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In the Spotlight: Iranian Leaders at Nonprofit Organizations

By Ellie Javadi, PARSA CF Volunteer

This month, PARSA Community Foundation focuses on nonprofit organizations that support non-Iranian causes and are led or founded by Iranians. We sought to better understand what motivates each leader to serve their cause. With a diverse list of personal motivations, these leaders continue to inspire others with their service, advocacy, and focus on making a positive difference in the world. 

Farahnaz Karimi: A Voice against Poverty and Exclusion
Oxfam Novib, Director
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

As an author, human rights activist, and Iranian-Dutch politician, Karimi has focused on the socio-economic inequalities of modern society. Since November 2007, Karimi has served as general director of Oxfam Novib in the Netherlands, a nonprofit rights-based organization, and Oxfam International Dutch affiliate, focused on eliminating poverty worldwide.   

Karimi came to lead Oxfam Novib after serving as a member of the Dutch House of Representatives from 1998 through 2006. Through her courage, advocacy and leadership, she serves as a unique role model for positive influence and change.

Established in 1956, Oxfam Novib supports people living in poverty while working to build an independent livelihood. In order to increase the effectiveness of its work, Oxfam Novib joined Oxfam International in 1994. Oxfam International is an alliance of 12 independent organizations that underscore the conviction that poverty and exclusion are unjust and unnecessary.

"The fight against poverty can only succeed when governments and businesses roll up their sleeves and demonstrate a shared commitment. Oxfam Novib collaborates with organizations uniquely focused on these issues and co-operates with them in a variety of alliances and coalitions to support the poor - those individuals who fight the toughest battles in this world," states Karimi.

Karimi was also an instrumental figure in the creation of Netherlands-based Radio Zamaneh, an independent, Persian-language radio show providing cultural and social viewpoints. Radio Zamaneh broadcasts 24 hours a day in its satellite edition. Karimi presented a bill to the Dutch parliament to establish the radio station and fund its ongoing programs. This bill was approved in 2004 and Radio Zamaneh was launched in 2006. Current Radio Zamaneh programs offer news, interviews, political and social analyses, as well as philosophical, literary, and artistic discussions appropriate for a young Iranian audience. 

Useful links:
Karimi's Oxfam blog:
Radio Zamaneh website (in Persian):
Radio Zamaneh Manifesto (in English):
Oxfam Novib:
Oxfam International:

Alan Khazei: A Voice for Social Change, Justice and Service
Be the Change, Founder and CEO
City Year, Founder
Boston, Massachusetts

What are the virtues of U.S. citizenship? Why is national service critical to social change? Is service a defining ethic of what it means to be an American? Alan Khazei has set out to address these very questions, fueled by his own remarkable sense of purpose and passion to drive social change and justice.

As founder and CEO of Be the Change, Inc., Khazei is helping to further the vision of an America where every citizen is offered the opportunity to actively participate in the dialogue needed to ensure the democratic process. Khazei started Be the Change, Inc., to address not only the action side of service, but the policy side that makes it possible. Be the Change, Inc., is directed by the following goals:

  • Craft a bold and innovative policy agenda that is rooted in the practical experience of social entrepreneurs and civic leaders and set a pragmatic, ten-year time horizon for major systemic change
  • Build a broad-based, web-fueled, citizens' movement that will campaign for better public policies, promote active citizenship and citizen democracy, and give Americans who are frustrated with the status quo a place to channel their ideas and activism
  • Partner with and invest seed money in advocacy groups that share our ideals, are building their own membership, and can help us build coalitions to support an agenda for change

Khazei recently stated, "I believe service is one of the most powerful forces for change. We can't wait for it. If we want change, we must be the change. Service is one important aspect of that change."

Be the Change, Inc., is currently working with over 200 other organizations as part of the U.S. Service Nation Organizing Committee and is committed to expanding service and creating an agenda to support and mobilize volunteers. Be the Change, Inc., recently offered the following ideas to jumpstart service in the US policy agenda:

Previously, Khazei founded City Year, a youth service corps that inspired the development of AmeriCorps, in 1988. City Year was founded with 50 young adults in Boston, and now operates in 17 U.S. cities and in Johannesburg, South Africa with an annual budget of $50 million and 1,400 young adults serving 100,000 children annually.

Khazei also serves on the Boards of Citizen Schools, City Year, New Profit and Share our Strength. In 2006 US News and World Report selected Alan as one of America's 25 Best Leaders. He is an honors graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Useful links:
Be the Change:
City Year:
Behind the Scenes at Be the Change's Day of Action:
Service Nation on Facebook:

Mahnaz Aflatooni Javid: A Voice for Equality
Mona Foundation, Founder and Board Member
Kirkland, Washington

In 1999, Mahnaz Javid founded Mona Foundation to support grassroots educational initiatives and raise the status of women and girls in the United States and abroad. The Foundation is inspired by Mona, a courageous 16-year-old girl who was jailed and executed in Iran because of her Bahá'í faith.
Javid was further inspired by the plight of young women around the world, deprived of education, that were almost guaranteed to remain in poverty. 

"The full and equal participation of women in all spheres of life is essential to social and economic development, the abolition of war, and the ultimate establishment of a peaceful world," states Javid. "We believe that successful programs are those that develop from grassroots educational initiatives and which seek to raise the social and economic status of the community as a whole, including those of women and girls."

Through grant giving, Javid has led the Washington State-based Foundation in providing quality education to children, raising the status of women and girls, and community building. The Foundation extends its services to the world of humanity regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or economic status.

Javid's early vision and continued determination are in part derived from her family's personal values on education and gender equality. "My parents sent me to the US as a teenager because of their conviction that a superior education is essential for girls as well as boys. Their values have certainly had an impact on me and my work at Mona Foundation."

To date, Mona Foundation contributors have generously shared over $4,600,000 to support projects with cash, in-kind efforts, technology and books in the Foundation's 10 years of operation. Notably, ninety seven percent of all general funds go directly to projects.  One hundred percent of designated funds go the projects.

The Foundation's volunteers have contributed over 39,000 hours of their own time to support these same projects. 

Javid continues to serve the Foundation's mission as a board member.

Useful links:
Mona Foundation:

Lily Zandniapour: A Voice for Nonprofit Learning
Innovation Network, Inc., Executive Director
Washington, D.C.

Dr. Lily Zandniapour is keenly focused on social change by helping other nonprofits learn from their own work. As Executive Director of Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Innovation Network, she is committed to helping other nonprofits and funders meet their missions by teaching them to set goals and measure progress.
Innovation Network builds its clients' ability to evaluate what they do. The systematic collection and analysis of data about programs and services helps nonprofits and foundations make informed decisions that will create lasting change in the communities they serve.

"The organizations we work with are out to change the world.  We offer them the know-how necessary to meet their objectives, including program planning and evaluation consulting, training, and web-based tools. We share the power of evaluation, so more organizations have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed," shares Zandniapour.
Zandniapour is a seasoned evaluator, researcher, teacher, and statistical analyst with nearly twenty years of experience. Zandniapour attended the American University in Washington, D.C., from which she earned both a bachelor's degree and a doctorate in economics. Her work with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Economic and Cultural Affairs, the D.C.-based QED Group, the Economic Opportunities Program at the Aspen Institute, the Institute for Women's Policy Research, and the World Bank broadened her perspective and deepened her desire to help nonprofits reach their goals.  She has particular expertise in the areas of education, workforce and microenterprise development, and poverty alleviation.

"Our clients are focused on solving a diverse set of problems, from advocating for immigration reform to educating seniors about nutrition and physical activity. Our current projects range in scope from small community-based nonprofits to international foundations. As you can imagine, they have a diverse set of business, operational, and evaluation needs. But they can all learn from their own work, and strengthen what they are doing to improve their results. Innovation Network contributes to the effectiveness of the entire nonprofit sector; that's what I'm passionate about," Zandniapour further shares.

Innovation Network was founded in 1992, and has grown from a small research firm to a major player in the evaluation field.  In particular, Innovation Network is a leading voice for new approaches to evaluating advocacy and policy change efforts.  Zandniapour joined Innovation Network as a Senior Associate in 2006. She has served as Executive Director since February 2008, leading the organization's program staff and operations and guiding its strategic direction.

"This is a very exciting time for Innovation Network. We are continually strengthening our own work so we can reach new audiences and keep serving the sector well into the future. I'm delighted to be a part of this highly motivated, vibrant organization."

Useful links:
Innovation Network:

Contact PARSA Community Foundation
We hope you were inspired by the extraordinary social impact made by the leaders profiled in this edition of "In the Spotlight." If you know of other forerunners of social change, please contact PARSA CF at  Sharing their stories emboldens our voices, heightens our aspirations and redoubles our efforts.

... Payvand News - 07/06/09 ... --

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