Social Entrepreneurship Workshop for High School Students

Naz Bilecik '22 SEAS
September 23, 2020

Our annual social entrepreneurship workshop organized in collaboration with Columbia University’s Building Blocks was held between August 17 and 21, 2020. Twelve high school students in Turkey took their first steps to become the next generation of social entrepreneurs by attending our five-day workshop virtually, led by Columbia undergraduate students who are part of Building Blocks, an offshoot of Columbia’s largest student organization, Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE). The high school participants learned about how entrepreneurial problem solving and design thinking can yield social impacts. They heard from social entrepreneurs, Zach En'Wezoh, Co-founder and CEO of Bissy Energy; and Krystal Persaud, Founder and CEO of Grouphug Solar. The students formed small groups and pitched their ideas at the end of the workshop to Turkish entrepreneurs, Durukan Dudu, Founding Director of Anadolu Meraları (Anatolian Grasslands); and Itır Erhart, Co-founder of Adım Adım (Step by Step), who gave them feedback and advice on how to move forward with their projects.

Below are testimonials from some of the instructors and participants:

“It was absolutely delightful to see the students' passion for solving problems through social entrepreneurship. Everyday, I witnessed the wonders and progress that their teamwork and collaboration produced. While facilitating their journey in developing a social venture, I learned so much about regional norms, and the importance of designing culturally-conscious solutions.”

Bhoomika Ajay Kumar, Building Blocks Instructor

“The biggest opportunity this workshop has granted me was meeting new people; people who’ve come together under the common topic of social entrepreneurship to share and create a space of learning and improvement. Active discussions with other students who are also interested in social entrepreneurship broadened not only my knowledge and vision but also matured my perspective towards social entrepreneurship and how I approach global or local problems. All of the students I worked with had either big or small differences in their backgrounds, such as where they lived, where they attended school, or what aspirations they had for the future. That was an essential part of what made our discussions so inclusive, broad, and unlimited. I am immensely grateful to Buildings Blocks and the Columbia Centers Istanbul team to have given us this opportunity to meet with amazing instructors, fellow students, and excellent guest speakers who helped us get one step closer to our own entrepreneurship ventures.”

Zeynep Sude Polat, Participant

“The Social Entrepreneurship Workshop has been an incredible journey for me. I had the chance to learn skills that will really help me in my future projects and I got to meet with a lot of inspiring people. I feel like I am one step closer to becoming a changemaker and creating a positive impact on the world. I am so happy to have this experience with all of the great instructors and classmates!”

Ayseli Karabekmez, Participant

“I was introduced to social entrepreneurship last year when I joined my school’s social entrepreneurship club. It was this new and inspiring concept that I wanted to learn more about; however, it was also too broad and intimidating for me even to know where to start. This workshop didn’t only help me learn more about social entrepreneurship, design thinking, ideation, and entrepreneurial thinking but also allowed me to use my new learnings to create a new enterprise with my team. Every day, I came to class, knowing that I would be surrounded by supportive and thoughtful instructors and inspiring students who shared the same interest as me. It was an experience that I am deeply grateful for.”

Aslı Vural, Participant

“The Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul Social Entrepreneurship Workshop was an interesting and engaging way to take a deep dive into the field of social entrepreneurship by learning from instructors, peers, and guest speakers who had started their own companies. For our final project, my group was inspired by what we learned to come up with an app which would protect Turkish women from abusive situations - we wouldn’t have been able to do so without the inspiration we got from each other and the ventures of others, all guided carefully by our knowledgeable instructors. It was overall a wonderful program.”

Leyla Unsal Jacoby, Participant