It is Zeynep Karagoz, co-founder of e-NABLE Turkey. I expected that the connection might muffle her voice. Instead, her breathless “hello!” came through bright and clear. She called me on her walk home from her most recent child hand delivery. In the background, could hear melodic arabic prayers.
A Vision for 3D Printing Leads to e-NABLE
Zeynep is an architect and co-founder of three maker organizations. She started an experience design firm; the first and the largest makerspace in Turkey, called Maker Kids; and e-NABLE Turkey. In 2010, Zeynep started playing with a 3D printer at her design firm, and she realized that this little piece of technology could change lives. “People in Turkey didn’t see the usage and how it could impact them,” she said, so she started looking for a project that would exemplify how 3D printing could change the world.
That’s when she found e-NABLE. She said, “That’s it. This is the perfect example of how 3D printing is going to change the world. We must do it, because we have the means, and we can change the world.”
Doctors told Mehmet Ali Toprak that, if he wanted a prosthetic to fit his fingerless hand, they would need to cut off his hand through the wrist. His friends were concerned, and Megmet did not want to lose the rest of his hand. Mehmet’s friends approached Zeynep’s co-founder, Harkut, during a local soccer match, when they heard him talking about e-NABLE Turkey’s goal to provide customizable 3D printed prosthetics. Zeynep agreed that they could do better, so e-NABLE Turkey built Mehmet’s first hand in 2014. “We were so excited and emotional,” she said.
Divide and Conquer Volunteer Structure
e-NABLE Turkey’s next challenge was to provide a prosthetic for a man from a distant Turkish city, Konya. The man had lost both hands in a fire, but he could not travel to Zeynep, and with all her responsibilities, Zeynep and her team could not leave Istanbul. So, they began looking on social media to see if someone in Konya could help.
Zeynep recruited one volunteer to design the arm, and she found another in Konya to print it. Within a month, the arm was ready. “That’s when the lights came on to us,” she said. “This is the difference from the rest of e-NABLE. In Turkey, no one person can do all the things they are doing as volunteers, but we can divide the tasks into parts.”
Zeynep and her team established a volunteer map for volunteers and users. It listed the tasks and allowed volunteers to choose one chunk of each task. “Today, we have more than 2,200 volunteers, more than 300 3D printers registered, and more than 60 hands disseminated.” In the past month, e-NABLE Turkey has received 270 requests.
Building Culturally-Appropriate Trust and Funding in Turkey
In 2017, e-NABLE Turkey had its first child hand delivery. The girl was a beautiful, confident child named Yağmur, who asserted, “I don’t really need a hand, but I could use it for bike-riding.”
The hand delivery caught public attention, and donors started coming forward. At that point, they realized they needed to transition the operation from a corporate social responsibility project to an NGO.
“The culture in Turkey is different,” Zeynep shared. “We don’t trust people until we know them. If we trust them with our heart, even if they screw us up, we still trust them.” e-NABLE Turkey needed to prove itself with an impactful relationship with the community; then donations started coming in. “We got to the conclusion that in Turkey, if you are looking for a sponsor you are looked down at, but if you do good things, they will come to you.”
e-NABLEing Refugees and Children with Social Entrepreneurship
When they are not processing their inundation of requests, e-NABLE Turkey runs educational initiatives surrounding prosthetics, including sociological and design studies. e-NABLE Turkey trains teams at universities, high schools, and corporations, so they can also begin to take on cases.
“What else do we do?” Zeynep asked herself. “We build makerspaces, provide content and teacher training, run events… we have weekly workshops for kids.” In her makerspace, Zeynep teaches coding and partners with NGOs to provide innovation training, entrepreneurship, and design thinking to refugees.