Tavaana is Iran’s premier civic education and civil society capacity building initiative with a vision for a free and open society, one in which each and every Iranian enjoys equality, justice and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties.
Launched in 2010 with a seed grant from the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) at the US Department of State, the project has been hence sustained with federal assistance (DRL, USAID and the Near East Affairs Bureau at the US Department of State) as well as support from the National Endowment for Democracy, Internews, the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and vital in-kind contributions from Google.
Tavaana has built organically robust civic networks that engage millions each day -- across Iran and across the globe. The institute’s timely social media posts amplify Iranian civil society’s organizing efforts in every part of the country. These posts are widely discussed by the Iranian people in even the smallest of town and the most remote of locations, together with our arsenal of ebooks, case studies and other open access civic education resources, live events, ecourses and more on heavily censored topics such as feminist activism, democratic transition, corruption watchdogging, Islamic reformation, labor organizing, secularism, religious freedom and LGBT rights, as well as Iran’s own history and the history of world events denied and distorted, most notably the Holocaust.
Iran’s most esteemed scholars and human rights defenders serve as Tavaana instructors. As an inclusive civic learning community, we cover the full spectrum of civil and political liberties denied while addressing the devastating effects of theocratic tyranny, namely educational crises, psychosocial trauma, environmental destruction, domestic violence, prostitution, human trafficking, health epidemics, substance abuse, and more.
We offer professional development and pedagogic support to civic-minded Iranian teachers motivated to counter the Islamic Republic’s lies, media manipulation and illiberal teachings. Our TavaanaTech service makes Iranian civil society better equipped to employ technology more safely and sustainably in the struggle for democracy and human rights. Our Tolerance Project celebrates difference and educates about religious freedom, minority rights and democratic pluralism.
Tavaana, TavaanaTech and the Tolerance Project are initiatives of the 501c3 nonprofit organization E-Collaborative for Civic Education (ECCE). ECCE is located in Bethesda, MD and operates virtual teams of contributors located throughout the globe.
ECCE’s co-founders and co-directors, Mariam Memarsadeghi and Akbar Atri, share a longstanding interest in civic education, academic backgrounds in political science as well as personal histories of activism and aiding civic groups struggling against repressive regimes worldwide. Akbar spent ten years in the leadership of the Iranian student movement and was one of the original drafters of a referendum calling for a democratic constitution. He left Iran in 2005. Mariam left Iran as a child during the 1979 revolution. She previously directed Freedom House’s Middle East and North Africa programs, is a former Presidential Leadership Scholar and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Tavaana is proud to leverage the very best civic education curricula and civil society capacity building resources through partnerships with leading American institutions.
The Albert Shanker Institute has provided several exclusive lectures on labor rights and labor organizing for the Iranian context and with Freedom House, has lent its “Democracy Web” curriculum to Tavaana for translation, adaptation and teaching to Iranian civil society. The Albert Shanker Institute is a nonprofit organization committed to four fundamental principles: vibrant democracy, quality public education, a voice for working people in decisions affecting their jobs and their lives, and free and open debate about all of these issues. Established in 1998, the institute brings together influential leaders and thinkers from business, labor, government, and education from across the political spectrum. It sponsors research, promotes discussions, and seeks new and workable approaches to the issues that will shape the future of democracy, education, and unionism.
The Center for Civic Education/CIVITAS has provided its “Foundations of Democracy” curriculum to Tavaana for translation and adaptation to the Iranian context. The Center supervised the teaching of the “Foundations of Democracy” live ecourse and has provided exclusive pedagogical and teacher development resources to Tavaana as well as its globally tested Civitas textbook of curricula, which Tavaana has translated and published in parts. The Center is presently collaborating with Tavaana on further efforts to build the capacity of Iranian teachers. The Center is the United States’ leading civic education organization with a wide range of critically acclaimed curricular, teacher-training programs, exchanges and community-based programs in all fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and more than sixty-five other countries on five continents. The Center’s CIVITAS International Programs include consortia of U.S.-based universities and other educational institutions partnered with NGOs and ministries of education in other countries. The Center is broadly recognized as the leading institution in the world in effective civic education for democracy.
Freedom House provided its “Democracy Web” curriculum to Tavaana for translation, adaptation and teaching. Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House analyzes the challenges to freedom; advocates for greater political and civil liberties; and supports frontline activists to defend human rights and promote democratic change. Founded in 1941, Freedom House was the first American organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally.
George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management has partnered with Tavaana on our “Leadership Development” course, providing both curriculum and instruction. The Graduate School of Political Management educates students and professionals in the tools, principles and values of participatory democracy, preparing them for careers as ethical and effective advocates and leaders at the international, national and local levels, in a non-partisan environment. Founded in 1987, the Graduate School of Political Management is the pioneer school in the study of political management or "applied politics." Since its inception, the GSPM has been a unique program in American higher education with the mission of affecting positive change in politics through education.
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights has partnered with Tavaana on our "Traumatic Stress and Human Rights" ecourse offering, providing both curriculum and instruction. Heartland Alliance, based in Chicago, helps people living in poverty or danger improve their lives and realize their human rights. For 125 years, Heartland Alliance has built and advocated for safe, high-quality housing and support for people experiencing homelessness, poverty, or chronic illness; ensured that comprehensive health care is available to people experiencing poverty or trauma; helped people threatened by poverty gain the tools to improve their well-being; and provided legal protection for people in danger, including refugees, migrants, victims of trafficking and other vulnerable populations facing discrimination or violence
The New Tactics in Human Rights Project of the Center for Victims of Torture has partnered with Tavaana on the “Five Steps to Tactical Innovation” ecourse and the three “New Tactics in Human Rights” webinars, providing both curriculum and instruction. New Tactics connects the broad human rights community around the world to share experiences, resources and tactical ideas to advance their advocacy efforts.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has collaborated with Tavaana on subtitling and airing their documentary “The Path to Nazi Genocide” to Persian as well as on our Tolerance Project by providing profiles of Holocaust victims and survivors, texts for translation, and fact sheets, among other resources and advice. As a living memorial to the Holocaust, the Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Since its dedication in 1993, the Museum has welcomed more than 40 million visitors, including 99 heads of state and more than ten million school-age children. Their website, the world’s leading online authority on the Holocaust, is available in 16 languages.