Survey Results

Read the Executive Summary

Executive Summary

The survey results paint a very favorable picture of the Albanian-American Diaspora’s willingness, ability, and commitment to be engaged in an Albanian Diaspora Program. There are several hundred highly educated individuals from a variety of backgrounds who would like to be engaged in professional and educational exchange, investment, and business development. The survey respondents optimistically demonstrate that they can be a positive force for change and economic development in their home countries.

There are significant concerns, however, that the resources and commitment in the home countries are too limited, and might well impede a successful Albanian Diaspora Program. Meetings planned for this spring and beyond between the Diaspora and the government counterparts should help us understand the extent to which these limitations are real and the extent to which there is political will and potential to overcome them. It is quite possible therefore that the initial focus of the Albanian Diaspora Program should be on institutional strengthening of the countries of origin in Southeastern Europe

Major Findings:

  1. Demographics: Most of the participants in our survey reside in the New York metro area (36%), followed by Boston (24%), and Washington D.C. (11%). By far, the largest share was born in Albania (59%). This is followed by Kosovo (20%), Montenegro (5%) and Macedonia (4%). About 10% of the respondents are second generation Albanian-Americans, and less than 1% belongs to the third generation Albanian-Americans. The concentration of talent in these three major cities will facilitate organizing future activities under the Albanian Diaspora Program.

  2. Education and Professional Profile: The survey participants are remarkably well educated: 82% have completed at least a Bachelor’s degree, 34% have a Master's degree, and more than 12% have a PhD or a comparable degree. The most common profession is managerial (26%), followed by (i) educational professionals, (ii) financial specialists, (iii) information technology, computer. and mathematical specialists, (iv) doctors and health care specialists, and (v) lawyers which each represent about 6-9% of the respondents. It is also worth noting that most of the respondents are at an age where they have gained significant professional experience in the USA - 38% are in their thirties, 30% in their twenties, and 21% in their forties. Most of the respondents (76%) have lived outside their country of origin for at least 10 years, and only 6% have lived outside their country of origin for less than 3 years. Collectively, this age and professional profile indicates a wealth of experience that is available to contribute to economic development in Southeastern Europe for several decades. We believe that the Albanian Diaspora Program will constitute a critical vehicle for effectively engaging the talent in this development.

  3. Identification with Albanian Roots: The respondents identify very strongly with their Albanian roots. On a scale from 0 to 10, 73% of the respondents gave values of at least 6, and 36% gave values of at least 9. Culturally, half of the respondents identify themselves both as Albanians and as Americans. The other half is split between those feeling more Albanian and those feeling more American. When asked about their plans to return to the country of origin, only 8% say yes, 49% have no plans to return, and 43% may consider permanently returning to their country. It is important to note that one third of these respondents also have professional experience working in Southeastern Europe, and 9% are currently professionally involved. We realize that for many with no experience in Southeastern Europe their possible contributions might be more limited due to wider cultural and professional differences with their home country counterparts – but there are still a significant number of people with professional experience in both the USA and Southeastern Europe who can help to bridge differences.

  4. Interest in Working on an Albanian Diaspora Program: Most of the respondents are already active in their local Albanian community (51%), but there is also significant interest in becoming more engaged among those who are not. Volunteering time is the most popular form of involvement, followed by paid work for the community organizations, followed by donations. There is much enthusiasm for serving on the Board of Directors for an Albanian Diaspora Project (540 or 52% agree or strongly agree), taking a leading role in developing such project (490 or 48% agree or strongly agree), and volunteering 4-5 hours a month for the project (570 or 66% agree or strongly agree). This means that the project has the potential to engage a large group of highly skilled professionals each month for an equivalent of between 285 and 365 working days. Of course, it will not be possible to engage all of these people in the short run and it will take time to develop priorities, but there is clearly a reservoir of talent that is eager to be involved in an Albanian Diaspora Program.

  5. Proposed Types of Diaspora Engagement: The most popular means of engaging in the development of the home region are education (81%) and professional exchange (76%). About 63% of all respondents would like to engage through humanitarian aid, 54% through business development and trade, and 47% through investments. When it comes to the business opportunities in the home region, the majority of respondents (55%) agree that the region has large untapped business potential. At the same time, only a small share (21%) agrees that the region offers good business opportunities. Therefore, the skills transfer and professional network programs might be the initial focus for specific forms of engagement, even when such programs require temporary stays in the country of origin. Such programs, by the very nature of their personal exchange, will help to develop networks for investment, business and trade, and humanitarian aid. This perceived lack of business opportunities among the diaspora will be brought to the attention of the governments in Southeastern Europe. If they are serious about attracting diaspora business, these governments will need to both create and promote such opportunities.

  6. Diaspora Investment Potential: Regarding investment, we estimate that the respondents are willing to invest substantial amounts of money in their home countries. On average, the group of respondents would invest $25 million in total if the investment climate were more safe and predictable than it is today. Although 40% of the respondents say they cannot invest at this time, there are at least 100 people willing to invest at least $100,000 each (over $10 million in total). This group could form the core of an Albanian Diaspora Investment Fund and/or for individual private investment in the future. This is significant and important – especially since it represents a very small portion of the entire Albanian Diaspora. We believe that the Albanian Diaspora could easily establish an investment fund in the tens of millions of dollars, which could grow to hundreds of millions of dollars in time.

  7. Concerns about Counterpart Capability and Commitment: When it comes to the perceived readiness of the home countries to support an Albanian Diaspora Program, our respondents show a high level of skepticism. Only 19% feel that the governments are committed to engaging the Diaspora in the economic development of the region, and only 24% believe that the governments have adequate resources and knowledge to effectively do so. The respondents are equally skeptical about the readiness of the private sector counterparts in the home region to engage the Diaspora. The main concerns when thinking about doing business at home are corruption (95%), weak legal protection (94%), political and economic instability (91%), weak infrastructure (85%) and unresolved land issues (84%). Clearly, institutional strengthening is imperative to begin with in order to reduce these concerns of the Diaspora. In addition, more than half of the respondents find that government officials should make more effort to reach out to and meet with the Diaspora in the USA, and over 60% of them find it important that the governments appoints a full-time Diaspora coordinators in the home countries who would regularly engage with the Diaspora to better improve communication and cooperation.

  8. Participation in Future Meetings and Delegations: Regarding events in the near future under the Albanian Diaspora Program, the most popular destination for Diaspora meetings in the USA is New York (53% are willing to attend), followed by Boston (39%) and Washington D.C. (25%). The results furthermore clearly suggest that it would not be difficult to organize a large group of prominent Albanian-Americans to visit the region in the fall of 2015.

To conclude, overall, the respondents show a high level of commitment and optimism – over 40% of the respondents are “very optimistic” that the Albanian Diaspora Program will be successful. Our challenge will be to harness this enthusiasm and to ensure that the conditions in the host countries are significantly improved so that the Diaspora can be effectively engaged. Without creating these conditions it will be very difficult to motivate the efforts of the Diaspora to sustainably contribute to the development of the home countries.

Read the Full Report

Between March 6th and March 22nd 2015, 1,468 Albanian-Americans took part in the online survey, of whom 869 completed the full survey. The results presented here are based on the answers of the latter group.

The survey studied the ways in which the active Albanian-Americans would like to engage in the development of their home countries. Its results are helping us define the focus of the upcoming events organized by the Diaspora Program.