Back in 2012 the Koç University Social Impact Forum (KUSIF) was established as the social contribution of the Koç University to the social sector.
We had the pleasure to interview Gonca Ongan, the current Executive Director of KUSIF, who has been involved with the university for 10 years.
Gonca Ongan: The reason why Koç University established KUSIF is to become a liaison between the social sector and researchers. That’s why we’ve been producing resources and best practices which are credible and applicable. We did an analysis in Turkey on what kind of help we could provide to the social impact sector and we saw that social impact actors like NGOs, founders, responsible businesses, social entrepreneurs and the institutions working to support them – are not working enough on their social impact side. On this basis, KUSIF was established, targeting two different groups: as we are a university centre, we’re more practice and resource oriented. As we develop courses and curricula on social impact related issues, we manage two courses that we deliver every year: one semester a course on social entrepreneurship and the other semester a social impact project management course. They’re not theoretical courses but rather based on practice and experimental learning. Moreover, we do community engagement programmes and we support other higher education institutions who are willing to develop social innovation curricula or outreach programmes in their universities in Turkey. Throughout the process, the KUSIF team is developing the curricula and also teaching.
We support also our faculty members to develop and contribute to research studies such as “The state of social entrepreneurship in Turkey” which was coordinated by TED University, another member of Euclid Network. Another report that we’re aiming to finalise soon is on a research that looks at “How to improve legal status of social entrepreneurship in Turkey”, this time we involved law experts and six faculty members from the School of Law at Koç University. Within the Turkish Social Entrepreneurship Network project, we are soon publishing “The situation analysis of Turkish social entrepreneurship ecosystem”, which will be translated in English.
Outside of the university-related activities, we work on increasing the social impact measurement and management capabilities of the impact-actors, having produced many resources in Turkish and English with our international partners, such as Social Value International and Social Value UK for developing content.
Euclid Network: We saw that you’ve done some work on Social Impact Measurement. What do you think are the main challenges that impact practitioners face when it comes to measuring success?
GO: Indeed, we’ve noticed that everyone seems to be too focused on proving their impact, but what counts is the general improvement. As well, never settle for “good enough”. Instead, the approach should be “how to maximise” the impact. Take for example companies that are focused on how to maximise profit, but social impact actors should look rather at how to maximise their impact. For instance, in Turkey the main challenge is that impact practitioners do not have enough resources for social impact measurements, as usually management doesn’t give enough importance to it. The way we approach this problem and try to solve it is by showing confidence that our methods of measurement can be apprised by everyone: from grassroots organisations to big companies, no one is left behind.
It’s about integrating this step of impact measurement into the daily processes of your company or organisation, just as natural as you do finance management, communication, HR, volunteers management – you can encompass impact management as well. In the end what you’re going to measure is more important than how. First step is understanding the root causes of the problem that you are trying to solve, because if you’re working on the wrong problem, or one that is not as prominent, the solution will be wrong as well. That’s why we facilitate the development of the impact framework of any organisation, whether large or at its beginning, to understand and internalise what to measure and collect the right data and indicators in order to work on the right outcomes.
The “how” to measure is more technical to use and it becomes easier in the right framework of what you actually need to measure.
So far, we’ve worked with a very large number of social entrepreneurship and civil society organisations, we’ve done pro-bono consulting and mentoring to different stakeholders in Turkey. Right now, we’re doing social impact measurement and management for a large foundation in Turkey, where we help develop frameworks in the local languages that are aligned to the international context.
Moreover, we help the newly-developed social entrepreneurship sector, in our quality as one of the oldest organisation promoting social entrepreneurship, by building capacity, facilitating the development of a social finance mechanism, conducting legal and ecosystem research, doing advocacy to government bodies as well training the trainers on social entrepreneurship. We’re also part of investment-ready programmes. Over the past years we’ve been part of a project funded by EU “Developing social entrepreneurship network in Turkey”, leading the consortium together with other 14 organisations which includes another member of EN, TED University.
We have just launched a brand new digital platform which will be the backbone of the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Turkey, bringing together a variety of stakeholders from all related fields. Members of this platform are now able to both share and access information in a highly interactive process. We’ve adapted an already existing platform which was developed by our partners Mosaic Foundation, based in Bosnia. This platform is one of the building blocks to creating a comprehensive national network of social entrepreneurship. You can visit the platform here (in Turkish language).
It’s more and more prominent in Turkey that people recognise social problems and want to solve them by calling upon social entrepreneurship models. We have multiple success examples that work in local Turkish contexts. The way we plan for everything to come together, to disseminate the right knowledge and give access, connecting peers through one platform: the Turkish social entrepreneurship network.
EN: From all these activities you’ve mentioned, when did joining the Euclid Network become of relevance for you?
GO: From the very beginning when we got established, we’ve been part of Social Value International and gradually witnessed the need of the social entrepreneurs in our country to gain more knowledge, receive the right type of support and success examples. We wanted to be part of a network working on these points in Europe and internationally. Our colleagues and partners from TED University made us aware that they’ve just joined the Euclid Network. After doing some research I’ve noticed that some EN members were in fact organisations that we’ve previously collaborated – we instantly decided to be part of the network as well!
Why are we part of the network? First of all, because we want to share our expertise and knowledge but also access the knowledge of partners to complement our work. Secondly, we’re looking into creating new partnerships, collaborate internationally on various projects at EU level and internationally. We’re committed to these points and we’re looking forward to learning from and contributing to the network in 2020 through our participation at the EU Project-building Workshop in Brussels, as well to the upcoming Euclid Network Impact Summit in March. At the latter, we’re interested in holding a masterclass on social impact measurement.
Learn more about our member here!