ACT Academy Strengthens Youth Leadership in Turkey

Human rights in Turkey are under pressure, while space for civic involvement is shrinking. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked Perspectivity to design and execute a programme for how the Dutch embassy could sustainably support civil society to strengthen their position. This programme, called the ACT Academy, is a ground-breaking pilot leadership programme set up together by Perspectivity and the Netherlands Embassy in Ankara Turkey and ran from 2019 to 2020.
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Netherlands Embassy in Turkey


Can you design a programme for young and fresh civil society actors in Turkey to collaborate a strengthen their positions?


Development and execution of an 18-month leadership programme focusing on young and fresh leaders. 



  • Delivery of a new innovative participatory leadership programme.
  • Creation of a trust environment in a fragile context of shrinking civic space.
  • Increased leadership capacities of 25 people.
  • Broad variety of personal changes in the lives of the participants.
  • Seven projects to strengthen local human rights.

The few NGOs and civil society organisations that still operate in Turkey, heavily compete with each other for space, leading to a few new ideas, a competitive atmosphere and little inclusion of young people. As a result, young people have limited chances of developing themselves in this area and contributing to a society they want. It also leads to pressure on activists, frequently leading to burnouts.

The ACT Academy aims to offer a positive response to the global trend of polarisation, by focusing on peaceful societal change. 25 sparkling young people were selected to enter into an 18-month learning programme. Participants came from different sectors, topics and regions across Turkey, to maximise diversity and to inspire a change in perspective for all.


To create social change, we have to work on system-level change. The programme develops the skills, competencies and self-awareness of civil society actors to succeed in this important work. The architecture of the programme is designed based on Theory U and covers eight crucial elements of systemic change in complexity: 1. Positive change, 2. Shared ambitions for social impact, 3. Responsive leadership for improved social development, 4. Mutually reinforcing actions, 5. Involvement of all: a constructive response to polarization, 6. Adaptive learning: impact, monitoring & evaluation, 7. Vital connections & backbone, 8. Sustaining the change. The programme included in all modules the focus on developing a community with strong ties between the participants.

Perspectivity believes that people are the experts of their own context and experience. Facilitators bring knowledge on the process and technical skills and help mobilize that knowledge by putting in the right processes and guiding the participants in their learning journey. Methodologies used during the learning programme are non-traditional and creative (such as check-ins, meditations, mindmaps, appreciative valuation, narrative inquiry, ritual dissent) to spark creativity, new ideas and space for young people to take up their leadership roles. 


The result was that space was opened for young people to decide what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. Seven leadership projects were started by the participants to strengthen human rights in Turkey, including a children’s library, facilitating Deep Democracy conversations between professionals and volunteers, ‘cooking up dialogue’ with female refugees, and new ways of learning using the internet. 

The Academy created a trusted community, a small fractal of the larger civil society in which they could show how collaboration and leadership could work differently. This community also had many positive personal effects on those involved, such as taking more time for self-care to deal with stress, becoming eco-conscious and eating less meat or stopping smoking. 

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