“I see SosyalBen as a Modern Village Institute” 

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We talked to Ece Çiftçi, the founder of SosyalBen Foundation, about their work and future plans. Çiftçi states that community role models contribute to the revealing of the capabilities of children and that she sees SosyalBen as a modern village institute.

Can you tell us about the founding motives of the Foundation?

I have been interested in social entrepreneurship and volunteering since I was 14. With the things a professor who came to our school told about volunteering and me getting impressed by his speech, I had an epiphany. The concept we call volunteering is through recognizing oneself first. I was fortunate, I was aware of my own talents when I was studying on a scholarship in a nice school. Even though I was not very successful academically, I realized that I can exist and succeed with my talent. This awareness was the most important motivation for the foundation of SosyalBen.

Can you tell us about your work? Do you only work with children? What is your age range? I understand you have a very large location, how do you suffice in such a large area?

The aim of SosyalBen is to carry out workshops and training programs to discover and develop the skills of economically disadvantaged children under mobile teaching between ages of 7-13. I define SosyalBen as a modern Village Institute working for this purpose. We have 8 basic workshops. We have suitable workshop programs and workshop coaches to reinforce children’s talents. Our aim is to enable art to reach the countryside, to enable children who discover their talents to make their professional choices in line with their talents and interests, and to reach qualified education which is one of the United Nations’ global development goals.
In addition to children, university students who voluntarily support us are another target group. We are working with our communities in 10 different cities in order to spread volunteerism and create a society that is aware of this issue. In this context, SosyalBen today touched 35,000 children with 10 communities and 500 volunteers in 72 provinces.

What are the benefits of collaborating with famous figures, are these choices conscious?

The socially prominent role models have a great contribution to revealing the talents of our children. Children who come together with the person they admire discover their interest in science, art, music, painting, etc., become aware of their own talents and find the opportunity to develop their talent through role models, and see more closely the importance of what we call “talent” and what they can accomplish by discovering it.

Is there equality between men and women within the foundation? Do you promote gender equality?

Almost all the office team of our foundation consists of women. In our volunteer team, we pay great attention to the equal distribution of women and men. We need more female role models and life stories. For this reason, we are doing our best to raise a generation that is aware of the role of women in society, notably SosyalBen children and our volunteers. For example, in the last semester we have founded the SosyalBen Volleyball Team with the national volleyball player Özge Kırdar. SosyalBen girls’ team participated in the tournament and played in final. Our children, whose talents were discovered, received training on the discipline that an athlete should acquire as well as learning to play volleyball. Now they are turning this process into professional at the infrastructure of volleyball teams.

Are there any institutions or persons that you collaborate with?

The role of role models in the discovery and development of the abilities of SosyalBen children is great. We take great care in organizing workshops with the coaching of role models. We are pleased to stand behind the projects that will contribute to our children through institutions and organizations that are in line with the mission and vision of our foundation. At the same time, while working in cooperation with the public at local level, we also carry out branded workshops with corporate firms. It is very important for us to explain and promote this process correctly. That’s why every year we work with a volunteer ambassador to represent our foundation. This year, Yalın has been supporting us in this regard. With our 2019 volunteer ambassador, Yalın, we deliver our efforts and benefits to more people both in the field and in promotion.

How do you afloat, how do you ensure sustainability? What are the needs of the Foundation, especially in civil society?

SosyalBen is a social enterprise. We have 2 sub-initiatives called SosyalBen Store and SosyalBen Academy. These are also the commercial enterprises of our foundation.

SosyalBen Store products are sold in 69 Mudo stores and on e-commerce channels. Store supplies the 35% of its profit into the foundation. With SosyalBen Academy, we have a consulting platform where we teach volunteering to educational institutions, corporate firms and individual students. The platform supplies the 45% of the consultancy fee to the foundation. In other words, we created our own funding model in order to ensure our continuous benefit. The first is the sustainability fund and the second is participation. In the participation section, we incorporate our volunteers to our structure every year in January and September. Thus, during the project period, our new volunteers are involved in the works of our foundation twice. Every step in civil society is very valuable, but the most important step is to maintain it regularly, so when the voluntary participation and funding is provided regularly, the impacts of civil society on the field increase.

What are the things that you have changed within your work, is there any special story you would like to tell? 

The success stories of SosyalBen children are the biggest motive in my journey. It is a great pleasure for us as we discover one child’s talent for dancing and lead his/her way to becoming a professional dancer in line with his/her talent with the help of our volunteers.

What are your future plans?

We will conduct our organization working in over 11 communities in Turkey and in this context we are aiming to reach 1000 volunteers. I imagine SosyalBen to be an internationally speaking Turkish NGO that resonates with the World. Having a talent-based learning center is among our primary goals. By the way, these are not dreams for us, but goals … We aim to reach our future plans by working continuously.

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