Önemsiyoruz (We Care) is an Istanbul-based social initiative whose 20 active volunteers aim to design specialized play items for children ages 0-6 years old who are raised under vulnerable circumstances. Our main objective is to develop products that support children's self-awareness as well as their interactions with their environment. Önemsiyoruz also develops training manuals that help adults learn to successfully interact with these specialized products and at-risk children.
Gözde founded Önemsiyoruz in December 2015, in response to a great need inside Turkey's prisons. She first became aware of this great need when she volunteered with the Youth Re-autonomy Foundation of Turkey, an organization which supports children who are incidentally and innocently incarcerated along with their mothers. During one visit, she heard a statement from a specialist which broke her heart: "Even toys are not allowed inside the prisons." She immediately thought to herself, "Every child has the right to play, no matter where they are." This was the seed that sprouted Önemsiyoruz. As a designer, she decided to create toys that the government would allow into the prisons. Along with more than 20 volunteers comprising professional designers, teachers, psychologists and other specialists, Önemsiyoruz began developing products that were more than just "designed to meet a need." Önemsiyoruz products are designed with the intention of "learning and experiencing knowledge while meeting real needs." Our team conducts interdisciplinary research and development before launching new services and products, and we learn and grow together in the process. We have observed, and now we believe, that "Givers create givers.
We won a seed fund form the Change with Business program, organized by Koc University Social Impact Forum, supported by Unicredit Foundation and Vehbi Koc Foundation.
We were one of the winners of Bilgi University Social Enterpreneur Awards of 2017, supported by Laureate International Universities and International Youth Foundation.
We attended ''Investment Ready Social Enterprises: Capacity Building Program", funded by Employment and Social Innovation Program (EaSI) that is a financing instrument at EU. The program was run by Mikado Sustainable Development Consulting in collaboration with Koç University Social Impact Forum (KUSIF) and Ashoka Turkey. At the end of the program, Önemsiyoruz was selected one of 16 enterprises to have chance to meet with new enterprises in Berlin for new collaborations.
We have started our field studies with children in different vulnerable circumstances, in kindergarten schools in Nurtepe, Bostancı and Cekmekoy neighborhood in Istanbul. We actively collaborates with international NGOs as Bernard van Leer Foundation on behalf of Urban95/Istanbul95 project. We are one of the stakeholders of the program. We suggest them our design consultancy to design and develop products (as baby box, sling and so on) for the families in poverty.
Even filling the form of the competition was a chance to check the organization and the activities we have done. While we were preparing the executive summary, it mirrored us to review the theory of change, social impact fields and financial issues. GSVC means us new cooperations and supports from any interested parties.