Civil Society Exchange

In a time when the oppression on civil society and democratic institutions increases and authoritarian conducts influencing political leadership worldwide, new cross-border cooperations and friendships between actors and ‚city-makers’ becomes more significant and important.

The Civil Society Exchange has brought 17 CSOs from Europe and Turkey together, who were already in a partnership or established it during the 5-day kickoff meeting in Istanbul. In result, eight tandems from different fields worked together and inspired each other. The range was broad, so there were CSOs from the field of ecology & environment, cultural heritage, local democracy & participation, art & architecture (that’s us!), refugee aid, humanitarian affairs, youth and family support. And yet, it was interesting to see how many common fields of challenges are being faced: whether fundraising, working in networks and keeping them alive, or working with volunteers. There were a lot of common topics despite different goals and countries.

The exchange program is organised by the Association MitOst (Germany) and by Istanbul Bilgi University (Turkey), with the financial support of the Mercator Foundation (Germany). The participating CSOs of this pilot exchange are from Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Poland and each collaborates with a partner from Turkey. The final event is planned for February 2018 in Berlin.

Herkes İçin Mimarlık (Architecture for All) and kitev has met for the first time in analogue life, although they were in touch before.
In both work co-creation in architecture is a crucial principle, when developing local projects, targeting urban change.
During the six-month exchange the partners, together with a 3rd organisation Netzwerk ImMigra from Germany, will visit each other and work together on their models in order to increase the diversity and openness in their organisational structures. The organisations agreed to strengthen the capacity building models of the partners by providing mobility and a space for mutual learning.
During the five days the program was filled with diverse activities and coachings, focusing the exchange of best practices among all participants and the partnership building and planning of the future activities of those CSOs who are going to work closely together within the next year.

Adalet! Justice!
During the stay in Istanbul, also something else and really remarkable happened, which was not on the agenda of the program. The „big march for justice“ of the leader of the biggest opposition party (C.H.P) has arrived in the city and a few of the participants joined in. During the rally of Kemal Kilicdaroglu from Ankara to Istanbul (425km!), thousands of people have entered the march. At its final point in Istanbul, there was a huge demonstration. You could feel the tension in the air, but also hope. Lots of people called this a historic moment, when the peaceful protesters reminded the government, at the moment ruling by decree and intimidation, about the social contract: the citizens are willing to submit to the authority of the state in exchange for the protection of civil rights. Instead, in the last year since the coups d’etat, the Turkish democracy has shifted in another direction.