At least one-third of Albanians live outside the borders of their home countries in Southeastern Europe. In countries where they live and work, many of them have achieved levels of professional and economic success that would not have been possible at home.
From 2015 through 2016, the Growth Lab undertook an initiative to raise the awareness and make diaspora engagement one of the Albanian government’s priorities. We were driven by the idea of the impact of connecting this wealth of knowledge and economic capital with the home country.
The objectives of our Diaspora Program were:
Facilitate relations between the home government and the diaspora community organizations abroad.
- Support the home government with building capacities to engage the diaspora and develop strategies for leveraging its potential to promote economic and social development in Albania, and more largely, in Southeastern Europe.
Our Diaspora Program started with reinforcing the relations with the Albanians in the U.S., but it could serve as a blueprint for other diaspora engagements.
Our action plan evolved in various stages:
The first stage involved a series of meetings in the U.S. between the diaspora groups on the one hand and government officials and private sector representatives on the other. A high-level meeting took place in New York City on September 26th, 2015, with the Albanian Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, diaspora representatives, and the Growth Lab team headed by Professor Ricardo Hausmann. In that meeting, the Albanian Prime Minister committed to holding a first-ever Diaspora Summit in Tirana in 2016.
In the second stage, Diaspora leaders visited Albania and other Southeastern European countries to scope the possibility of creating a strategy for engaging the diaspora in the country’s development.
- The third stage involved supporting the Albanian government in organizing the Diaspora Summit and mobilizing diaspora networks to participate in it. To that end, Growth Lab hosted the Albanian Foreign Minister in September 2016 in an event with diaspora members and actively participated in the Diaspora Summit held in Tirana in November 2016.
Since then, the Growth Lab has continued to support the diaspora engagement in different ways, such as hosting the State Minister of Diaspora at Harvard, sending one of our graduate students to Tirana to support the Minister’s team with research on diaspora engagements, participating in the second Diaspora Summit which was held in February 2019, and hosting events at Harvard with visiting Albanian dignitaries and diaspora groups in the Boston area.