Social Innovation in Turkey

نوآوری اجتماعی در ترکیه

نوآوری اجتماعی در ترکیه

In this article, we discuss the emergence of social innovation in Turkey and explore the creative ideas of Turks in addressing societal and environmental issues. Despite challenges such as financial constraints and organizational shortcomings, these ideas continue to contribute to problem-solving. Additionally, we share insights into what may happen in the future and how more innovative solutions may emerge in Turkey.

Key policies of social innovation in Turkey

In Turkey, the primary focus of social innovation revolves around fundamental areas for creative and innovative projects addressing issues related to poverty, employment, and the environment. To better understand, we delve into examples in these areas. It’s worth noting that due to a lack of innovative projects in energy, health, and transportation, and the inhibiting role of the government in these domains, our focus has shifted away from these topics.

In Turkey, there is no specific national program or policy for social innovation. However, at the local level, if the government is aware of innovative projects, it may support and collaborate with them, either financially or through project-to-project partnerships. While the term “social innovation” is not extensively discussed in government circles, “social entrepreneurship” is more popular and garners more attention in political discussions.

The biggest challenge in social innovation projects in Turkey

The fundamental challenge for projects aiming to create positive change in society is that it is often difficult for participants to secure sufficient budget to sustain the project. This challenge becomes more significant due to the sensitivity and complexity of the laws related to such projects. Consequently, many of these projects do not progress adequately due to a lack of financial resources, hindering the spread of desirable ideas and assistance to more individuals. Furthermore, individuals may refrain from initiating such projects altogether due to concerns about their financial implications and their impact on their professions.

Social role and success of innovation projects in addressing employment, environment, and poverty challenges

During the SI-DRIVE project at Istanbul Technical University, successful research was conducted in the field of social innovation related to environmental, poverty, and employment issues. Findings indicated that these projects could successfully navigate the financial and organizational challenges in Turkey, growing to be profitable for communities. Thus, success in Turkey is more likely when project participants represent local communities, and project goals receive support from various social groups.

In the employment sector, some social innovation projects on a large scale have been initiated by government institutions. ISMEK (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s Center for Continuous Learning) is a good example in the fields of education and employment policy. ISMEK, an educational organization under the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, offers free courses in arts and professions, aiming to increase individuals’ personal knowledge, improve their professional and artistic understanding, equip them with urban culture, help them participate in production processes, and enhance their employment opportunities.

In the environmental field, a project like Agricultural Marketing ( is a novel and useful idea that effectively combines social and environmental aspects. This website in Turkey facilitates farmers in selling their products directly without intermediaries. Additionally, the site provides valuable information on stock market prices, agricultural techniques, and new technologies. The main goal of this idea is to prevent financial losses for farmers, which often lead to their migration to cities and unemployment. Despite some private company support, Agricultural Marketing has faced challenges due to certain laws and regulations hindering its growth.

Many non-governmental organizations in Turkey focus on crucial issues such as justice, poverty alleviation, economic improvement, rural area development, and empowering women. The Rural Development Project in the Kahta Basin, launched by the Ozigin Association with the support of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock, provides practical and innovative solutions for these issues. This project has successfully reduced poverty levels in the Bitlis province’s Kahta region.

Despite the positive impact of these projects, some have faced challenges such as regulatory obstacles and the need for international support. Overall, research results indicate that community representation and broad social goals are of paramount importance for the success and sustainability of social innovation projects.

Opportunities for future social change projects

In general, the primary challenge for projects addressing positive societal changes is the collection of sufficient financial resources to sustain ongoing activities. This proves to be extremely difficult for social innovators unless they benefit significantly from government support or private businesses. Most project leaders in social innovation in Turkey are enthusiastic and dedicated to their work, and having an engaging and successful leader greatly contributes to the development and progress of this field. The overall economic situation is also crucial, as it is anticipated that people will gradually show interest in social innovation, meaning that individuals will not abandon their primary occupations immediately but will gradually incorporate social innovation into their daily lives. On the other hand, government participation, especially in poverty reduction and job creation, is exceptionally beneficial. Finally, in the field of transportation and transit, particularly in larger cities in Turkey, there is great potential for social innovation, although significant changes in other political areas of the government are not expected to occur soon.

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