Guiding Turkey’s Changemakers


Mina Yanci


On a hot summer day, two teachers in Southeastern Turkey wished for equal opportunities for all their students living in the far, far away villages. Watching those children afar, they hoped for a change…

This could have been the whole story. However, with a little bit of courage these two teachers, namely Abdulkadir and Nusrettin, took a step towards a brighter future. They decided to make a change by realizing a simple truth; we must be the agents of change that we want to see in this world. Nowadays, they carry books to children and conduct various workshops with a second-hand minibus that they converted into a mobile library.

With this excitement and determination, Nusrettin and Abdulkadir have become the newest members of the Sabancı Foundation’s ‘Turkey’s Changemakers Program’ in its 11th season which has begun the journey in 2009 with the motto of ‘Make a Difference! Change Lives!’. Within the scope of the program, stories of 195 Changemakers, who try to solve the problems that they encounter in their own environment and encourage the society, are shared with the public. These agents of change are mostly social entrepreneurs, activists, and change-actors like the two teachers that generate innovative solutions to social problems.

Each of the Changemakers takes part in the struggle to create a society in which all individuals enjoy their rights equally, in line with the vision of the Sabancı Foundation. For 10 years we had the opportunity to closely observe the needs of the Changemakers to sustain and widespread their innovative solutions. With our experience and knowledge, in the new season, we went through a participatory process to reshape our Turkey’s Changemakers Program together with the experts, Foundation team, but mostly with the Changemakers themselves.

Within the new structure of the program, we continue to make the Changemakers visible by providing them tailor-made communication support formed as the result of one-on-one meetings and a comprehensive needs analysis. On top of that, since the 11th season of the program, the Changemakers receive customized training and mentoring support for six months with the partnership of Impact Hub Istanbul and have the opportunity to collaborate with other Changemakers through various workshops and events in the network. Due to the pandemic, trainings and capacity building activities have started online and the Changemakers are supported with a technology package to participate in the online support scheme without interruption.

There are three main dimensions to the support program. The first part is comprised of training and workshops on topics such as storytelling and presentation skills, financial sustainability, impact measurement, and social media management. All trainings are customized according to the results of the detailed needs analysis. The second part is the mentoring program which is evaluated at regular intervals with the feedbacks both from Changemakers and their mentors. Along with that, the third part of the support program involves collaboration opportunities with previous seasons’ Changemakers. Within a vast network of social entrepreneurs, we believe our 11th season Changemakers will realize their potential sooner than expected.

With these innovations and support mechanisms, Sabancı Foundation’s Turkey’s Changemakers Program will continue to empower impact-driven, creative and active citizens in Turkey, who will now have stronger access to strategic resources and collaboration opportunities to create a better world. Because at the end of the day, we are aware of the one simple truth as Sabancı Foundation Chair of the Board of Trustees Güler Sabancı puts it: ‘We may not change the world. We may not completely solve the problems, but we can make a difference to that problem. This is the whole point.’

Mina Yanci is Programs Specialist at Sabanci Foundation

Tagged in: Funding practice

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