A Tale of Togetherness
Before starting to write about “Birlikte” let’s look at the ethymology of the word first. However since Turkish is quite e young language I could not go as deep as I would have liked.
As far as I can figure out the modern Turkish word “birlikte” has been first used by the literary pioneer Tevfik Fikret. He is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the Turkish literature also a founder of a trend called Serveti Fünun.
* All together, completing one task hand in hand, joined.
All together and hand in hand. I believe these definitions define the grant fund program called “Birlikte” quite successfully. I have worked as communication coordinator for this program for three long years. Since Ihave joined the team from private sector experience it took me some time to adjust to the special terminology of the civil society. Often I have heard complaints from my colleagues such as “We don’t call that” or “It is not expressed thus in sivil society”. After these fair warnings I have used to the special dialect and now I can cite from EU Visibility Guide whatever topic you may choose.
To create a system for the overall tracking of 42 CSOs’ communication and visibility is a huge task. One person is overwhelmed by the work load, therefore I am very grateful for my colleagues who helped me carry this load. They have patiently answered each and every question that I have asked about civil society.
During the whole process we have become mentors of each other. We have encouraged ourselves, showed solidarity and tried to find a way by asking “Have you tried to look from this perspective?”, “Did you see that new source?” or “I have come up with this app, shall we use it?”. When faced with options to proceed along the already selected path or to take another way, we may have selected some wrong options but we have selected to take that path with consulting each other, that is why it is valuable and beautiful. Be it a simple form or a complicated matter about a data system we have proceeded with consulting everyone.
This is not an essay about how to create a system but a story of doing things together. Nine different people joined together in a program, one of a kind, and their story of proceeding with the completion of it.
Our story is quite basic actually, with 9 people starting to work together. In an open office situated in Ankara Tunalı Hilmi street with a view of Kuğulu Park in front. Imagine all 9 people talking to the phone at the same time, listening to the music at the same time or laughing at the same time. Our office room was like that, always with a laugh and always with a new story to tell after coming from long trips.
Since STGM Office space is quite spacious and our room is the farthest to the kitchen we were deprived of things like tea or coffee unfortunately. Then we came up with the idea to purchase our own coffee machine and a small refrigerator for our Birlikte colony! Our junk food stores were constantly raided by inmates of other rooms. Then we had the holy Friday. Every Friday our mentors invited to us to have lunch in a restaurant, having a good time with lots of laughs. Don’ t think all of the time it was fun, we had to face devaluation, we had to install a new software with lots of revisions going on at the same time and then we experienced Corona. However we were together all the time facing all odds.
Sometimes mishaps happened, we got used to them. We had prepared a risk analysis in the initial stage of the program but who could have imagined such a vast disaster as a pandemic? Pandemic changed our lives completely. We have learned to live the life from apart. We have learned to laugh, cry from a distance, online. In the last stage of the program we had worked from home and we still do. At first it was complicated nobody was certain about what next to do. In time we got used to the new circumstances, we even held a get together in Botanik Park. Then after online reports, interviews and course we have reached the end. The last get together was at my terrace apartment. The topic was the mentimeter questions but as usual we so missed each other that the topic was covered only at the last moments of the meeting. We missed each other and had the opportunity to pick where we left off by eating, drinking and having a laugh like old times.
Then the closing ceremony, both fun and tiring work. We were so experienced at online meetings that we could tell from our faces that the event was a success. Two long hours of ceremony without a blink in the eyes. Wlike our last two years. We have worked tirelessly, we have overcome obstacles, we have cried together and laughed together, we have experienced a lot “together”.
It is a tale of togetherness. With lots of stories to tell…
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The fifth Civil Voices Festival, which brings together rights-based organizations and activists from Turkey and around the world, will be held this year in Ankara from September 30 to October 1.