Spotlight Interviews with Cooperators

Turkey’s first youth-led social cooperative

“Spotlight Interviews with Cooperators" is a series of interviews with cooperative leaders from around the world with whom ILO officials have crossed paths during the course of their work with cooperatives. For this issue, ILO interviewed Mr Berkin Safak Sener, a founding member of the Youth Deal Cooperative established in Izumir, Turkey in 2015.

Article | 02 September 2016

Q. What is the Youth Deal Cooperative?

Mr Berkin Safak Sener
A. The idea for Turkey’s first youth-led social cooperative, Youth Deal Cooperative, came from young entrepreneurs seeking to publish an innovative urban culture magazine in June 2014. Officially established in the city of Izmir in February 2015, the cooperative’s members, workers and volunteers work collectively in a non-hierarchical setting aiming to improve sustainable employment solutions for disadvantaged groups at the local level. The generation of value in the cooperative is based on appreciation of labour rather than profit maximization.

The Youth Deal Cooperative develops and delivers multi-stakeholder projects, organizes training workshops and offers consultancy services to public, private and civil society institutions in order to encourage labour market entry and integration of youth. The cooperative’s main areas of work include vulnerable groups (asylum/migration studies, youth employment and child studies), urban studies (urban development, urban governance, and cultural protection), cooperative systems and social entrepreneurship and democratization studies. Studies in democratization is another area of work that concentrates on Turkey’s urban socio-political development.

The cooperative seeks to improve social and solidarity economy at the local level. It cooperates with local governments, other cooperatives and civil society organizations in social development-oriented projects. The members of the cooperative believe in local response to local problems can be formed through active cooperation with local governments in Turkey and around the world.

The Youth Deal Cooperative is governed through an Executive Board, a Supervisory Board and autonomous working groups. The cooperative currently has ten partners who mainly come from social science backgrounds. In addition 17 volunteers take part in the Cooperative’s projects.

Volunteers work in autonomous working groups and carry equal rights and responsibilities as partners in these settings. However, volunteers are not proprietors of the cooperative’s shares and cannot be members of the Executive or Supervisory Boards. Volunteers have priority over other candidates if they apply to become a partner. 

Q. How does the cooperative work?

Members of the Youth Deal Scientific Research, Development and Education Cooperative.
A. Partners and volunteers collaborate in social development projects, which have been funded through official development assistance or European Union pre-accession assistance. Volunteers are placed in ongoing projects to gain hands-on experience in project management and to become familiar with the cooperative structure. Each stakeholder, either partner or volunteer, contributes to projects with their unpaid voluntary labour in the preparatory phase of projects. Once a proposed project is approved by a donor, those who volunteered in the design phase are ideally recruited as professional staff to the project.

The cooperative’s workers, partners and volunteers donate ten per cent of their project-based income to the cooperative to cover administrative costs. The cooperative transfers the labour fees directly to the workers, and thus it does not hand out profit share to its partners at the end of the financial year. If administrative cost deductions accumulate significantly, the sum is transferred to the cooperative’s seed fund account to be spent in future projects.

Q. How are decisions made within the cooperative?

A. Youth Deal Cooperative partners have equal right to vote and participate in the annual General Assembly. The executive and supervisory boards are elected and authorized by the General Assembly to undertake regular administrative and financial operations of the cooperative. Working groups of the cooperative function autonomously both administratively and financially. Volunteers work on an equal footing with partners in working groups.

All partners and volunteers are enabled to monitor and inspect the cooperative instantly through the effective use of an online cloud system. Administrative transparency is ensured via innovative online tools.

The cooperative’s enlargement process is primarily undertaken by the cooperative partner responsible for human resources. Once a volunteer applies to become a partner of the cooperative, the Board evaluates the application by considering two main components; a) achievements during the period of first three months that assures mutual acquaintance between the cooperative and the partner; and b) statements in the volunteer feedback form that is filled by each applicant for partnership.

Spotlight Interviews with Cooperators is a series of interviews with cooperative leaders from around the world with whom ILO officials have crossed paths during the course of their work with cooperatives. The responsibility for opinions expressed in this interview rests solely with the interviewees, and the article does not constitute an endorsement by the International Labour Office.