One of the most recent programs created by the Arzuw Foundation is the Turkmen Advisory Council. Existing since 2010, TAC brings together young Turkmen scholars and experienced Western researchers who work together to produce research and consult on issues related to the activities of the Foundation and its interests.
TAC research advisor and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Emily Putnam describes the purpose of the Turkmen Advisory Council as to engage, empower, and train Turkmen as researchers and critical evaluators of societal developments (programs, projects, events, policies, etc.) in Turkmenistan. The program employs Turkmen as consultants and gives them an opportunity to apply the skills they've gained through their college experience, to real-world issues and research.
This year TAC involves four consultants who work in Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan under the guidance of Emily. She advises TAC consultants on their research project, particularly in the areas of writing research questions, which research methods to use and why, and survey design. Consultants have also received special training on interview and data analysis.
In 2012, TAC consultants are working on the topic of "Education in Turkmenistan". Consultants are researching what are the goals and objectives of Turkmen students studying abroad, and what perspectives they have back home after the graduation. One of the most important issues of the research is whether a foreign diploma helps Turkmen students in finding an employment at home.
During last few months, consultants went through a long way of research development: from discussion and planning of the methods to collection of the responses and interviews, and now they are in the final stage of data analysis and report writing.
"Crafting the research questions with the consultants was very exciting and interesting - we had to think about so many things - language issues, how some might interpret a certain question we were asking, and thinking about all the potential responses we might receive," says Emily.
One of the challenging parts of the research was to make sure that respondents are comfortable with questions drafted by consultants, adds Emily.
TAC is a platform where more experienced consultants can teach new-to-research Turkmen students research techniques and other useful skills.
"I have never been involved into any kind of research before, and have not worked with a foreign NGO, but I always wanted to work in the community development and human rights sphere. So when I have heard of TAC I thought that this is a great opportunity to become closer to my goal. In the last few months, I have learned a lot about research and western standards of research making, and I am looking forward seeing our final report. I am also eager to repeat this experience in the next year," says one of the consultants.
Very soon TAC will finish the research and produce its final report.
"I expect this project to the first of many that will allow the Foundation to plan for future programming, enhance/improve the ways in which they can engage other Turkmen in their efforts and allow others to learn more about Turkmen youth and how they perceive their future in Turkmenistan," says Emily.