ECCE’s Flagship Project: Tavaana E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society

Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society is Iran’s pioneer e-learning institute. The project was launched on May 17, 2010 with a mission to support active citizenship and civic leadership in Iran through a secure, Persian/English e-learning platform.

The Institute's Curriculum

In addition to offering live, instructor led classes on subjects such as leadership, cybersecurity, women's rights, democracy, and civic activism, the e-learning institute features manuals, podcasts and video lectures, as well as video interviews with prominent Iranian and international activists, case studies on civic movements for human rights and democracy worldwide, translations of democracy classics and texts written by Iranian civic leaders, pedagogic resources for school teachers and civic trainers, an annotated e-library of Persian and English resources, and outreach to various branches of Iranian civil society, not to mention international civic activists, via robust social networks.

Tavaana Students

Tavaana was quickly and enthusiastically received as a much-needed safe space for the exchange of knowledge on how Iranians can amplify their civic voice and peacefully build democratic political life. The Institute’s inclusive, politically unbiased approach and its attention to the full spectrum of civil liberties have earned the credence of a broad spectrum of Iranian civil society actors.

Course participants regularly include prominent human rights advocates, leading feminists, young intellectuals, democracy activists, minority rights advocates, student leaders, journalists and bloggers, election campaign volunteers, and members of reformist political parties. Students have disseminated course materials to their networks both in person and online; had others sit in on live sessions with them; and used course materials to train countless others throughout the country.

Tavaana Partnerships

Tavaana is proud to leverage the world’s best civil society curricula and technology tools through close partnerships with leading international organizations, including: The Albert Shanker Institute, Freedom House, Mobile Active, the New Tactics in Human Rights Project of the Center for Victims of Torture and George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.

Our Awards, Accomplishments and Supporters

In March 2011, Deutsche Welle selected Tavaana as one of only ten finalists in their prestigious BOBs (Best of the Blogs) award competition, in the “Human Rights” category. Tavaana was the only Iran project to be recognized in the award competition. In October 2010, Tavaana was selected out of hundreds of nominees to be a ‘Top Five’ finalist in the “Most Innovative Use of Social Media” category of the CLASSY Awards in Washington, DC. In December 2010, Google Grants recognized Tavaana with an ongoing grant of $10,000 of free advertising each month. Persianesque magazine’s readership has also voted for Tavaana as the single most worthy cause deserving free advertising space by the magazine.

The Tavaana project was launched with a seed grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The project was incubated at the Center for Liberty in the Middle East before being moved to its home at the E-Collaborative for Civic Education. Tavaana has since pushed past its seed funding to secure follow-on funds from the DRL Bureau at the State Department as well as funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

ECCE is currently developing sister projects to the Tavaana E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society.

Praise for Tavaana-E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society:

From international experts and practitioners:

“Wonderful initiative!”
— Ahmad Nader Nadery, Afghan Human Rights Commissioner

— Ambassador Michael McFaul, currently U.S. Ambassador to Russia

“Bravo. Absolutely first class!”
— Ambassador Mark Palmer, Co-Founder of the National Endowment for Democracy and Vice-Chair of Freedom House

— Goli Ameri, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and presently Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Values and Diplomacy at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

“I have been exploring your new Tavaana site this afternoon, and I think it is really fantastic. It fills some very useful gaps that no other site does. This is a real service, and I just hope that political activists inside Iran make good use of it. This really is a commendable effort.”
— Steve Fairbanks, Iran expert and former head of Radio Azadi

From Tavaana students:

“It was unbelievable for me to take online classes and achieve such a great result. It was transformative to participate in classes where you can see people around the world. It was wonderful to ask questions whenever we wanted, and then the professor considered all of them very carefully, and all participants shared their views without any fear. I could not imagine such a thing even in my dreams…I learned a lot in this course. Now I have a broader vision, and I can see the distant future. I can fulfill my obligation in the civic awareness movement through teaching what I learned. I shouldn’t expect to change everything immediately, [but I also] shouldn’t be disappointed. The democracy movement is a continuous process.”
— Tavaana “Democracy Web” class student

“[The course] was completely effective. I spread the materials myself by teaching the information to more than 80 people and distributing the course PDFs on our group website. I am sure lots of people who didn’t take this class are now familiar with these materials. [The course] provided useful and very practical materials, which were very relevant and applicable to Iran’s situation…They absolutely made my activities safer. I will use 100% of the course material [I learned] because every bit of it will increase my computer and internet security. I will definitely continue my activity on the internet with more confidence…Thank you to everyone who was involved in this course, Tavaana’s directors, and Nima Rashedan [the instructor]. I am sure these activities increase the knowledge of youth, and freedom will be the result.”
— Tavaana cybersecurity class student

“These types of educational methods with a professional instructor and wonderful readings can change our perspective towards our activities. I learned that we have to work more in order to have a free democratic country respecting global and civil rights. In addition, I learned that we have to learn more and teach others to make our society ready for change. The sensitivity of the Iranian regime to Tavaana courses shows how Tavaana can affect Iranian society over the internet. Education will have a greater impact; be sure and continue this way in order to have a developed, free country with free thought in which human rights are respected.”
- Tavaana “Democracy Web” class student

“[This course] changed my view of women’s rights. Although I always believed in men and women’s equality, this course made my view more open. [I learned that] even a small change in one person can lay important groundwork for big changes in society. If I can transfer my knowledge to someone else and change his/her view, I’m doing something big.”
— Tavaana “Protecting Women’s Rights in Iran” class student

“I have just now, after 50 years of life, understood what rights I have that I hadn't known about...[This course] changed my view on life in an extraordinary way, and I will get this information to [other] women and girls in any way I can.”
— Tavaana “Protecting Women’s Rights in Iran” class student