board

1 Iran: Bill Before Parliament Would Smother NGOs: http://www.arsehsevom.net/2013/01/iran-bill-before-parliament-would-smother-ngos/