The Sabancı Foundation’s Fark Yaratanlar (Turkey's Changemakers) project, which aims to publicize social activists and their social responsibility projects and to inspire others, celebrated its second year in October.
The project was promoted in a weekly program broadcast by CNN Turk from October 2009-June 2011. Turkish anchorman Cüneyt Özdemir’s idea of broadcasting a program similar to “CNN Heroes,” which is known around the world, in Turkey was the starting point of the program. The TV broadcast has become the most important venue for the announcement of the project. Apart from the TV broadcast, the project can also be followed on its website, www.farkyaratanlar.org. The project highlights the extraordinary social contributions of activists all over Turkey, emancipating them from their “silent hero” situation and by so doing appealing to citizens’ sense of social consciousness.
Project officials are pleased with the attention that the project drew from both the program and the website. A total of 64 people out of 800 applications have been chosen as "changemakers" since the beginning of the project. Those selected gain this attribution in accordance with their activities in various categories such as the environment, education, economic development, culture and arts, health, social justice and citizen participation. The chosen range from a dentist who provides dental care for disabled people via his mobile dental care unit to an environmentalist volunteer organizing recycling-sector-workers and a literature teacher in Hakkari who acquainted his students with basketball. The fact that the project includes a wide range of categories is the reason behind the large number of applications. While most of the candidates are nominated by other people who know them, some of the applicants can personally apply for the project and nominate themselves.
Difference makers are chosen by the consultative committee of the project, which is made up of civil society experts, academics and journalists, who select the most competent applicants. The projects are selected on the basis of being far-reaching, developable and a galvanizer for new projects, but most importantly they should correspond to the social enterprise features, which means they ought to be based on personal or social initiative and be developed in response to a social need that is overlooked by public institutions. The ultimate aim is to encourage personal initiatives concerning the question of social development.
Once selected, the social entrepreneurs are filmed and interviewed, which means that they gain not only visibility and credibility in the eye of the public but also new sources of finance, sponsors and volunteers for their projects, thus expanding their area of influence. The Sabancı Foundation itself also financially supports some of these projects. These opportunities motivate more people to apply. All the videos are available on the project’s website.
The feedback from the project followers on the comments page reveals the positive attention the project draws. The followers express their wishes on the continuity of the project, and they also propose their own “silent heroes” to be included in the project.
The project can also be followed on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, enabling them to benefit from the possibilities of the social media networks in publicizing themselves. The Sabancı Foundation plans to promote the project online throughout 2012.
The foundation said in a press statement last week that that they are always open to new suggestions in order to introduce more "changemakers" to the public, and it will repeat this call by trying to be present in new mediums every day.