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A multiplier of social change

The country representative of Ashoka in Turkey, Şeyda Taluk says that despite the focus of the third sector in her country on charity, there are brilliant Turks having a multiplier effect on social change through their innovative approaches to social problems. It is their determination that fuels her to continue fighting for change in Turkey

ISTANBUL- Turkish Daily News

Seyda Taluk, 43, sees herself as a different kind of social entrepreneur than the ones she seeks out year round. Her role as country representative of Ashoka, the global association of the world's leading social entrepreneurs, is to help shift Turkey's social change movement from charity to sustainability.

Ashoka was founded by U.S. native Bill Drayton in 1981 and has now grown to a network of 2,000 entrepreneurs who act as agents of social change in 60 countries. Since it started its operations in Turkey in February of 2005, Taluk has been working solo to promote the idea of entrepreneurship as social change and to find Turks with innovative solutions to the country's biggest challenges, from poverty and human rights to education.

Taluk, says that in the process she has found determination and feels blessed to be working for the more than 20 Turkish fellows with the help of her family and friends. In her search for qualifying nominees in Turkey and securing funding for them, Taluk said the process has not always been smooth and at times she has felt overwhelmed.

“Of course I have depressing days and I feel unmotivated,” she said. “Then I go to our Web site, read a profile of an Ashoka fellow and remind myself that I work for wonderful social entrepreneurs… their challenges are bigger than mine. I don't risk anything.”

Taluk is not afraid to take on the demons of Turkey's third sector nor the mentalities that keep the country from moving forward in social change. She described how in the last year she and some of the Ashoka fellows received threatening emails from a nationalist group that called her and Ashoka the “Trojan horse” of U.S. intelligence. Taluk laughs at the accusation.

“I didn't feel threatened,” she said. “If you're working in an organization like this, traveling in dangerous neighborhoods around the world…” she said brushing it off. “The way we receive danger is completely different.”

The accusation, however, is telling of something deeper. When she got the job with Ashoka three years ago even her friends came up with conspiracy theories. “Why you?” they asked. “Why not me?” she answered. Taluk is aware that being the head of the Turkish chapter of an international non-profit organization is not seen the same way as say the local CEO of an international private firm.

“I have to convince people, even close ones, that I don't have clandestine connections,” she said.

At the center of the international community from the age of 18, Taluk studied at the University of Paris' political communications department, and worked as a correspondent from France. In 1993 she worked with Cem Boyner's New Democracy Movement and is a founding member of the KADER, the association that promotes women in politics. She was self-employed as a public relations specialist for nearly a decade before she came on board with Ashoka.

“I was always really interested in what's going on in the world. It's normal. I'm a very social person,” she said with a chuckle. Taluk said that connecting people and increasing their capacity for good is what has made her feel at home at Ashoka.

“I want to have a multiplier effect,” said Taluk. “In Ashoka you are a power broker for your fellows.”

Determination to change attitudes

Taluk said Turkey still needs time to shift its mindset from charity to sustainable non-profit work. “Turkey is not ready for entrepreneurship,” said Taluk. “We are in the phase of charity. That's what everyone is doing now. They're just giving fish. But among them are brilliant people who have chosen a different path.”

As the country representative for Ashoka in Turkey, Taluk said her role is to create an environment and market that's friendly for social entrepreneurship. “Which is a hard job,” she said. “We call it mind shifting and it's hard.”

So far all the fundraising for Turkey had taken place outside its own borders as Taluk wanted Turks to hear more about Ashoka before she tries to convince Turkish funders to contribute. With a $250,000 annual budget, supporting Turkish fellows is a challenge, and she is looking to double the amount over the next few years.

Ashoka and Taluk are also looking across the border to launch operations in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan, to name a few. Taluk said that Turkey can be an international player even in the area of social activism. “I want Turkey to be an international player,” she said.

Taluk said that in the last three years, working with Turks from all walks of life in all corners of the country acting entrepreneurially in their field has taught her determination. “I've learned that I wasn't stubborn enough to make things happen,” she said of her time before Ashoka. Now she believes that it is determination of individuals in the non-profit sector that will help bring real solutions to the social problems of the world.


Jennifer Ruwart's picture

Welcome to PulseWire!

What a pleasure to welcome our first woman from Turkey - we are thrilled you have joined us!

I love that you want to have a multiplier effect. We have a saying at World Pulse. Each one, teach five. It applies to so many things, from basic hygiene and self-care to how to speak for yourself. One becomes five, five becomes 25, 25 becomes 250, and so on.

Thank you for posting this article about you. I honor your courage and steadfastness.

What led you to your current work as a change agent? How did you find Ashoka? What has been your proudest moment to date?

Looking forward to hearing even more of your story and how PulseWire can support you!

In partnership,

seydat's picture

Thanks a lot for your

Thanks a lot for your kindness and comments on my posting. I will continue to write about Turkey, Ashoka and Ashoka fellows in Turkey.

jadefrank's picture

Seyda, I really like your


I really like your quote from the story...

"Turkey still needs time to shift its mindset from charity to sustainable non-profit work."

I think this is true across the globe and I applaud you for working so hard to promote social entrepreneurship in your country. This change in mindset is key to transforming the world.

Do you live in Istanbul? I have visited the southern city of Alanya and found it beautiful and the people so kind and welcoming.

I hope that you can share more of your vision for Turkey and the importance of your work with Ashoka here on PulseWire.

Warm regards,

seydat's picture


Thanks a lot for your kindness and comments on my posting. I will continue to write about Turkey, Ashoka and Ashoka fellows in Turkey.

Thank you Seyda,

Your commitment, your courage, and your dedication are clear. I have seen so many people become educated, and forget their roots and the struggle that surrounded them while they succeeded. I am moved to see one such as you become educated and return to your world the gifts it gave you. Very powerful, very beautiful.

I have noted in many posts, by many courageous people, that they do not speak directly about their courage. In your post you mentioned "The way we receive danger is completely different." Could you share more about this in a way that honors and empowers others to continue their courageous paths or perhaps brings the hesitant ones into action?

In Friendship, Dave...

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi

sallyreb's picture

Dear Seyda, I am very

Dear Seyda,

I am very excited to hear about your work moving from a charity model to sustainable non-profit work. Moving forward on this new path opens up so many positive and exciting possibilities. I look forward to hearing more from you on your work in this field in Turkey.


PulseWire Online Volunteer

Genice Jacobs's picture


I would be interested in working with you on activities in Kazakhstan as I have a 5 year old daughter who was born there and have a special interest in that country.

Genice Jacobs
Oakland, California, USA

Genice Jacobs

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