Open Space Association addressing deep poverty in Turkey

The Open Space Association (Açık Alan Derneği/Derin Yoksulluk Ağı) is one of the recipients of the Core Fund Program, which supports the organisational capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) working to improve participation and/or welfare of disadvantaged groups. This year’s Fund will prioritise supporting the organisational development of CSOs that work with populations highly affected by the pandemic. Furthermore, the capacity building component of the fund will be implemented online due to measures taken against the pandemic. As part of the fund, Turkey Mozaik Foundation contributed 47,000 TL, and Support Foundation for Civil Society contributed 30,000 TL, totaling 77,000 TL for a grant period which spans from 6.November.2020 to 29.10.2021.

Within the scope of this grant, the Open Space Association will work to improve the financial sustainability and organisational development of the Deep Poverty Network. A fundraising strategy and a medium- and long-term fundraising plan will be developed to ensure the financial sustainability of the network and to increase the number of donors. The association will also establish a system to list and classify individual and corporate donors to be contacted on a regular basis. Additionally, the Open Space Association will prepare the job descriptions along with a common calendar and a file-sharing system. A person will be employed during the grant period to execute the tasks described above. The association will also use the grant to cover the costs of social media advertisements, video production, and other digital communication tools.

Please see below an interview with Open Space Assocation.

Can you tell us about the aim and activities of the Open Space Association?

Since our establishment, we have been carrying out projects in the field of education with a rights-based perspective for all disadvantaged groups, especially for children, youth, and women, who are at risk, socio-economically, and culturally excluded. As of 2019, we provided training to 90 children and 50 mothers at the Çimenev Science and Art Centre (Çimenev). We supported 20 students to enter high schools (Anadolu Lisesi) and 11 students to enter university. Children, who cannot access technology, learned to code and to use 3D printers in Çimenev training. As a result, 60 students and 12 mothers designed products with 3D printers.
In December 2019, we established the Deep Poverty Network (Derin Yoksulluk Ağı) with our volunteers from various disciplines such as psychology, sociology, media, and architecture.

Open Space Association established the Deep Poverty Network to work on urban poverty and your work in this area intensified with the COVID-19 outbreak. Can you tell us about Deep Poverty Network’s model and the work you do in this context?

Deep Poverty Network tries to make the unsustainable conditions of extreme poverty more visible. It reveals the stories of individuals in extreme poverty and the human rights violations they face in addition to developing recommendations for local governments to take action in this crisis situation. In line with these objectives, the Network advocates for the adoption and execution of extreme poverty principles in Turkey which were accepted in the international literature. At the same time, we work on re-evaluating and localising the nine criteria of extreme poverty determined by the European Union, thus contributing to the literature by re-defining extreme poverty in Turkey.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we developed a campaign to help families who live below the poverty line, who are unable to earn their daily income due to the outbreak conditions and whose most urgent and basic needs are net met. Our system matched donors with families in need and the donors provided basic materials such as food and baby supplies to families in need directly via online shopping without using any intermediaries.
The ongoing uncertainty in online education as of fall 2020, especially in primary and secondary schools, poses several challenges for the children. The most important risk is with regard to access to education. Children do not have access to the Internet or digital equipment such as laptops, computers, and tablets due to economic constraints. For this reason, we also carry our work in the field of digital access to ensure the educational needs of the children in extreme poverty are met, especially for the children of the families that are in the Deep Poverty Network in İstanbul.

Can you tell us about the most pressing needs of the groups the Deep Poverty Network works with? What is the scope of the assistance you provide for these groups?

During the COVID-19 outbreak; peddlers, paper collectors, cleaning workers, shopping mall employees, restaurant workers and musicians who did not have a regular income and who were not part of the social security system had difficulties in accessing their most basic needs such as food.
These people who are living in extreme poverty conditions need access to their basic rights such as nutrition, housing, health, education, clothing and psychosocial support. The solidarity network we have established under the Deep Poverty Network provides support primarily for food and baby supplies through the emergency response campaign. With our system that matches donors with the families in need, we have provided food support to more than 2,000 households since March and we continue to regularly provide for the needs of 150 households. In addition, we also report on our work and develop solutions in the field of extreme poverty with demands and suggestions from the field. Combating Deep Poverty in the Pandemic Report published in November 2020 explains the solidarity model that Deep Poverty Network initiated as a crisis intervention method and describes the basic needs of individuals affected by the outbreak based on the field experience of the volunteers of Deep Poverty Network.

You have been awarded a grant under the 2020 period of the Core Fund with the co-financing of the Turkey Mozaik Foundation. In what areas, do you plan to strengthen the capacity of your organisation with this grant?

There are two main areas that we will focus on within the scope of the grant: financial sustainability and organisational development. We plan to create a model for financial sustainability of the Deep Poverty Network. We also aim to recruit one full-time employee to assist creating and executing the medium-to-long-term plan for fundraising and to maintain regular communication with donors by establishing a tracking system. Secondly, we will work on our organisational development.

Can you tell us about the future plans of the Deep Poverty Network? What will your priorities be in the upcoming months?

The elimination of extreme poverty is only possible with holistic and preventive policies. Thus, we aim to implement projects that will support the access of people living in extreme poverty to basic rights, to contribute to the extreme poverty literature by translating international sources, especially on basic guidelines and principles, to provide resources to the literature from our own research and field experience, to develop suggestions that will create permanent solutions for extreme poverty. We plan to report and follow the implementation of these suggestions.

About Open Space Association (Açık Alan Derneği)
The Open Space Association (Açık Alan Derneği) carries out activities in the fields of socio-cultural empowerment and poverty. In the Çimenev Science and Art Centre in Harbiye, Istanbul, the association carries out workshops, trainings and programs in the field of education with a rights-based perspective, especially with Roma children, youth and women. The association also established the Deep Poverty Network (Derin Yoksulluk Ağı -DYA) on March 2020, to combat extreme poverty especially at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, DYA has been working on the access to basic needs of disadvantaged families. The basic needs such as food, hygiene materials and baby supplies of each family were determined by DYA in the field visits and these needs were shared with the donors along with the family story. Donors supply these needs via the e-commerce sites of the markets and send them directly to the addresses of those in need without any intermediaries. DYA also conducts field research in order to carry out advocacy activities on eliminating poverty.

The Deep Poverty Network published this report of its study on pandemic conditions, which focuses on the accessibility of economic, social, and cultural rights for people living in deep poverty in the pandemic.