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Overview of my last trip to Istanbul: Regional Social Impact

It has been a while since I last blogged on this platform and I do miss blogging about what's going on in my life. Truth be told, for the last couple of years, I have been extremely busy, not only when it comes to my professional career as a communications consultant, but also working on social impact issues with several local and international organizations such as Junior Chamber International (JCI) which is a 101-year-old UN-partner organization that aims to make positive impact through youth empowerment as well as the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers program which empowers successful individuals in 436 different hubs to positively impact their communities. Hopefully I will be writing more about these organizations in the future.

In this post, I am going to be talking about the two activities that I took part of this month in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is one of my favorite cities. Having been traveled to dozens of cities in the last couple of years, Istanbul has my heart due to its welcoming people, locals and expat population alike.

I was invited to be a mentor and a judge during the Social Impact Summit that took place on December 9 & 10 in Habita co-working space in Istanbul. It was organized by a newly established NGO called Istanbul&I, a volunteer-based organization with over than 150 members from more than 45 countries, mainly expats, working on social impact. Hundreds of participants attended to learn more about social impact through entrepreneurship. It was a super dynamic and inspirational event that left me at awe at the power of youth to change the world to the better. More than dozen ideas were pitched and the judges team had a hard time choosing the winners.

Here are some photos from this event:

With some of the attendees of the summit (I'm in the back :p)

Judges Panel

Mentoring Young Entrepreneurs

Selfie with the judges

 While presenting & my summit badge against the Habita Wall 

Part of the audiences who attended the event

The second event that I took part of on this trip was the Third Edition of the Averroes Academy on Advancing Business Friendly Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Empowering Strong Competitive Private Sector in MENA Countries organized by the Arab Center for Scientific Research and Humane Studies. Around 20 participants from the Arab World, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran took part in this program to learn how to write and implement policy papers that can improve business social impact in their own countries. This was only the first part of the academy. By the end of the program in mid-2017, participants would have submitted actual policy papers to cause impact to their communities. I will hopefully talk about my policy paper idea once I start working on it.

During this academy, I was asked to conduct a hand-on workshop about creating a marketing strategy for social impact papers. My introduction for this workshop showcased some of the world's top marketing campaigns that caused social impact. You can view the compilation these case studies in the presentation below.

Here are some photos from the Averroes Academy in Istanbul:

During my marketing strategy workshop

Introduction to Social Impact Marketing Campaigns

The participants of the Third Averroes Academy

During a meeting with the the German Organization Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF)

Had the pleasure of meeting famous Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol and getting a signed copy of his book Islam Without Extremes.

A quick side-note: the previous winner of the Averroes Academy is Lebanese professor Dr. Patrick Mardini who just launched the campaign for his public policy paper about Electricity in Lebanon. You can watch the video that summarizes his topic below.

Also, during this trip, I witnessed two explosions that took place in Istanbul near the area that I was staying in. AlJadeed TV asked me to report on the incident, you can watch my live phone interview with them here.

On another note, Istanbul is one of my frequently-visited cities due to several projects and family business. And it can actually be quiet expensive and confusing to stay connected if you don't have a postpaid phone line there. Their prepaid SIM card policy requires you to use a different phone device every time you visit (in three month intervals) or to go to a police station to register your device with a substantial tax fee, in addition to the cost of the 4G service on your prepaid plan.

For my past couple of trips, I have been using a wifi router service called AllDayWifi that made my life so much easier in Istanbul, especially that I need to be connected all the time for the benefit of my clients in Lebanon. I also need to be connected because my proffered method of transportation is Uber in Istanbul. Their service consists of delivering a 4.5G wireless router to your hotel, hostel or Airbnb location and you can use high speed real unlimited data on the go throughout Turkey for a very affordable price. They even send you a power bank to keep the router pumped up with juice throughout the day so you are always connected. Once your trip ends, all you need is to drop it off at the reception of your hotel at check-out and they will take care of picking it up the next day. I am very satisfied with this service and I wish there are similar startups that provide this service worldwide for this affordable fee.

I would recommend that my readers try this service. Make sure to book it a few days in advance so that they can deliver it to your residence before you arrive. And as a bonus, I have requested a discount code for my readers from them. So if you go to and order your router for your trip to Turkey and use the Coupon Code: MINDSOUP, you will get a 10% discount on your total bill till the end of 2017. Let me know if you try it and what you think about their service.

The kit includes the 4.5G router, a charger & cable, powerbank (not shown), user guide, metro map of Istanbul, a sealable drop-off bag and a protective case.

Finally, here are some photos of my favorite things in Istanbul.

Taking a nap while getting to my destination in a massive and well equipped Uber XL. (not sponsored)

Turkish Kunefe and tea at Hafiz Mustafa (also not sponsored)

View from the top of the Galata Tower

Mouthwatering display of sweets

Shopping in Istaklal, the street that doesn't sleep in Taksim

A crunchy cheese-filled simit to give you some energy while you conduct your business

View of the Bosphorus from my hotel room