“Success and happiness come, as a person creates impact."
COVER STORY: SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATION
İbrahim Betil left an illustrious financial career to spearhead numerous civic initiatives in education. The application of his business acumen to these initiatives helped them all thrive.
What made you decide to leave banking and pursue a life of social entrepreneurship/impact?
During my professional career, I observed that qualified human beings are much more important than financial capital. Any institution that has well-educated, qualified staff can improve and develop its goals faster and easier than those that have large financial capital only. In 1994, I, therefore, decided to do something in the field of education and started both a civil society initiative (Educational Volunteers-Eğitim Gönüllüleri) and schools (Enka Schools in Istanbul and Adapazarı). Since then, I have initiated several other civil society organizations such as Community Volunteers Foundation (Toplum Gönüllüleri Vakfı – TOG- www.tog.org.tr ) and Teachers Academy Foundation (Öğretmen Akademisi Vakfı – ÖRAV- www.orav.org.tr).
How have you seen Turkey and other countries transform because of your efforts?
Established in 2002, TOG has become the largest youth organization in Turkey: nearly 2,000 volunteers, in 81 cities and more than 130 universities, making an impact in the lives of more than 800,000 individuals every year. By providing professional training programs for public school teachers, ÖRAV, established in 2008, has reached more than 250,000 teachers in 65 cities. In 2012, I have also initiated SenDeGel Association (Support for Improvement in Social and Economic Living) in the least developed countries. We have made a sustainable impact in the lives of nearly 500,000 individuals in The Gambia and Senegal.
How did your experience at Robert College inspire you to give back to society?
I was a naughty boarding student. Many times, I got disciplinary punishment and was not permitted to go home over the weekends. One weekend, our teacher Jim Johnson put me and some other friends in the back of his truck and took us to a construction of a school in a faraway village. When we reached the construction area, he gave us shovels and diggers and said: “Today you will work and help with the construction of this school building.” This was the first time I realized how lucky my RC friends and I were and that many students our age had many disadvantages. Since that day, I became committed to making an impact not only in our country but also in the world. That experience created by my teacher was not a punishment but a reward.
What would you recommend to students and alumni interested in this field?
RC students are the advantageous minority of this country. They should take the responsibility of caring to make a change. RC alumni should get involved in transparent and accountable civil society organizations, as they are responsible to make an impact in society. Academic performance is not enough to make an impact. Success and happiness come, as a person creates impact.
Published February 2022