“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid activist and South Africa’s first black president.
Mandela, the nation’s hero with his struggle for freedom, was keenly aware of the importance of education. Although the years have passed, education has retained its importance. Today, new discoveries have been made in education in all other subjects. We encountered concepts such as ‘social entrepreneurship’, ‘social impact leaders’ and ‘quality education’.
Turkey, which has great potential with its young population, also has heroes fighting for equal opportunities in education. Ece Çiftçi, founder of the SosyalBen Foundation, aims to discover and shape the talents of disadvantaged children aged 7 to 13 in terms of access to quality education, being one of them.
We spoke to Çiftçi about the creation of the SosyalBen Foundation, which has touched the lives of countless children with its 15-year history, how his story of entrepreneurship began and his future projects as a social entrepreneur and leader of social impact.
Stating that the foundation of the SosyalBen was laid when she was a 14-year-old high school student, Çiftçi said the concept of social entrepreneurship was introduced to her in college.
“My journey started with my encounter with volunteerism and civil society,” said Çiftci and added that she then turned to social entrepreneurship after considering a functional financial model necessary for the sustainability of her activities. , apart from donations and sponsorships.
She did her first fieldwork at a youth center in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, near the Syrian border. Çiftçi said she was not a very bright student at that age, but she had artistic skills. “One day, I went on stage to play the violin right after a friend who won a prize in mathematics. Here is what I realized: He is applauded, and I am applauded too. We can both go through the same things doing different things,” she said.
“Then I realized that there is no need to destroy our own fingerprints in stereotypical success,” Çiftçi said, noting that her journey “was the violin.”
Afterwards, Çiftçi told her parents that she no longer wanted to deal with mathematics because she could do whatever she wanted by playing the violin. “But this realization also made me feel uncomfortable. I started telling what was going to happen to other kids who didn’t realize it,” she said. “And that’s how SosyalBen’s journey began.”
“Today, with SosyalBen, we discover, strengthen and guide the talents of economically disadvantaged children who cannot access quality education through eight basic workshops. We do this in Turkey and in many different countries where access to quality education is difficult,” said Çiftçi, adding that volunteering is still seen as something we ‘give’, but it is what we learn the most from.
Stating that one of the most important issues when implementing the foundation’s activities is sustainability, Çiftçi said, “To ensure that children have access to quality education and its continuity, there must be have an order in terms of participation and funding. In this sense, I encountered social entrepreneurship and created the SosyalBen store, the SosyalBen academy and the whole social entrepreneurship structure of today’s SosyalBen.”
“I think being a volunteer, a social entrepreneur or even doing something for the community is related to the state of discomfort,” Çiftçi said, noting that she founded the SosyalBen based on a dream and d a discomfort.
Sharing an unforgettable memory of one of the many children whose life she touched, Çiftci said, “One day we were working with children in a workshop. At the end of an activity, we asked the children to write letters. One of the children wrote: “I haven’t met SosyalBen in person, but I think he is a very good person. All the purity and innocence of working with children is in this sentence.
The biggest difficulty she faced when she got into social entrepreneurship was the legal basis of this concept because it was not valid in some countries, “It creates a backlog for non-governmental organizations (NGO) or to become a business. At the same time, it is one of the main obstacles to the development of the sector. Because it will grow, the more the concept is recognized and named on a cultural basis in countries.
“So we decided to continue our work as a legal entity, a foundation,” she added.
“We need to see more success stories in social entrepreneurship,” she said, adding that social investing has become a hot topic around the world these days. The sector will grow even more with the investments, however, Çiftçi warned that the focus should be on effective problem solving.
“Because otherwise, the sector can also become an area where we produce problems. But there are some very good examples of social investment and social entrepreneurship around the world.
“Turkey is a very exciting country in that sense. We young people want to do something about this. Maybe we just need to beef up the sustainability a bit more here, but we also have a lot of potential ideas here.
Preserving the cultural fabric
She strongly believes in equal educational opportunities for all. Çiftçi said, “The important thing while providing equal opportunities is to bring together all geographical, economic, cultural and social models. Generally, we only focus on one model and try to implement it. For example, we focus on providing schools with Internet access, but in this way we sometimes lose the cultural fabric of that village, city or country. »
“The question is also about what we understand about education,” she said, adding that access to education used to be on the agenda around the world, “but now an education quality has come to the fore”.
“We want to raise a generation that goes through its own pot and acts with its own interpretation.”
The responsibility to provide equal opportunities in education is not just for teachers, parents or the government, but for everyone, Çiftçi said: “Because education is not just about inside a building, it is everywhere in life, especially for children”.
Highlighting that SosyalBen will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2023, she described the foundation as “a new generation NGO with its participant demographics, age and corporate identity”.
She also revealed the good news that an agricultural workshop would be added to the eight workshops to teach children about the importance of farming and production. “Therefore, you will very soon see SosyalBen in the field with the children.”
Stating that it is also very exciting to be able to talk about Turkey to the world, she said, “We have done it in various places for 15 years, but now we are preparing to do it institutionally as well. We have established a head office in Brussels.
“From the heart of Europe to the world, we will continue to work from here, empowering young people and nurturing new social impact leaders as a Turkish NGO and social impact leader.”
The center of Brussels, capital of the European Union, will be on the agenda of SosyalBen. “We need to set up the headquarters and open our agricultural workshop now.”