Creating A Win-Win To Multiply Impact: Reflections From Turkey

Creating A Win-Win To Multiply Impact: Reflections From Turkey

There is an inherent win-win in supporting the development of philanthropy and practicing philanthropy. This short reflection builds on two messages in this report linked to a short case of how this is possible.

I am a ‘beneficiary’ of philanthropy infrastructure organizations. I started my (philanthropy) career in a member-based organization (TUSEV), served in committees and Governing Council of EFC and WINGS, penned several articles for Alliance, and was a recipient of the CUNY fellowship. These experiences supported my professional development, and in turn, enabled me to touch more lives by putting knowledge to practice in organizations- such as the Sabanci Foundation (where we developed Turkey’s first Turkish foundation grantmaking program for social development ) and now Esas Sosyal (where we devised a program that supports human capital in the third sector and cultivates talent for greater youth employment).

One of the key messages for me from the #LiftUpPhilanthropy campaign and the Unlocking Philanthropy’s Potential funders guide is how critical these organizations are for the development of talent in the sector, so perfectly conveyed in this quote:

“[The] Lack of infrastructure organizations: it is the number one issue that the sector [in India] faces. In the corporate world, everything falls into place because they have access to great talent and access to resources. Unless we think about and address these issues, we cannot unlock the capital and potential [of philanthropy].” AMIT CHANDRA, INDIAN PHILANTHROPIST

The other key message that resonated is the mission to promote philanthropy as relevant to funders, not just infrastructure groups. My reflection is a short case about creating win-win solutions that #LiftUpPhilanthropy by supporting talent for the nonprofit sector while also addressing a key issue in society – youth unemployment.

In 2014, I was asked to help create Esas Sosyal, the social investment fund of Sevket Sabanci and his family. Formally established in 2015, it is led by family member and the Vice Chair of Esas Holding, Emine Sabanci Kamisli, and exists to create sustainable value in society.

As most funding organizations, it has a defined initial focus area: Youth Employment. In 2017, more than 30% of new university graduates in Turkey were unemployed. After extensive landscape review and research, lack of experience and references appeared the main reason.

Yet a deeper systemic issue revealed itself: Lack of equal opportunity. School names are the most significant factor for employers when filtering applications. Over the past 15 years, more than 100 new state universities have been established, a majority of them second-tier.  Most are unknown to employers, nor is there bandwidth to conduct so many interviews given the high number of applicants.  As a result, youth are judged based on the school rather than individual potential, thus being overlooked by employers.

We designed First Chance to offer one year of full-time, paid, and professional TEMA First Chanceemployment in jobs at non-profits transferable to other sectors (accounting, human resources, technology, communications, purchasing etc.). The specially designed professional hiring process is conducted with non-profit managers. Selected youth work on their payroll and are offered additional professional development training and mentoring.

It’s a win-win: Nonprofits obtain human capital they so desperately need (especially in functional areas which are hard to find) and bring young talent to the workforce. Youth get work experience, references and enhanced skills. In three years, First Chance created 60 jobs for youth in 21 nonprofits. 83% were offered new jobs by the time the program ended, and 97% were in new jobs within three months of completion (60% private sector, 40% non-profit sector) which is proof of concept that the selection and experiential program is of value to employers that would otherwise overlook this talent. The goal is to scale by engaging companies as partners, and expanding offerings to disrupt inequitable hiring practices that create barriers for youth seeking their first jobs.

In summary, promoting philanthropy CAN be a win-win. Infrastructure organizations are critical, but not alone in developing human capital for the sector. Funders can and should create win-win outcomes by designing/funding programs that serve to strengthen philanthropy organizations while also tackling critical social issues like youth unemployment.


Filiz Bikmen, is the Founding Director of Esas Sosyal  located in Istanbul, Turkey.

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