Breaking the Ice: A trial for south-south remote support – bringing localization into practice

If you have been following our newsletters recently, then you might have an idea of what our pilot project on expert remote support is about. But who, exactly, were the first people to embark on HumanSurge’s idea of launching a project on expert remote support? Keep reading to see how it goes:





Hayata Destek:
also known as Support to Life (STL)


With its main office in Istanbul, Turkey, Hayata Destek, is a non-governmental, non-profit organization established in 2005. The organization has been crucial in providing relief to communities in the Middle East and Asia affected by natural and man-made disasters, as well as responding to Syria’s long and protracted crisis. STL delivers humanitarian assistance to the most valuable, while also assisting with the recovery and rebuilding process. Their primary areas of work are Emergency Assistance, Refugee Support, Child Protection in Seasonal Agriculture and Capacity Building. Additionally, they work on cash-assistance through e-cards, winterization aid, child protection activities, mental health support, and more. (see

Their organization is constantly overloaded with work, and sometimes, there is a lack of resources, which are needed to respond adequately. If they could outsource their tasks or receive technical assistance via remote service, then they would be relieving some of their pressure.


For this, Özlem Yazlık, had the task to give shape to remote support by sitting with the STL staff, and deciphering on which tasks they needed support that could be preformed remotely.




Dr Özlem Yazlık Alcott, Quality Consultant

Özlem received her MPhil in Politics, Democracy and Education from the University of Cambridge, UK, MA in Adult Education from Boğaziçi University, Turkey, and PhD in Education from the University of Edinburgh, UK, focusing on community-led and state-provided education activities for women in Turkey (read more of her background at the end of this blog) .





What were your first impressions of remote support?

Özlem: I thought it was a good idea to create local to local contacts, to provide actual relevant and contextual support. When you want to build capacity, or when you need support on system building, on our procedures, or on our guidelines … then it’s mostly as if local organizations will need to reach out to some western organizations, or it’s not easy to find other available local providers (support providers) …so I thought HumanSurge as a platform would actually help us create connections between local support providers.



Were there any challenges?

Özlem: The difficult part was to get the people to actually SEE  the support what they need in terms of tasks.

The problem was that there was no platform right then, so we sort of had to figure out how to create a task, and how to look for a task provider… that’s when we came up with the idea of ‘well at least we should have a simple terms of reference’. I worked with the three STL colleagues  to create the ToRs and what I found out was that, if they are going to use a platform to look for support, the platform would really need to be structured in a way that they wouldn’t have to spend too much time on creating a task.

They have needs but they don’t have the time to really sit down and figure out what sort of profile they are looking for, how can it actually work, or if it is one task or several tasks they will need support with… I helped them to break down the tasks


HumanSurge: STL’s work paved the way for designing our current platform. Thanks to them, it is now possible to create a tasks easily.



How do you see remote support in the future?

Özlem: I think it can work and it can work brilliantly,  but we really need to identify the concrete needs, and have those concrete needs in terms of field support needs.

I see a bright future for it. There is a lot of untapped potential, and there is a lot of need as well, but how to really express those ‘needs’ in terms of concrete tasks that can be presented in an online platform. This is the current challenge to make this innovation work.

There is a lot of support need, and if that can be met remotely, then that would relieve pressure from humanitarian aid workers.



What was the most positive aspect?

Özlem: Creating local to local connection. Having local workers and local organizations become aware of the already existing potential and expertise in the Global south and bringing them together.







Bercis Mani, Child Safeguarding Project Manager

Bercis studied Journalism and graduated from Ankara University, Faculty of Communication in 2001. She pursued  post-graduate studies, deepening on cultural studies, mass media, audience theories. She finalized her Master’s degree in Communication Studies in 2005, which led her to an academic position as a research assistant in Hacettepe University until 2011 (read more of her background at the end of this blog).



Bercis, received support on developing MEAL tools to monitor Child Safeguarding Policies.







Mustafa İşlek, Livelihood Program Manager

Mustafa is an alumni of Hacettepe University, Department of Sociology. He obtained his graduate degree on Social Anthropology from the same university (read more of his background at the end of this blog).



Mustafa, received support on reviewing Gender-Based Violence related to Livelihood studies and guidelines.







What were your first impressions on remote support?

Bercis: When I first heard of it (remote support), I was very excited and I thought that this was a good idea.

It is really hard to find a Child Safeguarding expert in Turkey because it’s a new field, a new subject/topic in Turkey, so it’s really hard to find someone who has expertise on that. At first I thought if it was going to work or not, because you don’t meet in person…but it went smoothly. Vestine (a Monitoring and Evaluation professional from Rwanda) had a lot of experience in child safeguarding, so it was very nice and easy.

Mustafa: I thought it was great. You can easily ask what you want from a different expert from a different country… I chose a GBV expert from Uganda.



How was the communication?

Mustafa: In my case, it was very easy to communicate with Martin (from Uganda) through email, although we never used Skype.



When you need to look for an expert outside of STL to complete a task, what does the process look like?

Mustafa: It would not be so easy to find someone in Turkey to provide this type of knowledge or information.

Bercis: A lot of desktop research in the first place, and if we couldn’t reach the necessary sources, then we could use our intimate partners, etc., just to take advice from them or ask support from them. This would have taken much more time and effort..



Did you receive new information in this process?

Bercis: Vestine (the expert from Rwanda supporting me) suggested new MEAL tools to our existing mechanisms. It was a new idea on how to integrate those tools. They were very useful for us, so in that sense, yes.



Was there something you didn’t like about remote support?

Mustafa: No, nothing.

Bercis: Actually not. I think is very effective and it can work (this was free) but even though, even if you paid, it would not be that much of a cost compared to if you hire an external consultant. It would be much more expensive, much workload, but this was very easy and quick.



How would you describe the overall experience with a few words?

Mustafa: It was smart and easy.

BercisEasy and effective. If this becomes a platforms that is more commonly used, then it will be easier to find/match people.

Özlem : Exiting. When I explained it to my colleagues they were also excited.











Özlem has held a range of operational and management roles with Hayata Destek since 2005 in Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. Özlem’s operational experience involves disaster rehabilitation and protection programmes in Iran and Pakistan between 2005 and 2008. Özlem also worked as an enterprise and integration mentor with immigrant women in England. Since 2015, Özlem has been supporting the quality and accountability of Hayata Destek’s programmes in Turkey which focus on refugee support, child protection, emergency response, and capacity building in civil society.

Özlem has also supervised Masters students at the University of Edinburgh and taught Community Involvement, Introduction to Education, and Programme Development and Evaluation courses at Boğaziçi University.


Bercis has been affiliated with Support to Life (STL) since January 2016 as a Project Manager for the “Strengthening Child Protection Mechanisms in Turkey” Project in regards to building organisational child safeguarding capacity within STL, and to support national and local child protection mechanisms. She has been working in civil society since 2011, specifically in humanitarian field for the last 5,5 years. Her work within humanitarian field mainly focuses on child protection related topics such as access to rights, child safeguarding and child participation.


Beginning from 2009, he provided consultancy services for international banks, assessing the social impact of regional private investments in various locations of Turkey. In this context, he focused on developing alternative livelihoods for households whose means of livelihood were adversely impacted by projects. Over time, he gained specific expertise on facilitating access to livelihood opportunities for displaced people and people impacted by forced migration. He joined Support to Life in 2018 as the Livelihood Program Manager to apply his private sector experience to refugee support programs




Written by Sofia Abelenda

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