Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
This is part of a TPF series on social entrepreneurs, in collaboration with Ashoka Turkiye.
Booming is the adjective most often used to describe Turkey these days. Ranked the 16th largest economy (and growing) in the world, the country saddled between Europe and the Middle East is looked as a sound investment and economic model for others, especially in the region. Yet, it is important to note that this Turkish economic miracle is regional, contained to Turkey’s west. What happens in Istanbul stays in Istanbul.
Turkey’s rugged southeast is comparatively poorer, with income and literacy levels way below the country’s average. Cities like Kars, Diyarbakir and Van have seen a huge wave of emigration; young people leaving for better educational and career opportunities elsewhere. Those left behind struggle to get by, resorting to traditional trades such as farming, animal husbandry and fishing. Fishing is particularly popular in Van, which sits on the famous lake named after it. So popular, that in recent years it started to become an environmental problem for the region.
By the mid-1990s overfishing of the Pearl Mullet started to jeopardize Lake Van’s ecosystem. Because so many fish were being caught, the species was disappearing. That threatened the ecology of the lake as well as the environment in the region. Mustafa Sari is a social entrepreneur who worked to address that problem.
The gregarious Mustafa arrived in Van in 192. Since then he has been working with Van’s fishermen, families and government officials to map out a sustainable solution. It is a solution that is not only environmental in nature. While overfishing affects flora and fauna, its solution cannot be ecological alone. As Mustafa told me from his office in Van the other day, “people fish to work. It’s a way of life in this region.”
Mustafa’s solution is to connect those working on conservation, the scientists, with the fishermen who need jobs, and the government that must oversee it all. He has built cooperatives where fishermen pool efforts to catch and sell fish. Together, they reduce competition between individual fishermen and are much more targeted about where and when to catch fish. This is particularly important when fish are spawning. Mustafa has worked with the fishermen to encourage deep-water fishing during this period. Fishermen are not likely to catch spawning fish in deep water; spawning fish are usually at riverheads moving upstream. He has also worked to enact and, more importantly, enforce a law that prevents fishing when fish begin to spawn starting in mid-April.
Mustafa’s cooperatives also provide skills sharing that teaches the fishermen about the economics of fishing such as increasing the size of nets, techniques on slicing and deboning the fish, and letting smaller fish go. The results speak for themselves.
According to the leading organization supporting social entrepreneurs and innovators, Ashoka where Mustafa was elected as a fellow in 2004, Lake Van’s Pearl Mullet are bigger today than six years ago: 19.5 centimeters long on average, up three centimeters from 1997. Bigger fish has meant bigger returns for Van’s fisherman. That is a win for the city’s residents as well as its ecosystem. Technology may be fueling Istanbul’s growth, but in Van fishing is preserving so much more.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
When musicians get together and play unprepared music, they create songs that have never been heard before, and this is often called a "jam." When talented musicians do this, it often results in some of the most memorable music of our collective history. But that's not the end goal. When musicians get together to "jam," they get to share their unique skills and knowledge, as well as learn from the other musicians. They get to hear and experience other styles of music, expand their horizons and make something unique. They get to have fun, build community, and combine their collective talent, inspiration and skills to create something far greater than the sum of its parts. This fertile ground of diversity, trust and joy sprouts some of the most powerful seeds.
This is what the Anatolia Jam was like.
And so it was... Anatolia JAM was filled with an atmosphere full of appreciation, love and acceptance. It helped bring out the truth in all of us and created a secure circle in which we could share and learn from each other, discuss challenges ahead of us and revitalize the world we dream. It was invigorating to be in the middle of nature and at the same time with these purpose-driven individuals. They were like my secret angels showing me that being in peace with one's self and its surroundings should not be that hard after all. Peace is possible! Progress is not a dream. Change is not a fairy tale! Everything really happens for a reason...
On the last day of the JAM, in the final appreciation circle, I heard our facilitator Filiz Telek, thank a list of funders who made this incredible transformation process possible for us. Imagine my surprise when I heard Turkish Philanthropy Funds' name! It was the organization I interned for, while I lived in NYC. Could this be a coincidence, or is there really "a flow" that leads my path of change?
As I was returning home, I was amazed by this whole new discovery and possibility of a different world's existence. I was trying to innovate ways to integrate this change to my life, making plans and projects to adopt this JAM effect to my office and to the city I live. As I was filling the application form to attend the Anatolia JAM at the office sipping my morning coffee, I had a question about me being a change maker, the social innovator... May be I was not. Now may be I am, because now I know "change" starts within one's self. It is not something that you bump into as you turn the corner. It does not come to you. You wake up, jump into it and "the flow" brings the rest. I know it might sound a bit "Pollyanna" to you. Well it did to me too. But after experiencing how possible it is to build a community of support and be a part of it, now I know it is possible. You may think world is full of mean people, cruelty, injustices and natural disasters... Very recently we had a devastating earthquake in Van, in the eastern part of Turkey, we witnessed loss, poverty and a whole community in pain. You would be amazed to see how quickly my jamily, my community that we built in Anatolia Jam start to organize to support another community in need. Then you would start believing in the power of the flow and the things it brings to you and your community. As it did to me...
Following the Anatolia JAM, I was invited by YES! to the World Jam 2011 in Thailand this past October. The Sabanci Foundation generously supported my participation to meet 30 young leaders from all around the world, from Burkina Faso to Kenya, from Canada to Palestine. Yes! Change is possible and Yes! it may not be as simple as a "switch." But, it is just a matter of time before you turn down the dazzling lights that blind you, volume down the crowds noise and you will hear the bells ring for you. Once you hear it, wake up and follow it. The flow brought me here...
Here I am in Punpun, an organic farm in northern part of Thailand, Chiang Mai with 30 ground breaking people with their ground breaking stories of change. I don't know how to thank all those people who made this real and possible for me. Now I have a dream to share with so many others, who seek for change and grow the world of jamily.