Wednesday, 25 December 2013

One month at Yesilist

Yesilist, the platform for
sustainable living and consumption in Turkey
As the first stage of my Green Sense Tour, I worked for one month as a consultant at Yesilist. Yesilist is the green platform in Turkey. It provides information on sustainable living and consumption. As a matter of fact, living in a sustainable way in Istanbul, for instance, is challenging. On the one hand, Yesilist tries to answer these questions by providing a guide listing companies who offer sustainable products and services. On the other hand, Yesilist has a dynamic blog providing topical information on different aspects of sustainability. Yesilist exists since 2010 and the amount of followers has been growing steadily.

Ergem, the CEO, asked me to help out with the following questions:
  • How can the business model of Yesilist be sustainable in the long run?
  • Being an outsider, what inefficiencies do you see at Yesilist?
  • How to involve the followers of Yesilist into an active community where they are enabled to contribute to Yesilist?

To analyze the business model, I conducted a SWOT and PEST(EL) analysis. Furthermore, I conducted a benchmark of Yesilist’s business model to business models of similar successful companies and organizations. In addition, we conducted a survey with the followers of Yesilist and I conducted an interview with each of the employees of Yesilist. To reveal inefficiencies, I confronted my theoretical knowledge and experience at other organizations with the practices at Yesilist. To empower and involve the entire team of Yesilist I conducted a workshop with them to discuss about Yesilist’s strategy, business model and potential solutions to inefficiencies. I used this workshop as the basis for an extensive report with suggestions.

To involve Yesilist’s followers more closely, I organized a MakeSense Hold-up together with Ayse Nur. The hold-up gave some interesting ideas and made the participants enthusiast about Yesilist and MakeSense. Unfortunately it failed to give a concrete implementable outcome.

I added two more things to my TODO-list. Firstly, I wanted to learn from the expertise on marketing that Yesilist holds. For that reason, I drafted a marketing campaign on organic food. As the earlier conducted survey had suggested, I took yuppies as the target group. Thus, I designed a marketing campaign based on the tagline ‘experience organic food’ featuring cooking- and tasting workshops and a visit to the organic market in Sisli.

Lastly, I wanted to finish what I started two years ago. In the spring of 2012 I brought a group of people together around different fields of sustainability in Istanbul. The main outcome was a second-hand shopping guide for Istanbul. Because of technical issues, the guide hadn’t got published yet, so I wanted to take the opportunity to do it. With the help of 10 wonderful volunteers, this time, we put the guide online on Yesilist in both English and Turkish. Let’s shop second hand!

Lessons learned
  • An outsider coming for a short period to a company, may see inefficiencies and solutions to them that team members don’t see.
  • When giving suggestions for improvements it is important to give concrete guidelines on how to implement these changes. Don’t spray confetti and then leave.
  • Involve the entire team of a company when talking about strategy and business model. Everybody should be able to contribute and discuss, so that everyone is on the same line.
  • In a period of one month, I could do a lot of work, but I could have realized even more if I had focused on one topic, rather than working on different projects in the same time.

Goodbye drink at Yesilist with my wonderful colleagues

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Istanbul has its MakeSense Hotspot

Istanbul has its own MakeSense community. In less than one month a dynamic group of Gangsters (MakeSense members) emerged to make Istanbul a more social and sustainable place.

It was at the end of October that I first talked to Ayse on the phone. I mentioned shortly that I would go dumpster diving soon. She immediately countered: “Hey, we should organize a Disco Soup!” It characterizes Ayse so well: a girl full of enthusiasm, energy and drive to change the world around her. The perfect partner in crime. Together we started working on a MakeSense Hotspot in Istanbul. I was amazed many times about how easy and fun it was to collaborate with her.

Jeremy and the changemakers of the second hold-up.
Very practical outcomes and a great atmosphere that evening.
On 16 November we did our first MakeSense Hold-up for Yesilist, the green platform in Turkey. The hold-up targeted the following challenge. “How to build an active community of Yesilist supporters who are eager and enabled to contribute?” 18 participants, a lot of energy and good vibes, but no real implementable solution to the challenge of Yesilist. It was learning by experience. The Sense Drink thereafter brought 30 young enthusiasts together. But it was the second hold-up for Connect One Threads, an idea of Jeremy to start a business for organic cotton, that kickstarted the Istanbul Hotspot. Even though there were only ten participants, we made the crucial step of empowering them while the hold-up was still fresh in their mind.  A few days later, on 7 December, we namely organized a meeting in which we launched MakeSense Istanbul.
On this launching meeting we further explained MakeSense, talked about the goals of MakeSense Istanbul and set the agenda with the upcoming activities together with the new Gangsters. This was crucial to empower them and to give ownership. We concluded the meeting by dividing the roles for the Hotspot. Ayse and Jeremy will be coordinating the team together. Nazli will be an amazing communicator. Turker and Jeremy will organize the next hold-up. Last but not least Ceyda, Robin, Ayse, Nazli, Jeremy and Burcin will organize a Disco Soup. Istanbul, prepare to Make a lot of Sense!

Lessons learned
  • Sense Drinks are wonderful to make people socialize with Gangsters, but it is a hold-up which truly engages people.
  • Involve interested people asap after a hold-up.
  • Start your hotspot by doing a launching meeting. Immediately give new Gangsters ownership and responsibility.
  • Prepare upfront how you will cluster the ideas in a hold-up.
  • Use different platforms to announce activities. Think of Facebook, MeetUp, Eventbrite, CouchSurfing etc.
  • Personal messages can be effective in mobilizing people, but only really work once. 
Ideas. Creativity. Energy.