The goal of this impact evaluation study is to assess the success of the activities conducted under the “Compatriot programme 2009–2013” and to recommend additional activities that would help expatriates retain and strengthen their ties with Estonia, with the Estonian language and culture.
During the study, document analysis was conducted (documents related to the programme, other local studies and analyses, including studying the practices of other countries and migration theories) in addition to focus groups, 62 in-depth interviews and an extensive online survey among the target groups of the programme. 747 compatriots participated in the online survey, including 278 target group representatives. Additionally, a general survey was conducted to describe the diaspora, one of the goals of which was to get an overview of where the descendants of Estonians and Estonian expatriates reside abroad, their current citizenship, reasons for migrating, life satisfaction, attitudes and views on migration, their involvement and ties with Estonia and so forth. The second important goal of the general survey was to find contacts for the target and control groups. 1161 compatriots responded to the general survey.
The central conclusion of the impact evaluation study is that the programme and the activities supported by the programme are necessary for helping compatriots retain their ties to Estonia and its culture and preserving the expatriate cultural heritage. However, there is room for improvement in the organizational side of the programme, in addition to better marketing of the programme, its goals and opportunities need more attention and better promotion among the communities abroad because the study revealed that the target groups knew little of the programme’s activities; most of the respondents were familiar with certain measures but the larger majority were unfamiliar with these activities. Successful marketing of the information and materials related to the programme requires the gathering and dissemination of this information, in addition to closer cooperation with other ministries, programme implementers and with Estonian communities and associations abroad.
During the study, different actors repeatedly admitted that perceived prejudices prevalent in Estonian society and the derogatory attitude towards minorities and expatriates influence their wish and intention to return to Estonia. One of the ways for improving this kind of attitude is to introduce the life and circumstances of expatriates to local Estonians. It is important to improve local Estonians’ knowledge about compatriots and their tolerance towards them. Furthermore, it is essential to recognize those active compatriots who are engaged in retaining the Estonian cultural heritage and Estonian language abroad. Compatriots can participate in and contribute to Estonian entrepreneurship and society even if they do not plan to return to Estonia. Therefore, in order to involve compatriots in the development and progress of Estonia, different parties need to cooperate to fully take advantage of the opportunities around them.