Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What works?

A consistent theme -- both on the Jor El wall and in the e-mail people send me -- is that Istanbul's earthquake risk mitigation problem is impossible to solve because too many of the institutions that should be involved in solving it are corrupt or dysfunctional.

I completely agree that the problem is extremely difficult to solve. I also agree that many of Turkey's institutions don't work well. But I'm not sure that every relevant system is so dysfunctional that no scheme for risk mitigation could possibly succeed.

Turkey isn't a failed state. Many things here do work. If you're in Istanbul, look out your window: You don't see anyone shooting anyone, starving to death, or dying of epidemic disease. The grocery stores are full of food. Levels of street crime are low. You're looking at a vibrant city with a fairly advanced infrastructure. Problems, yes. A basket case, no.

I think it's reasonable to notice all the obstacles to putting our ideas into action -- of course it is -- but I wonder if we shouldn't spend a bit of time thinking about why Istanbul is doing so well, given all the institutional obstacles to getting anything done. Some systems and institutions here obviously do work. Which ones are they?

Wouldn't it make more sense to focus on working with systems that are already working, rather than against the ones that don't? We're not, after all, realistically going to be able to reform the constitution, the legal system, the Turkish press, or the bureaucracy.

What's already working well in Istanbul, and how can these groups and systems help us to solve this problem?


  1. Entirely agree with you.
    There is no such thing as invention. Most "revolutionary" concepts are nothing but a "repackaging" of an earlier project, technology, one that may not have worked greatly under the previous format.
    In other words... yes.. focus on systems that work and adapt them to whatever it is you require at the moment instead of building something entirely new from scratch.

    Where is our new blog? :-)

  2. It's coming soon. Claymonk is designing it. Any specific thoughts about which systems work?

  3. Claire you are right the institutions of Turkey are not crumbling and things still work. What needs to happen is that peopel need to believe and trust this and move forward. As is the case for many other things in Turkey. Ozguven and the will to do good maybe. Anyhow, just out of curiosity have you guys talked to AKUT at all? They do have experience and collaborating with them and others of similar experience will help. I hope I'm not being presumptious and you all probably looked in to it. Ayse

  4. AKUT is on our contact list, yes. You're not at all being presumptuous: We're pretty far still from having looked into everything. Keep the ideas coming.