Turkey’s first social incubation center

Turkey’s first social incubation center

As I started to write this column yesterday at midday, a parliamentary inquiry commission started its meeting to decide whether to send four former ministers engulfed in a massive corruption and graft operation that was launched on Dec. 17, 2013, to the Supreme Council for trial.

The prevailing expectation was that the commission, which consists of nine members of the ruling party and five from the opposition parties, would not send the ministers to the Supreme Council for trial.

Busy planning their winter holidays in Turkey’s and Europe’s popular ski resorts, Turkey’s extremely worried so-called secularists will not miss the opportunity to jump on this occasion one more time to vilify their country and compatriots. They will go down and take others with them in the downward spiral of pessimism, repeating for the millionth time that there is no hope left in this country. Even if a miracle is to take place and the commission sends one or more minister to the Supreme Council, that would not change their mindset much.

While they will continue packing and complaining at the same time, others will continue to work to make their country a better place to live, no matter what the commission decides.


A member of the Association of Young Europeans says, “We want to see Turkey’s future in Europe."

I can hear the pessimists yelling back: “What European Union? You must be living on the moon. The Europeans have abandoned us; it is thanks to their support that the Justice and Development Party [AKP] has gotten this far; EU membership is a dream with this government; blah blah blah blah.”

Well, İstanbul Bilgi University’s social incubation center is not about “blah blah blah.” It is about taking action.

Most of us think Turkey can only change via big politics. Just as is claimed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, some of us are convinced that democracy is about the ballot box. Yet we have to realize that we can’t have a fully functioning democracy in the absence of a strong civil society that takes action and does not delegate everything to politicians to rule the country.

The 1980 military coup dealt such a deadly blow to civil society movements that, as a nation, we had to start from scratch. In particular, rights-based initiatives need a lot of guidance and assistance. The incubation center was established precisely with this purpose in mind.

Out of 77 applications, 13 civil initiatives were picked by the center. They will be hosted in the incubation center located in the university’s campus by September.

“We will first learn what they need. Then we will provide strategic planning for them. They each will get a mentor,” Yörük Kurtaran, the coordinator of the center, told me. “We can’t provide them financial help, but we can help them how to find it. Or let’s say they need to widen their audience; we can help them how to do it using social media, etc.,” he added. So rather than providing a general ABC guide of how to set up and expand civil initiatives, they will offer tailor-made assistance.

The 13 initiatives will use the 150-square-meter space dedicated to them as their offices. But this will serve more than a logistical assistance; members of the NGOs will interact with each other and learn from each other; it will thus have a multiplier effect. The incubation center aims to become a hub of civil initiatives as they aim to build a network of alumni.

I am happy to see that there are still a lot of people who are not drowning in a sea of pessimism. Have a happy new year.