The Diaspora Initiative started as an academic collaboration, a space of exchange, independent of hierarchies and organisational constraints. A space where we came up with all these ideas, step by step implementing them in the hope of forging a better, more informed understanding of diasporas, of reforming the institutional approach to diaspora engagement, and of generating opportunities for more impactful diaspora initiatives, through islands of good practice and cooperation to the benefit of all those living, working, and studying abroad.
All our work so far has been pro bono, conducted on a voluntary basis and in the spirit of giving back by contributing even if we are permanently settled abroad. Hence, we are part of the diaspora ourselves. We experience physical distance like most Romanians do, we nurture similar hopes and aspirations, as well as a moral obligation to do good, participate and contribute, a sense that we developed by living abroad. Until the website, our contributions went almost unnoticed, because we chose not to showcase our achievements or promote ourselves on social media, instead focusing on the deep work, on the building blocks of each initiative.
First and foremost, it was the absence of a systematically organised and accessible knowledge repository about our diaspora that motivated us to embark on this mission. Impassioned political speeches and party platforms, strategies and programmes, institutions ideally placed to implement them, all these without a fundamental understanding of what the diaspora is and represents.
How many Romanians live and work abroad, permanently, or temporarily? How do Romanians associate? How are their interests represented? What is the scope of their initiatives? How are diaspora associations financed? What is their digital presence and visibility? How can those abroad contribute towards development, through their vast economic, social and knowledge capital? And more importantly, is the Romanian diaspora truly relevant and impactful transnationally?
These are just a few of the questions we seek to provide an answer to, through the knowledge repository we are creating, and the initiatives we pursue. We firmly believe that mapping the diaspora becomes a necessary step towards more informed and transparent policies, policies that ought to mirror the interests and aspirations of those abroad.
Maximising the organisational capacity of diaspora associations, generating coalitions of mutual support in host-countries, better and more diversified access to funding, and targeted cooperation amongst organisations, all these may prove transformative in the not-so-distant future – stimulating a diaspora whose global voice and presence are to be reckoned with.