Civil Society Exchange is a collaboration project between Center for Civil Society Studies at Istanbul Bilgi University and MitOst e.V. to support civil society organizations and civil initiatives in Turkey and Europe through cross-border cooperation. The project encourages civil society organizations to form and foster partnerships across Turkey and Europe to learn from each other and to strengthen their organizational capacity.

The project was initiated by Center for Civil Society Studies at Istanbul Bilgi University in 2015 as a capacity building and organizational sustainability program for civil society organizations in Turkey. In 2017, Center for Civil Society Studies partnered with MitOst in Germany to implement a new international mobility model, capacity through mobility model, which enables participants to develop a strategy for tackling a mutual organizational issue, to implement a solution for a specific problem and to improve their internal capacity through cross-border collaboration.

Currently Civil Society Exchange operates two programs that place the capacity through mobility model at their core. Exchange Program has been on going since 2017 and connects civil society organizations across countries for capacity building. Partnership Program has started in 2020 and the project supports 4 partner organizations in co-designing and developing their own partnership program between Turkey and Europe.

Civil Society Exchange has been generously supported by Stiftung Mercator since 2015.


The social, political, and economic scenes of Turkey and Europe are changing. Societies in both regions are facing social problems for which collective solutions are needed. The uncertainty of a world in the post COVID-19 pandemic and expectations of a global economic downturn are just two examples. Civil society organisations, as one of the gathering place of citizens’ collective minds, are part of the necessary framework through which solutions to such problems are being founded. New times require new approaches and, in order to adapt organizationally, new skills are needed. To meet these needs, civil society actors must be empowered and their capacities expanded.

The civil societies in Turkey and in Europe are, of course, not monolithic. With the growth of a variety of civil initiatives, the demands and needs in terms of capacity building are increasing respectively. The settings and methods of learning must be diversified. In addition to the demand of civil society organizations for tailor-made processes based on their specific needs, they welcome the idea of creating new models to self-develop their own capacities.


Capacity Through Mobility is a foundational model for capacity building of civil society organizations that allows formal and non-formal learning through international mobility. The model was developed by Center for Civil Society Studies at Istanbul Bilgi University and MitOst in 2017 and has been constantly evolving as the model is tested and adapted by multiple organizations across Turkey and Europe.

The model provides a platform for civil society organizations operating in different countries or regions to explore, share and multiply good practices on internal capacity building together. The aim of the model is to strengthen the capacity of civil society by providing physical and virtual mobility and a space for mutual learning. We believe that working together will make things better. In partnerships, representatives of civil society organizations work together for months and develop their learning strategy through mobility involving online and offline elements.

The model supports the establishment of new partnerships and the fostering of existing relationships.


Civil Society Exchange Program (CSE) is a program designed for civil society organizations and civil initiatives from Turkey and Europe. The program aims to support the capacity strengthening of the civil society organisations and civil initiatives. It intends to contribute to the formation of a resilient civil society through supporting stronger relations among the CSOs and civil initiatives from Turkey and Europe. The goal of the program is to develop the capacity of CSOs from Turkey and Europe by providing them international mobility possibilities, as well as space for mutual learning.

The Civil Society Exchange program initially took place between 2017 – 2019 in two cycles with the participation of 32 organizations in 16 partnerships from Turkey and Europe. This year we will host the Civil Society Exchange program in October 2020 for its third cycle.


Civil Society Exchange Partnership Program (CSEPP) is a multiplier program for civil society networks, umbrella organizations and established CSOs that are seeking innovative and mobility-based approaches to capacity building for organizations within their networks. Over the course of 2 years, selected partner organizations develop their own international mobility programs based on capacity through mobility model.