Community-Powered Transformation in Europe

We design transformational journeys across scales and disciplines. For each challenge, we craft a unique approach that aims to create lasting impact.

10 years ago, ATÖLYE began as a community-powered network in Istanbul. With its expansion to Dubai in 2019, ATÖLYE began cultivating community-powered design for creative emergence to address wicked global challenges, including quality education, sustainability mobility, social innovation, and regenerative living. Now in Europe, ATÖLYE is bringing community-powered transformation to more global audiences. This space will serve as a platform to share our journey and learned insights along the way.

Does this resonate with you? Start a conversation with us to explore how we can create impact together.

Between May 11-12, together with Neol, we participated in the B for Good Leaders Summit, a gathering of leaders who are driving the vision for a new, regenerative economy. The Summit hosted 1200+ individuals from around the world, including representatives of corporations, philanthropic organizations, and governmental bodies.

Throughout the summit, we co-hosted a series of workshops centered around “A journey toward COP28—and beyond” in collaboration with SYPartners and Now Partners. During these deep exploratory sessions, we reflected on leaders’ personal purpose, forged deeper relationships, and focused on mobilizing towards collective action for climate justice.

Moreover, we hosted small groups of participants inviting them to share challenges they faced relating to collaboration, as well as support each other to find ways to advance what matters most at this moment in time. Through designing and co-hosting the series, we found once more that holding space for small and intimate conversations during these conferences is crucial—hence the question:

“How might we create circles of trust and moments of micro-solidarity to drive positive change?”

Stay tuned for more about our insights soon; and in the meantime check out some of our insights from our latest event “Transformation is Relational” below; and remember:

“Intimacy accelerates change.” – Andrea Alvares, Regenerative Systems Developer

Visual Harvester (Illustrations): Kyra Sacks (@kyra_sacks_art)


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In October of last year, we held our very first event in Europe as part of Dutch Design Week. Our “Regenerative Community Jam” brought together organizations and individuals passionate about regenerative design. Recently, we held another community gathering in Amsterdam, “Transformation is Relational,” for organizational leaders eager to take action through transformative agendas.

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Over 30 people came together for an immersive 3-course dinner, during which participants were asked to reflect on questions throughout each course. We aimed to facilitate deeper conversation and connections that would happen at a networking event or cocktail party. At the same time, we created an open journal to help facilitate discussion, with questions such as:

How do we recognize the immense power of relationships and use them to design better collective futures?

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Relationships and communities are at the core of any transformational agenda, and at the core of any relationship is trust. We talk more about this in our article “Community-powered Transformation in Europe.” The gist of it is that we cannot make the world a better place if we do not work together, do not trust one another, and do not value each other’s uniqueness and diversity.

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We build trust. We are diverse, and we are unique.

As an organization with roots in Istanbul, we know how to bring together a multitude of cultures and values that bring out the best in people, communities, and institutions. When we travel to other countries it is clearer to see the melting pot that is our lives (and a part of our history). Our friends in Europe have often told us that we have a warm, embracing, and “hosting” spirit, and we believe this stems from the richness of our backgrounds.

To avoid being cliché, we often steer away from talking about where we are from and focus on what we do instead. The question “Where are you from?” is also often difficult to answer for those from these geographies due to a history of ongoing immigration and migration. So, we move away from the language that tells others we are “a bridge between the East and the West.” Nevertheless, sometimes it is worth remembering that clichés exist for a reason, and perhaps it is worth emphasizing these narratives instead of shying away from them.

Our roots are embedded in multiculturalism; this resonates across geographies and brings us closer together.

Our goal in Europe is to showcase the power of community in order to bring about positive change. What makes us different are the insights we’ve shared above. We build trust, we are multicultural by nature, and we are well-versed in the power of facilitation, allowing conversations to flow and go beyond the superficial. This is the formula for action and true tangible change. Sometimes we simply need to get together, even in unfamiliar environments, to deepen relationships through meaningful conversations.

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As one of our community members from Amsterdam has shared:

Human connection is imperative and is instantaneously achievable by sparking joy in one another.”

Before moving on to our final thoughts, we’d like to leave you with some other questions that arose during our time together:

  • How might we shift away from suspicion and towards more joy?
  • How might we stop overthinking achieving excellence over impactful action?
  • How might we bring relationships back to the forefront in a world that demands too much of us?

Who shares your (day)dreams?

We leave you with a final question. This is one of the first ones we asked during our dinner, and it is one we want to ask you as well—because we know the value of coming together with people who share dreams (not nightmares!). We have seen it firsthand through 10 years of experience. We have transformed communities with the leaders at BMW Foundation, formed new ones with Creative Leaders at Neol, and created new social innovation platforms such as imece. We have supported startups like Toyi and built large networks such as Teachers Network (Öğretmen Ağı). We have come together in the face of crisis by mobilizing communities by supporting those suffering from forest fires or the recent devastating earthquake that shook Türkiye and Syria. At the essence of all these things are relationships, and communities that thrive on collaboration to create and design positive impact. That’s what we’re made for.

We’ll be co-hosting another event, for impact-driven leader circles at the B for Good Leaders Summit on May 11 & 12th together with SYPartners, our long-time kyu collaborators, and Now Partners, a renowned network of impactful leaders. So please join us! And if any of this resonates with you, reach out to us so we can organize a get-together to discuss how we might create impact together.

Start a conversation with us. Let’s create impact, together.

Europe’s Resurgence is Relational

This is a telling time for Europe. The undercurrents of globalization are surfacing into an increasingly disruptive world. From the immediacy of the climate crisis and the rise of burnout to the imperative race of energy transition and the eminent takeover of AI, one thing is certain: present-day societal challenges are demanding new ways of living, working, and being (together).

Today, Europe’s geopolitical position is revitalizing its influence as a connector, peacemaker, and pioneer for social, economic, and environmental agendas — but if Europe is to lead the way towards deep transformation, it requires collective action.

98% of world business leaders believe their business models will have to change dramatically within the next three years as they prepare for a new reality of ongoing disruption. While it is clear that most organizations understand the necessity of transformation for a more sustainable future, many change initiatives still fail because of old systems at work. Outdated systems and methods continue to prioritize short-sighted wins over long-term impact, and dedicated teams fare underprepared for what deep transformation really entails.

To mitigate this transition, organizations can no longer underestimate the value of relational processes. Rather than copying best practices, these efforts need to focus on empowering teams and audiences to co-create tailored and responsive ways of working together. Only then does the real work begin.

“We need to restructure our socio-economic systems around cooperation and trust.”
– Rutger Bregman, Humankind

Recently, there has been no louder reminder of the dangers of siloed action — and inversely the importance of coming together — than the pandemic. Paired with the effective and responsible leverage of technology, we learned that collaboration can be more inclusive and scalable, with the potential for greater impact.

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“We are a social species and have learned over thousands of years that our survival depends on each other.”
– Fabian Pfortmuller

Community-powered Transformation

But what does collaboration look like in a globalized culture that celebrates individual achievement? How do we empower people to harness their relational potential?

Historically, communities served as the marketplace for local groups and cultures to come together to share, connect and cooperate. Ultimately, a community is any human ecosystem (team, audience, group, fanbase) that harnesses ideas and actions for a common practice or purpose. By clearly defining spaces of engagement, cultivating growth, and establishing trust, we nurture the key functions of successful communities, turning them into vehicles for actionable transformation. Addressing the needs of the collective together ATÖLYE call community-powered transformation.


Defining Spaces of Engagement

The old ways of engagement and connection are changing, and so are the digital and physical spaces in which we interact. Environments that do not enable meaningful experiences or interactions quickly deter into idleness. As we spend more time in the digital realm, our needs from the physical realm are evolving— forcing us to rethink the way we design spaces for relational capacity, and vice versa. 

A long hallway, a design mockupATÖLYE was asked by The Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) space to design a continuously active intersection for startups working with the government and private sector in the United Arab Emirates. As part of the innovation hub Area 2071, the DFA serves as a place for scenario-based experimentation, establishing the greater space as a leading innovation platform on a global scale. This scenario system enables different modes of working interactions based on a clear programmatic division between the tailored acts of Focus, Exchange, Co-produce, and Connect. The outcome: DFA became a one-of-a-kind space, offering a holistic spatial experience in a flexible, evolving, and future-proof environment. 


Cultivating long-term growth

Leading change requires an ongoing discovery of potential and adapting to an ever-changing world. By upskilling individuals and enabling their relational capacities, teams are empowered to optimize together toward innovative futures. Tailored processes and custom programs hold space for key opportunities and talent to emerge. Cultivating a shared awareness helps reinforce purpose allowing individuals and teams to align with and capitalize on long-term visions.

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Together with the BMW Foundation, ATÖLYE developed Dawn, a Responsible Leadership program that inspires leaders to explore and develop answers to the most pressing world challenges. This 4-month-long leadership training journey was designed to enable systemic change and interventions through the connection and collaboration of a cohort of leaders.

Establishing holistic systems of trust

Although our collective trust has been eroded by the extensive value attributed to individual achievement, we can still deviate and return to a purpose-driven approach to change that is powered by the communities that will in turn be directly impacted. 

a plate of foodCommissioned by the UAE government, ATÖLYE is reimagining Dubai’s food system with circular economy principles and community-powered design. The ambition is to cultivate a new ecosystem based on relational design principles to eliminate waste by reusing or repurposing products rather than disposing of them. The roadmap includes food recovery initiatives, dynamic pricing, and measuring food waste data across the value chain to identify hotspots that could guide community efforts further. The goal is that by 2040, 98% of the Dubai community will be participating in waste reduction programs.

This type of deep transformation requires a profound understanding of the power of cultivating spaces for engagement, long-term growth and holistic systems of trust. If Europe’s resurgence is to be sustainable and abundant, it will require a shift to collective action based on two fundamental and rather basic principles: collaboration and community. Growing through resilient teams and communities is vital to the ATÖLYE ethos, and the efficacy of this approach to transformation is evident in the lasting impact that is already underway.


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We leave you with a few big questions to consider: 

  • Is your organization ready to withstand a new era of chronic shock disruptions and nimble enough to evolve responsively? 
  • Are your teams empowered enough to come together and tackle challenges as opportunities for innovation and impact?
  • What are you missing to be the sum of all your parts in practice, performance, and results? 

ATÖLYE is ready to bring community-powered design to Europe’s impact-driven leaders and help them achieve their transformation agendas. 

Curious about what this could mean for you as a leader? Reach out through this form to start a conversation!


Author: Luma Eldin, ATÖLYE Community Member
Co-authors:  Mert Çetinkaya, Director, ATÖLYE Academy; Leen Sadder, Head of Community, ATÖLYE
Editors: Melissa Clissold, Sr. Communications Associate, ATÖLYE; Nikkole Mojica, Communications Associate, ATÖLYE
In-text Illustrations: Gökçe Kodan, Visual Communications Designer, ATÖLYE