Meet a Connector: Elif in Istanbul, Turkey

Connector Elif Soykan has her feet in two worlds: Istanbul and Los Angeles.

She grew up in Turkey, where she studied sociology, but found herself drawn to Hollywood post-graduation where she worked at an advertising agency. Unfulfilled, she returned home after a few years.

Back in Turkey, Elif transferred her love of meeting new people from different cultures and backgrounds into a job as a cross-cultural consultant.

Elif hopes to use this training to its fullest in her new role as a Connector on both the Istanbul and Los Angeles Teams.

“As a cross-cultural trainer and a coach, I believe I can show people how powerful they are, how beautiful they are, and how much value they can bring to life to make it better,” she says.

pic1-1

Elif on her terrace in Istanbul
(photo courtesy Elif Soykan)

Elif naturally connects others in her social circles all the time, but admits that when it comes to herself, one of her weaknesses is asking for help.

With the Idealist Network, she’ll use this focus on others to her advantage and help Istanbul become better connected. There are a lot of nonprofits in the city, but bureaucracy, lack of consensus in organizations, and commitment on behalf of volunteers can be challenging.

Still, Elif is hopeful. Next week she’ll be meeting with another Connector in the city to talk about how they can best pool the city’s resources.

“Sharing is so valuable. I’m afraid that in this new era, we’re losing it,” she says. “This Network gives me hope to unite again for the ultimate goal: make the world a better place.”

Do you live in Istanbul or Los Angeles? Join Elif! Live elsewhere? Look for a Connector Team near you or start one of your own.

Tags: , , , , ,



Epic Playgrounds: How one dad is reinventing where America plays

Do you remember the playground you used to go to as a kid?

Mine was at Abbey Lane elementary school in Levittown, New York. It was a massive wooden castle, complete with tiny hidden rooms throughout, a tire moat you could crawl through, and all sorts of twisty slides and bouncing bridges.

I loved that playground. I wanted my parents to take me there all the time.

Evergreenslide

A modern-day adventure playground in Hackney, London
(photo courtesy apesatplay.com)

Now I take my daughter to banal plastic structures that pale in comparison. So what happened in the years it took me to become an adult?

Billy Jensen has a theory: we got scared. Back in the 60s, our playground crafters took a cue from Europe’s and designed spaces unafraid to venture beyond the traditional four S’s: slide, seesaw, swing, and sandbox. We had giant rocket ships, hinged robots, fabulous circus wagons, and more—with all sorts of frills and thrills.

But they were too high. And too rough. Kids fell and broke bones. And got splinters. So we sued. Downsized. And in the process, Billy argues, stunted kids’ imaginations and contributed to the nation’s growing childhood obesity problem.

“What costs more at the end of the day?” he asks. “A broken arm, or diabetes?”

Billy, a digital media strategist, writer, and father of two teens, thinks it’s time we stop being so overprotective and return to the heyday of adventure playgrounds.

“When you have a playground, you’re really hitting everything you want to do with children: you’re engaging their imagination, having them work well with others, and they’re running around and exercising. There’s really nothing else that does that,” he says.

In December last year, Billy launched Epic Playgrounds, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that will aim to get kids ages eight through twelve excited about being outside again before they start doing all those things you see on after school specials.

Inspired by Walt Disney, Billy’s nonprofit wants to construct signature playgrounds that encourage imaginative, open-ended play. And they wouldn’t be just for kids.

“They key is to create something really cool to look at that adults would want to play on as much as children,” he says. “And at the end of the day, a community can be proud of it and say, ‘This is one of the great things we have here. And it’s like no other playground in the world.’ ”

The playgrounds can also act as alternative classrooms by telling stories about the town’s heroes, like Boulder’s Scott Carpenter Park, a tribute to the local astronaut.

In short: bigger, better, and more fun.

BillyJensen2

Billy Jensen

To realize his dream of building the most inventive theme playgrounds you’ve ever seen all across America, Billy needs three things: artists to design, engineers to build, and most importantly, municipalities and other donors to pay. The project is entirely self-funded so far.

While he’s just starting out, what Billy does have are lots of excited responses from parents, along with a few designs, which he plans to get more of and curate in an art show. Afterward he’ll present them to local governments and encourage communities everywhere to clamor for an epic playground of their own.

“What we have right now are a lot of little hunks of plastic burning in the sun that nobody really wants to go on,” he says. “This really is a matter of: if you build something really cool, they will come. And play on it.”

If you’re an artist, builder, community developer, or philanthropist and Epic Playgrounds has captured your imagination, Billy would love to talk with you. Get in touch by emailing bill@billyjensen.com.

Tags: , , , ,



Idealist Grad Fairs coming to Denver, West Coast, South!

featured

See you Thursday, Denver. (Photo: Larry Johnson, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Thinking about going to graduate school to further your career and make a social impact?

We’re bringing Idealist Grad Fairs to 18 cities this fall. Here are the next six. Click on a city name for details and to RSVP:

All of the fairs are free, open to the public, and feature a free Q&A panel about admissions and financial aid from 6:00-7:00pm. See the rest of the season lineup at idealist.org/gradfairs.

Tags: , , , , , , ,