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By Yasemin Sirali

Yesterday I held a Marketplace Session about how to “globalize” the Mother Child Education Foundation’s know-how. ACEV (www.acev.org), as we abbreviate in Turkish, is an Istanbul-based NGO that develops and implements face-to-face and distant-learning early childhood education and parent training programs for the socioeconomically disadvantaged, runs awareness raising campaigns and lobbies for stronger policies to enhance development opportunities in the early years of children. Albeit not being implied in the title, one of the important programs ACEV has developed is to support fathers, whose role as first educators of their children is just as important as that of mothers.

Why early childhood? Majority of brain development takes place in the first 60 months of an individual’s life making initial years the most formative ones. Proper stimulation in early years translates to better cognitive, social, emotional and physical development, higher academic aptitude and increased lifetime earnings. Therefore, investment in early years is a sound one for parents, philanthropists, development fund managers and governments: every dollar invested in this period returns to the economy as 7 dollars.  To make the most of this opportunity for providing fair chances and elimination of inequalities, James Heckman, Nobel laureate in economics, recommends revising the MDGs to focus on early childhood: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/sep/23/early-child-development-mdgs

The aforementioned education programs of ACEV have been scientifically developed, evaluated for impact, and “exported” to 12 countries in Europe, Middle East and South America.  They have reached nearly 700.000 beneficiaries since 1993 and recognized through numerous awards by international development actors such as UNESCO and WISE Network of the Qatar Foundation. ACEV has also been contributing to research and advocacy on global platforms through partnerships forged with Harvard and Yale Universities.

As of the end of 2011, organizations from 18 additional countries had requested the programs and were in search of funding. Receiving requests is exciting but identifying the right partners who have the managerial, financial and training capacity to pilot and sustain the implementation of programs in countries other than Turkey is challenging. This leaves me with questions around whether to take a more proactive approach to expanding ACEV’s footprint, whom to transfer this knowledge to in different countries, and under what terms and conditions.

Joining the Marketplace were Isabel Costa, Omar Faruk, Yury Vybornov, Boris Hajos, Ulf Baecker, and Nicholas Hall who graciously offered their networks in the UK, Libya, Russia and Croatia for establishing sound partnerships and mobilizing funds. Ulf and Nick’s insights into the differencebetween globalization versus internationalization, need to develop organizational capacity to manage expansion, and a shift from reactive to proactive method of transferring know-how were also invaluable. Many thanks to all six of you!

Young Leaders interested in contributing to the cause or finding out more about ACEV are welcome to reach me at yasemin.sirali@acev.org.

Reporting from la Capital: Buenos Aires
Reporting from la Capital: Buenos Aires avatar

Hola a todos,

Tonight, I finally managed to stay awake and live the charm of Buenos Aires while dining at Lo de Jesus in the hip Palermo neighborhood. Argentinean steak is as succulent as expected and the Malbecs are as smooth as silk, so prepare for some culinary delight besides the jet lag in the upcoming days.

Back in 2005, I almost flunked a class at B-school for defending Argentina’s decision to default on its debt. Having breathed Buenos Aires in the last couple of days has imparted me with more pleasant memories.

Besides the exquisite purple jacaranda trees, what I have been pleasantly surprised to witness is the authentic pace of life, what lives and feels like a well established urban infrastructure, and the high rate of older city dwellers enjoying a chat at the cafes and present on the streets which to me signals social inclusion apart from an aging population.

What has also struck me was how visual and relentless the habitants are with vocalizing their messages on the sidewalks and walls that make up this city. I am sharing those I spotted by the Congress building. The very same ones were repeated over and over again on almost every street I walked by in different neighborhoods. It made me wonder to what extent social media is used in Argentina.

And here is something I brought up while dining with Matthias this evening and I want to ask you the same: when was the last time you learned of a new concept from someone?

Once done with school be it undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate, and having assumed leadership positions at existing or self-initiated organizations, there comes a point where nobody is systematically “feeding” you with new ideas and concepts; rather you have to develop the opportunities to continue to learn and be truly stimulated. Therefore when I read the sign “Expectimus Dominus” on the gate of the acclaimed Cementerio de la Recoleta today, I realized I was expecting to meet with all of you to introduce me to new passages in the labyrinth of knowledge and progress.

I am truly thankful to the BMW Foundation for providing us with that opportunity. This gathering promises to be as enlightening as reflected by the intellect, diversity and dynamism of its participants, organizers, and contributors.

See you soon.