From Bazaar to Shop and to Cooperative: A Women Solidarity Network "POTLAÇ"
City/Region : Kadıköy Municipality , Turkey

To realize “Women Friendly Cities” which refers to the cities where women can benefit equally from economic, social, cultural and political opportunities, it is essential to establish participatory governance mechanisms at the local level. The Potlaç Project was initiated in line with the demand of the women residents of Kadıköy within “Local Equality Action Plan” which is the output of the participatory workshop. Potlaç Project aims to improve the socio-economic situation of women through the Potlaç sales areas and to provide the opportunities for the women residents of Kadıköy to create a strong network of solidarity in the long run.

Agendas addressed
Public spaceSocial inclusion and integrationLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Guarantee equal access to information & digital services
Kadıköy Municipality

Taking action for transforming our settlements into “Women-Friendly Cities” where women have the equality of economic, social, cultural and political opportunities becomes important. In this context, Kadıköy Municipality has established The Local Equality Action Plan through the development of gender equality policies in Kadıköy, with the participation of public instutions, universities, women’s and LGBTI organizations, NGOs and women and LGBTI persons living in Kadıköy. Potlaç Project has been initiated based on this “Local Equality Action Plan” which was the output of a participatory workshop.  

Kadıköy has high education and socio-economic development level and higher rate of elderly population. The paths of women, who have started to make production due to some reasons as the individuality and loneliness led by urban life, the effort of women to exist in public space, exhaustion resulting from corporate business life and taking the advantage of the post-retirement leisure time, intersect with the Potlaç Project.


In Action
Kadıköy Municipality

Kadıköy Municipality approaches the issue of empowering women in social and economic life with the “multidimensional economic empowerment” perspective to enable women to become independent and have control on their lives. Through a participatory method by which Kadıköy Municipality and the women engaged in Potlaç conduct all the processes, the project reaches out the women by the activity spaces below:

• Potlaç Moda Women’s Handcrafts Bazaar
• Potlaç Shop
• Potlaç Atelier
• Potlaç New Year Festival
• Potlaç Women’s Cooperative

First, Potlaç Moda Women’s Handcrafts Bazaar was initiated to enable the women to generate income by marketing their products. Since the bazaar is active only in summertime, in the second step, Potlaç Shop as a collective solidarity space/collective interaction space was opened to satisfy the demands of women for a space for marketing and sales and to make it sustainable. Together with the Field and Shop processes, the Potlaç Atelier has been introduced just after these sales areas so that women can come together more, organize regular meetings, produce together and exchange experiences.

Along with all these processes, collaborations with related institutions have been developed to provide trainings that contribute to all kinds of rights-based development and empowerment, about 600 women have taken the benefit of the trainings. Besides, collaborative studies with approximately 30 women’s organizations and universities have been carried out to ensure the contact of the women involved in Potlaç with the rights-based women’s organizations and meanwhile to support these organizations. While women's organizations benefit from both sales areas (Shop and Moda Bazaar) and Potlaç Atelier, they have organized workshops for women in Potlaç Atölye in their areas of expertise. Furthermore, by the Potlaç project, the women have joined in specific festivals with a certain agenda (Enrivonment Festival, New Year Festival, Women’s Films Festival). The women who were empowered by the trainings and built trust connections among themselves, have organized and established Women’s Cooperative with 10 charter (founding) members. All the actions and activities carried out by the Municipality within the Potlaç project and the further activities are going to be run by the Potlaç Women’s Cooperative.

Within the project, regular meetings were organized with the women and according to their demands, the project was improved. Various working groups (shop sales group, computer group, window-dressing group, Moda field volunteer, facilitator, etc.) were established to enable the women manage their own sales space used collectively and the groups were monitored by regular meetings.

Kadıköy Municipality

• Started with 100 women, the number of women engaged in Potlaç network has now reached 1250 women.
• Approximately 600 women in the Potlaç network were provided trainings such as capacity building, product design and improvement, cooperative building, leadership and entrepreneurship. Via the experience and self-confidence gained by these trainings, some women then have had the opportunity to open their ateliers and shops and also to improve their production capacity and product designs.
• The project has engaged the women who have never generated an income before and have their own profit for the first time by product sale; which is in fact the first step in gaining economic independence. At Potlaç Shop, 750 women’s products are sold collectively and monthly average sales have reached about 30,000 TL (apr.4,800 Euro). The management of the Shop is conducted by the volunteer work and organization of the women themselves.
• The surveys reveal that within the Potlaç network there are many women receiving psychological support and here are 2 striking quotes from those women: (1) “I'm coming here instead of going to the psychologist and taking drugs that will calm me”, (2) “I have started a second life with Potlaç”, (3) “Potlaç has opened a different window to my life”.
• There are approximately 150 women over the age of 65 in the Potlaç Project. From this perspective, the project is also an example of healthy active aging.
• Potlaç has provided the opportunity for the unemployed young women to generate income. Most of them mentioned that they have found solidarity and there has been a kind of activism within Potlaç.
• 95% of both the women who have not earned money before and the ones who earns at satisfying levels mentioned in the surveys that they are satisfied with Potlaç.


The Potlaç Project, together with all its physical spaces (Bazaar, Shop, Atelier), has enabled women to exist in the public sphere and to improve their willpower and decision-making, whereas it has built a unique and specialized model of social support in the field of women’s economic empowerment. The project has become the bridge between the local women organized and the Municipality. Besides, Potlaç has become a network of solidarity with the engagement of women from diverse backgrounds.

In order to ensure the sustainability of the project and to extend its impact area by engaging more women, Kadıköy Municipality has supported the women to establish cooperative, and after three years of organization experience, the Women’s Cooperative was established in February 2019 which has always been the ultimate goal of the project. A cooperation protocol was signed between the Municipality and Potlaç Women’s Cooperative and the business processes of the Potlaç Project were transferred to the Potlaç Women’s Cooperative. Within the protocol, the marketing spaces (the Bazaar and the Shop) and the 2 new shops to be opened soon in a different neighborhood have been allocated to the Cooperative. These shops will serve as a common space for women, NGOs and cooperatives.

The project has satisfied the needs of women for socialization in addition to economic empowerment. By Potlaç Atelier, women have found the opportunity to meet, share, exchange, and to build friendship and professional collaborations. Potlaç has contributed to the dissemination of solidarity culture, the joint production, individual and social empowerment, the creation of alternative women’s economy based on the leadership of the women and encouragement of women entrepreneurship.

The distinguishing impact of the project is the emergence of a new economical development model to extend from local to the general and from Kadıköy to the metropolitan city of İstanbul.

Challenges and lessons learned
Kadıköy Municipality

The majority of women consisted of retired women with individualistic approaches at the beginning. It was a challenge to engage women from different age groups and social backgrounds. Using sales channels to reach women at first slowed down strengthening solidarity. Potlaç Atelier was opened to enable women and LBTIs to socialize and collaborate. Lacking information on pricing, marketing and taxation discouraged some women, which has been overcome by trainings and organizing the sales space where inexperienced woman is next to an experienced woman. Leadership of Municipality has prolonged the period for women to take an active role and come forward.



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