ImpactFest23, September 2–7, 2023 (Photo credit: Zişan Özdemir)

Reflections from Arkhé Innovate’s ImpactFest23

Published in ATÖLYE Insights · 14 min read · November 23, 2023

The role of alternative learning spaces for sparking innovative solutions to the world's most pressing issues

Author: Melissa Clissold Contributors: Atalay Akpınar, Başak Aras, Busra Serdar Special thanks: Arkhé Innovate team and Ayten (the cook) Photography: Zişan Özdemir & ATÖLYE team

"Communities are spaces where one's every state is transformed through sharing."

— Zeynep Cansu Öner, Regenerate41

TL;DR - Summary

This year, ATÖLYE & EKA (our community partner) were ecosystem partners for ImpactFest23, organized by Arkhé Innovate and sponsored by Akbank between September 2–7. The week-long carbon-neutral festival in Şirince brought together individuals and organizations from Turkey's impact ecosystem for workshops, panels, and interactive sessions to ideate around the region's most pressing issues, with a particular focus on "Water & Food Security", "Community-Powered Design", "Youth & Future", and "Climate Innovations".

As ATÖLYE & EKA, we co-hosted a "community-powered design" workshop, allowing participants to experience co-creating micro-communities firsthand, focusing on the issues they felt most passionate about. In addition, a couple of our community members were also panellists throughout the week. The following article provides some background on Arkhé Innovate and ImpactFest, a few insights from the days or themes themselves, as well as more details as to how we ran our workshop. If you want to skip the article and just access our resources, you'll find them here:

Find out more about designing communities via our Community Lab where you can download our Community Playbook. Here you can download our Community-Powered Design Canvas. For a list of all organizations involved, please scroll down to the very bottom.

The ATÖLYE and EKA teams getting ready for their workshop at Arkhé's campus near Aziz Nesin's Mathematics village in Şirince


Arkhé Innovate has an interesting story. It's not dissimilar from ATÖLYE's or EKA's, and other organizations that joined ImpactFest23 this year, in the sense that community spirit is at the core of its founding story.

Arkhé Innovate's existence was seeded in Aziz Nesin's Mathematics Village, nestled deep in the mountains of Şirince, Turkey (voted by the UN World Tourism Organization as one of the Best Tourism Villages). Nesin Mathematics Village was launched in 2007 by Ali Nesin, a veteran mathematics professor who heads the education non-profit Nesin Foundation established by his father, humorist writer Aziz Nesin.

A group of people who'd attended the summer mathetmatics camps here for years started to ask, "Why don't we also come together around social sciences too? Why don't we focus on philosophy, anthropology, or even entrepreneurship and innovation?" And that's essentially how Arkhé Innovate was born. Nowadays, it focuses on "running innovation programs to enable new solutions and bringing key stakeholders together to foster collaboration for some of the most pressing problems in our region."

In essence, a few like-minded individuals came together under a common purpose around shared ideals; there was a desire to create a similar experience to that which they had in the mathematics village - a need to come together and discuss, share, create, and simply be. This ideal has since evolved into more than a group of volunteers, towards a shared space—a campus to bring ideas to life and host weekly programs throughout the summer.

Snapshots from Aziz Nesin's Mathematics Village

This story is an inspiring one. It also reminds us of how ATÖLYE was first born—a few like-minded individuals came together under a common purpose, a desire to create positive change. Only afterwards did this manifest into a physical hub (read "Build Community, Space Will Come").

Arkhé's physical space, its campus, is positioned right next to Aziz Nesin's village (serendipity?) and Stoa, Center for Body Arts and Studies. This region has in fact started to be referred to as the "Learning Valley" - it is indeed an ideal environment to take a breather, explore new ideas, and get the creative juices flowing. It is in this backdrop that the second edition of ImpactFest was held, and where we found ourselves for a week between September 2–7.


"Don't piss off the cook."

The very first lesson we learned upon arrival was "Don't piss off the cook." Wise and humbling words indeed; these gatherings are fuelled by our very basic needs, and a wonderful local woman (Ayten) cooking for 60 people for breakfast, lunch, or dinner for an entire week needs to be respected. Once the ground rules were established, we moved on to the subject matter at hand.

Ayten, the cook (left), A moment of dance and celebration with campus volunteers (right)

Through ImpactFest23, Arkhé Innovate aimed to:

"bring together Turkey's impact ecosystem together for discussions, workshops, and unique networking opportunities with a curated group of individuals who are all taking action to create a better tomorrow."

This year's themes focused on four distinct topics, with a day dedicated to each: Water & Food Security, Community-Powered Design, Youth & Future, and Climate Innovations. It is with pleasure, as ATÖLYE and EKA, that we accepted to be ecosystem partners for this week-long "festival" and host our workshop on community-powered design on a day dedicated to the question:

How might community-powered design and innovation help us tackle the most pressing challenges of our region?

The main audience of this festival was young people, mostly recent graduates or entrepreneurs, who had all chosen to be there for the duration of a week (and camp on campus). In addition, there were individuals representing various organizations who had come to host panels, workshops, and more. In total, we were around 60 people for the entire week. Other than the 4 days of deep diving into the themes, 2 days were dedicated to arrival and departure.

We'd like to now share a few insights from each day, including more details on our community-powered design workshop that attempted to address the question posed above.

Day 1 - Water & Food Security

" We believe everything is more effective when done together."

— Gizem Burteçin

"Water & Food Security" was the focus of Day 1 of ImpactFest 2023. Discussions were had and workshops held regarding the current issues we face related to food and water security on a global, national, and regional scale. Business opportunities and cutting-edge methods for the food industry were also touched upon by existing examples of fruitful initiatives and partnerships.

The importance of "spaces as services" and "ClimateTech" spaces really stood out in the first part of this day. In a follow-up workshop, creative solutions were ideated on with a focus on either Food Security, Climate Adaptation or Climate Change.

ImpactFest Panel in Kayserkaya (A hotel near Arkhé's campus)

Some of the ideas that came about focused on:

1) The role of creative communication in the climate crisis:

We are all inherently a part of the climate crisis, but we may not realize our involvement due to our alienation from nature or distance from natural disasters (or simply because of cognitive dissonance). Therefore, what could the role of the creative industries be in communicating, teaching, and raising awareness for all involved? Some of the questions asked were:

How might we communicate with individuals and communities from different backgrounds, whether they are part of the impact ecosystem or not?

How might we "talk on even ground" with various stakeholders; and use different language for varying audiences to raise awareness?

How might we utilize visual design to visualize complex topics in an understandable manner?

2) The need to create an informative platform for farmers:

It was said that the exchange of information among farmers about harvest and planting times and accessing the correct information might create a sense of community and collaboration. Farmers could exchange ideas on "What was planted last year? Which crops should be planted this year?" etc. Two examples of farmer platforms given were Tarfin and Farmers Business Network. (Know any more examples? Email Melissa at so we can add on to this list.)

3) Modernization of "bostans" (vegetable gardens) in cities:

Utilizing idle spaces in metropolises, transforming gardens ("bostans") into collaborative work and production areas, establishing routes for Istanbul gardens akin to the Istanbul Biennial's exploration of neighborhoods in 2022 as well as highlighting obscure production and consumption cultures, were some thoughts that arose with regards to the modernization of vegetable gardens in cities.

4) Education and awareness of consumers:

Using education to ensure that first and final consumers reach a certain level of awareness in areas such as label literacy, certification information, organic farming practises, and regenerative agriculture was another idea that was explored.

Day 2 - Community-Powered Design

"Innovative thinking is produced when different communities and individuals come together."

— Çağıl Özdemir, 3 Dots

Snapshots from our

"Community-Powered Design" was the focus of Day 2 of ImpactFest 2023. The day was kicked off by our community-powered design workshop inspired by our Community Playbook. The idea behind our workshop was to allow participants to have a taste of co-designing their own micro-communities based on areas they felt passionate about, such as equality in education, ethical food choices, justice, and more.

After starting with an energizing check-in, eight separate groups were formed and were tasked with filling out the following "Community-Powered Design" canvas. Groups had a total of 2 hours for this, and we held a mini-energizer break in between for 15 minutes.

Community-Powered Design Canvas adapted from our Community Playbook

Here are the ideas that arose from this workshop:

1️⃣ - Team Kapı Açık ("The Door is Open") focuses on a lack of access to public services in disadvantaged regions; their intention was to design a community in order to create a bridge between municipalities and the youth to provide access to relevant resources and opportunities.

2️⃣ - Team Köprü ("Bridge") hopes to bring together producers and consumers, creating spaces of collaboration, awareness-creation, and information sharing in order to bring about responsible production and consumption, reducing the concept of excessiveness.

3️⃣ - Team Eşittir ("It's Equal") aims to create a community of experts whose paths do not usually cross, in order to nourish all ecosystems of life to exist in honourable ways within post-disaster situations.

4️⃣ - Team Act!on wants to create a community bringing together decision-makers and civil society in order to create sustainable, qualitative, and alternative educational spaces across the country.

5️⃣ - Team Proje 1.0 ("Project 1.0") aims to create equal opportunity in educational spaces based on individual, social, cognitive, and emotional skills from childhood onwards. They want to bring together professionals within the educational sector to create solutions and raise awareness regarding the lack of equality within this sphere.

6️⃣ - Team Better Future Creators aims to create a community and platform around bringing people from different backgrounds within society to come together to share ideas and work on solutions.

7️⃣ - Team Kozalak "Pine Cone" strives to make "green actions/initiatives" more mainstream among youth and society. They hope to create mini micro-communities that can host various fun and interactive workshops around topics such as "sustainable clothing" and "waste to production" and use guerilla marketing to promote their cause.

8️⃣ - Team Changemaker would like to bring together like-minded young people in order to take initiative, and responsibility, produce solutions to the problems they face throughout their education, and prepare them for the roles they will take on in the future from a younger age.

"The power of designing as a community showed me that I'm not alone and that we experience similar problems—it gave me hope."

— Workshop participant

Snapshots from our

From the workshop outcomes, we understood that community-powered design is not just a practice where people with shared goals come together to design for like-minded individuals. Additionally, we recognized that communities formed through this practice have the potential to encourage change in the world, extending their impact beyond the immediate community to reach broader audiences.

In addition to our workshop, throughout the day we discussed the value of getting together for shared learning experiences, how to identify needs within communities, and how to improve the effectiveness and inclusivity of communities.

One of our community members, Merve Kavas, also took part in a panel to share her experience with post-disaster community collaborations. (Read: "Mobilising communities in the face of crisis" for our own efforts in this arena).

Our community member Merve Kavas (middle), founder of Yekpare

"By turning my face towards the community, I was able to see the blindspots I hadn't seen before"

— Ömer Tarık İnce (Workshop participant)

Snapshots from our

Day 3 - Youth & Future

"We should try to solve problems by breaking them into smaller pieces."

— Mesut Keskin

"Youth & Future" was the focus of Day 3 of ImpactFest 2023.

Our community member Gizem Kendik Önduygu (Right) from Ashoka Türkiye

With the support of Arkhé's main partner Akbank and ecosystem partner Onarım Atölyesi | Regenerative Impact Space, participants gathered with Katalist, Microfon, Ashoka Türkiye, Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) and Başlangıç Noktası I Be Node to discuss the role of young people in academia and civil society and how they shape today. Together, the following question was explored in more detail:

How we might strengthen social impact and youth participation in decision-making mechanisms in the private sector?

Day 3 of ImpactFest23

Day 4 - Climate Innovations

"You can't manage waste that you can't measure/monitor."

— Müge Baltacı, Köstebek

"Sustainable Innovations" was the focus of Day 3 of ImpactFest 2023.

The day began with Kale Grubu sharing details about their Ibrahim Bodur Social Entreprenuership award program which holds the intention of growing the social entrepreneurial ecosystem and communities around entrepreneurship, as well as bridging gaps between various innovation circles. One interesting thing that came out of this talk was the idea that social innovators change society not necessarily through technology but by challenging cultural norms.

This was followed by an interactive speculative design workshop by Viveka. Sustainable innovation and green ventures were discussed in detail with Köstebek, Kozalak, Esmiyor, and Evreka. Various issues were paired with potential solutions towards the end of the day in a final workshop.

A snapshot of participants at ImpactFest

General Insights

Overall, the days went by quickly. There was, however, a real sense of togetherness, a peaceful snapshot of what could be in the world if we truly repurposed our goals and methodologies towards working together in a community-powered fashion.

One thing that we realised once more was that everyone's perspective on the concept of community is quite different. And though that may not be a barrier for collaborating,

"...the notion of community within the impact ecosystem seems to merely imply a group of people coming together, but there isn't much of a roadmap regarding how they might operate within a structure. This is something we can work towards."

- Atalay Akpınar, Community Designer

Even if there is a roadmap and a shared understanding of community purpose in place, there are also often challenges brought about by the different expectations of individuals within an ecosystem. One of the most significant pain points we noticed was with regards to community engagement. Yet, is engagement the most important metric when it comes to community, or is it perhaps something else?

Finally, the issue of student communities among the younger generations is quite topical. The importance of coming together and achieving something collectively seems to be spreading. However, communities have started to be evaluated like startups with business models—how can a balance between community spirit and business structure co-exist?

Arkhé Innovate campus


We need each other, and we need alternative learning spaces (in nature), to be together and remember what's worth fighting for—our planet, our home. The more we connect and bridge gaps and boundaries between individuals, organizations, initiatives and communities, the faster we can innovate and work towards real solutions. One thing we really need to remember is that, as we work towards creating roadmaps for sustainable relationships within the impact ecosystem, value is inherent not only in the outcomes we achieve but also in the collaborative spirit and shared commitment to positive change among all stakeholders involved.

"Seeing a different perspective on communities, looking in a way I do not, and designing was very beneficial. It was good to understand again that there is not just one right way."

— Workshop Participant

The question is how might we navigate relational complexities while maintaining a sense of urgency to take action swiftly? Because time is running out, and we need to move together.

Arkhé will start hosting weekly programs and events from 2024 spring onwards. So stay tuned, maybe we'll see each other at the 3rd edition of ImpactFest next year?

Let's create impact, together: e-mail Melissa at to start a conversation.

Organizations, Initiatives & Individuals Involved

Kök Projekt | Semi Hakim HAN Spaces | Gizem Burtecin İzmir Development Agency | Cangul KUS & Sinem Özdemir Durmuşlar Arya Women Investment Platform & Fark Labs | Ahu Buyukkusoglu Serter Biolive | Duygu Yılmaz Farmhood | Selin Arslan Malty Foods | Berkan Mifleh ATÖLYE & EKA Creative Studio | Atalay Akpınar, Tahir Can Yarımoğlu, Büşra Serdar, Melissa Lara Clissold, Başak Aras Regenerate41 | Zeynep Cansu Öner 3dots | Cagil Ozdemir Yekpare Social Enterprise Turkiye | Merve KavasKale Grubu | Rana Birden Sivil Düşün | Nesrin Köseler & Emre Gur Onarım Atölyesi | Regenerative Impact Space | Ekin AL Akbank | Selda Özçalık & Digdem Dokmeci & Damla Kayan Onarım Atölyesi | Regenerative Impact Space | Ekin AL Katalist | Jülide Erdoğan Microfon | Mesut Keskin Ashoka Türkiye | Gizem Kendik Önduygu Başlangıç Noktası I Be Node | Ceren Zeytinoglu Atici Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) | Erinch Sahan Viveka | Halime Dilan Akbaş & Beyza Canbaz Köstebek (Mol-e) | Müge Baltacı Kozalak | Batuhan Esirger Evreka | Umutcan Duman Esmiyor | Derin Altan