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Strength Of Unity; İhtiyaç Haritası (Needs Map)

One of the co-founders of “İhtiyaç Haritası,” (Needs Map) which has been designed to bring those in need with the individuals and organisations that wish to help them, Ali Ercan talked to us about how the digital platform came to be and their plans to expand its journey from Turkey to the rest of the globe.

“İhtiyaç Haritası” is a wonderful success story that has managed to give life to many projects, mainly in culture and arts, education, and health. How did this journey begin?

“İhtiyaç Haritası” is a social cooperative that collects and confirms the needs of individuals and organisations, and helps them find supporters via its map-based technology. It facilitates collaboration and cooperation in areas such as disaster relief, humanitarian crisis, education, etc. As a non-profit organisation in the social cooperative status, “İhtiyaç Haritası” was launched at UNDP’s Social Good Summit on October 7, 2015. Its journey officially began on June 14, 2016. Since 2015, the platform has been utilised by over 120,000 members, more than 350 NGOs, over 70 private industry organisations, and hundreds of representatives from the public sector. The platform has fulfilled more than 10 million items of need and contributed with high social influence by creating a sharing economy that is equal to nearly 497 million liras.

How did the idea about creating a society-based confirmation and mapping system come about? What role do technology and social media play for “İhtiyaç Haritası”?

Communication dynamics have become stronger and more important as the developing technology and use of Internet spread to the masses. Online and map-based platforms not only provided information and experience in humanitarian aid, but also changed the forms of communication by creating a new area for interaction. The advancements in tools of communication, especially in information technologies, and the use of social media has made it easier for people to access the help they need. Unconfirmed and ungrounded news can result in certain challenges including a sense of anxiety, fear, and panic in society. It’s just as important to differentiate credible information as accessing the information provided to society by technology and social media. “İhtiyaç Haritası” uses technology and its map-based structure to share confirmed information with the public.

Do you have any plans to take this platform from Turkey, which is one of the most sustainable ideas for need-based aid and solidarity, to the rest of the world?

Yes, we’ve always continued our efforts in that direction. “İhtiyaç Haritası” brings details and visuals to the data, all the way down to street names, in order to enable the balanced coordination of needs and support and offer transparent data. It also makes it easier for local authorities to see the needs in their designated areas and to take action accordingly. Besides, the determination of needs via the platform also makes it more convenient to realise social responsibility projects for the targeted groups across the country. Since it’s an online platform, it’s accessible by everyone in every home and city with Internet access. In that regard, “İhtiyaç Haritası” creates a direct and adaptable atmosphere for both people in need and supporters, regardless of time and place, enabling us to globally expand this journey that began in Turkey. Our projects for the United Nations in the past have helped us build partnerships with organisations from many countries around Europe. Additionally, we also initiated the process to realise “İhtiyaç Haritası” in different countries, including Chile and Italy, thanks to the international events we attended. Currently, we have a branch in Brussels and are working on our efforts in London. Since we also actively operate in fields of humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and crises, we also included Ukraine and border regions in our works following the crisis between Russia and Ukraine. In that context, we work to provide support to these regions through projects based on disaster relief and crisis management.

Following the recent earthquake, you quickly mobilised and built a stage for solidarity. These works were important in terms of both sending aid to those in need and raising social awareness. Can you tell us about your efforts in the region?

Since the very first day, “İhtiyaç Haritası” has been working to determine the disaster’s effect on people, buildings, and economic activity in the region, thanks to its map-based technological infrastructure in the field. We collaborate with the members of “Afet Platformu” in order to send aid and support to where they’re needed the most, take fast action, provide emergency equipment and materials, and coordinate public relief. The event “Dayanışma Sahnesi” on March 30, Thursday, was a night when we felt the power of solidarity together. We plan to provide educational support for thousands of students affected by the earthquake and also help, together with “Robotel Derneği,” at least 100 children who were physically hurt by the disaster. We also started the project “Renkli Hayaller Sahnesi” to support children in the region in collaboration with the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey Creative Industries Council, “Tiyatro Kooperatifi,” and Netflix. On April 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, we set up tents in Hatay and Kahramanmaraş with the slogan “#BirlikteDüşlüyoruz;” we plan to continue this project for 2 months with plays, workshops, drama sessions, concerts, street performances, and film and documentary screenings, all under the consultation of expert psychologists.

In collaboration with “İhtiyaç Haritası” and Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, the platform “Bir Kira Bir Yuva” aims to collect donations and contribute to the housing solution for those affected by the earthquake. So far, the project has raised nearly 380 million liras and fulfilled the housing needs of 30,934 people. We also built a line for aid requests called “İhtiyaç Haritası Çevrimiçi WhatsApp Talep Merkezi.” This way, we aim to confirm the listed needs online and respond quickly to those in need. In line with Sustainable Development Goals, we plan to build three common life centres in Hatay, Adıyaman, and Kahramanmaraş. These centres will consist of 17 neighbourhoods spanning nearly 135 thousand square metres, with a total of 1,700 houses. The team of “İhtiyaç Haritası” aims to intervene in the current earthquake effort in Turkey, from the perspective of sustainable development principles, by building “Bölgesel İyileştirme and Kalkınma Merkezi” centres in Adana and Gaziantep. These centres will help us better respond to emergency needs such as housing, food, materials for hygiene, and clothing. Besides, we aim to realise long-term development projects focusing on building endurance in terms of psycho- social support, improving livelihood, protecting children, education, health, social adaptation, life for women, and SMEs.

What are the future goals of “İhtiyaç Haritası”?

One of the main goals of “İhtiyaç Haritası” is to reduce social inequality in Turkey. In this context, we move forward with the goal of becoming a technological platform for private and civilian social actors on an international level, especially in humanitarian aid and development. With our technology, we strive to empower local actors (cooperatives, NGOs, etc.) who work in social development. We also have innovative goals regarding the incoming support from individuals, organisations, or establishments within the framework of our efforts to raise support and funds for local and international projects. To this end, we’ve built a marketplace called “Sosyal Pazaryeri” which eliminates the cost of transportation by supplying public relief materials from local manufacturers to a number of regions, thus supporting the actors of the local economy. With this perspective in mind, we aim to collect support from local and global projects in a more targeted and effective way. Our efforts will continue to expand “İhtiyaç Haritası” and the other platforms we’ve built (such as “Afet Haritası” and “Sosyal Pazaryeri”) beyond the local scene and outside Turkey.


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