Who We Are
SRDI is a non-profit that identifies and forms social enterprise ventures that have tangible, positive impacts on rural communities.
SRDI was started in 2012 by a handful of dedicated volunteers with support and seed investment from our founder and CEO, the Managing Director of Vesselka Consulting Limited. With 78% of poverty concentrated in rural areas, we believe that there is a better way than solely relying on the support of overseas development assistance. To achieve a positive impact at the grassroots level, our founders took it upon themselves to work with small-scale community-based groups and at the same time lobby institutional donors and governments to adopt a more people-centered approach to development assistance.
As a young organisation we selected the Black Sea region to begin our work and chose sustainable tourism as the main driver behind rural economic development. Tourism cuts across sectors - youth and women participation in business, development of small business ventures to support tourists, training in sustainable practices and service delivery - all of which impacts a community as a whole. We partner with local organisations in the three countries that are our current areas of focus – Ukraine, Turkey, and Georgia. We believe that these organisations are best placed to identify the local needs and to engage with the community. Community leaders are identified and supported to create core leadership that is often overlooked by international development agencies.
The social venture is called the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program. We help rural communities plan and implement UN sustainable development goals through responsible travel and use the Global Sustainable Tourism Council destination criteria as our benchmark.
How is this social venture different? It involves a community in a participatory approach so the ultimate design belongs to the community. Where bookings at community accommodations are made with SRDI, we take no more than 3% from the business owner (compared to at least 15% by well-known booking firms). Most importantly, we set aside 5% for the community in a micro-grant fund. SRDI also provides training, experiential exchanges with partner communities in all three countries and we put the community and its businesses on a dedicated website.
Since our founding, we have focused on the Black Sea Region because of its unique cultures and environments and large, underserved rural populations. We are pleased that in our first year our team was invited to present our approach and plans at the International Ecotourism Society during their annual meeting in California. We have made presentations to local governments and community stakeholders in Ukraine, Turkey and Georgia and in 2017 to the Ukraine Investment Conference funded by USAID in Kyiv, Ukraine.
2013 - 2014
Between 2013 - 2014 SRDI reviewed 20 community self-assessment questionnaires to assess interest, knowledge and capacity to undertake local economic sustainable development through responsible tourism. An in-depth situational analysis was completed and 8 communities selected to take part in a pilot program.
Initial studies of communities in Kastamonu Province, Turkey were finished using the SRDI self-assessment questionnaires and community round-tables. Kastamonu Province was selected as the starting point for BSST in Turkey with the support of WWF (Turkey).
2015 - 2016
Beginning in 2015, we established the BSST Program Secretariat in Istanbul and a National Office based in Azdavay, Turkey.
Our first community experience exchange program, opened by the governor of Kastamonu Province, was conducted over 4 days in Azdavay, Turkey with representatives from Ukraine and Georgia. The Program governance structure, phased implementation approach and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council destination criteria were introduced.
In 2016 a 3-day training and strategic planning study tour for representatives from Turkey and Ukraine was held in Kherson Oblast, Ukraine, sponsored by Danone. Government and representative stakeholders took an active role in developing a plan to implement sustainable tourism in the region.
SRDI and its Turkish partners were awarded a grant under the EU-Turkey Civil Society Dialogue V to expand the BSST Program in Turkey.
2017 - 2018
SRDI and the Kure Mountains Ecotourism Association implemented an 18-month project to expand the BSST Program in Turkey. The team provided training in strategic planning, service delivery, gender equality, accessibility and GSTC criteria. Working with four regional development agencies covering Bartin, Samson, Sinop and Trabzon, held community focus groups to identify opportunities and impediment. Ukrainian participants provided examples of best practices and exchanged lesson's learned. A five-year strategic plan for sustainable tourism was developed by community stakeholders to close out the project.
SRDI and its partner from the Chaika Eco-complex in Hola Prystan presented approaches and examples of successful responsible tourism at the USAID funded Ukraine Investment conference.
At the end of 2017, SRDI signed a strategic partnership agreement with Bridge Innovation and Development, the new BSST National Office in Georgia.
Mr. Richard A. Shepard
Chief Executive Officer
Mr. Richard A. Shepard, CEO and founder of SRDI, has more than 40 years' experience in senior management of Fortune 50 companies and international development representing the World Bank, USAID, the EC, MCC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and private sector clients. He has development experience in Africa, Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East leading long and short-term projects dealing with land reform, capacity building, government transparency, governance and public sector re-engineering.
Mr. Shepard holds a BA in Political Science from Drew University and a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School. He has attended Leningrad Polytechnic Institute (1969) earning a certificate in Russian language studies and the Royal Commonwealth Society/Drew University Program in International Political Science and Philosophy in London (1968).
Mr. Andreas Karasamanis
Mr. Andreas Karasamanis is the CEO of Stelx Group, an international firm with offices in Limassol, London and Dubai. The Stelx team has been active in business consultancy and management since 1992, as Stelx Group since 2007. He has helped the Group develop its Business Management and Financial Advisory services worldwide.
Mr. Karasamanis has previously worked as a District Manager at Universal Bank Public Ltd, as the Head of Limassol and Pafos offices; at Marfin Laiki Factors Ltd, as the Head of Advances Department; and, as Credit Officer at Marfin Laiki Bank Public Ltd. He has more than 14 years' banking experience and 9 years in Management and Financial Advisory Consultancy. He is a Certified Advisor for Investments in Financial Instruments, holding a Certificate of Professional Competence, granted by the Ministry of Finance in 2005.
Mr. Karasamanis earned a Master in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from Saint John’s University in New York in 1991 and a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from the Bernard M. Baruch College, the City University of New York in 1990.
Mr Nigel Edmead
Training & Development
Mr. Nigel Edmead currently serves as Director of Training and Documentation at Thomson Reuters where he leads learning for Aumentum, a flagship solution for property registration, valuation and taxation.
He has a track record in delivering learning for land administration technologies including pro-poor land tools and is a guest lecturer at ITC, Enschede and TUM, Munich. He has worked as a business analyst and project manager on land administration projects in Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia. Nigel holds an MSc. in Land Resource Management and is based in London.