The Robert College method for innovation
According to Richard Florida, there are three T’s that are necessary for innovation. Those T’s are talent, technology and tolerance. This is the third time that I have quoted this statement this year, but I believe we are living through times when we must hear this everyday. We hear speeches of the government officials, politicians, institutions, business leaders and various movements’ leaders about tolerance, but as a society we fail to keep our promise of tolerance. There are not many cities and institutions that are open to talent, provide technology to them and are tolerant to whoever they are. Our leaders quote Mevlana’s sayings such as, “Come, as you are, who ever you are,” or they say that they love people just because of the creator, but the actions of the same people condemn university students in jails and artists with court orders. One particular authority even said that atheism and autism were very close to each other and that they would be initiating special programs to make autistic children into believers.
These kinds of thoughts and actions are shunned where I come from. I come from Robert College. There, we were taught to be open to new ideas and people, to embrace them and to live with them. Everything could be discussed in classes. Back when I was a student, I didn’t realize how valuable this was, but now I know by heart.
Robert College was founded in Istanbul in 1863 by Cyrus Hamlin and Christopher R. Robert, two men who believed in the universal value of education. It was the first American school to be established in the Ottoman lands and outside the United States. Surviving revolutions, wars, earthquakes, fires, and epidemics, the College has never closed down for a single day throughout its 150-year history.
Robert College has educated seven prime ministers (four of them Bulgarian), countless statesmen, writers, artists, musicians, actors, athletes, businessmen, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and educators. It has been the standard against which other schools measure themselves, even though it has not always lived up to its own standards due to lack of funding, inadequate buildings, etc. Robert College still offers students one of the best high school experiences in the country. Besides educational excellence, it has always striven for local, national, and global relevance and influence.
From a small building in Bebek to an impressive campus above the Rumeli Fortress to its final destination on the hills of Arnavutköy, Robert College has come a much longer way than first meets the eye, defining itself a new role for every period.
How has this institution been able to live for 150 years in this country, and done so while remaining strong? The answer lies in the three T’s. Robert College provided talented people with technology (including education, tools, teachers), and was very tolerant of their individuality.
That’s why there are so many alumni in the technology industry today. I know of more than 50 technology firms worldwide that were founded by graduates of the school.
If our government is serious about the 2023 goals, it needs to look at this school in order to see how talent flourishes into success. With the current atmosphere of intolerance, many talented individuals are being lost.