Open Call: VAHA – Building Common Ground for Spaces of Public Discussion & Dialogue

Our friends from the Tandem Turkey-Programme are launching a two-years-initiative VAHA (meaning “oasis” in Turkish), which is made with and for the empowered voices of independent arts and culture spaces, advocating for public discussion and dialogue in cities across Turkey, Europe, and their neighbouring countries. Application deadline: September 14, 2020:
“Creative players in and around hybrid cultural spaces are invited to explore the power of learning from local practices to develop tailor-made support for platforms of free expression and cultural programming.”

VAHA (Oasis)

VAHA (meaning “oasis” in Turkish) is a two-year programme made with and for the empowered voices of independent arts and culture spaces, advocating for public discussion and dialogue in cities across Turkey, Europe, and their neighbouring countries.
Bringing together the diversity of hybrid spaces and contextual responses to the crises of democracy the regions are currently facing, VAHA explores the power of learning from local practices to develop tailor-made support for platforms of free expression and cultural programming. Exchange on alternative approaches and transformative economies, as well as international solidarity and outreach are at the core of VAHA’s activities. With this approach, VAHA hopes to provide a framework that allows local venues to form a socially prominent ecosystem of interconnected oases, growing as fertile landscapes for open dialogue.
Creative players in and around the spaces above-mentioned are invited to join the process to gain insights into systemic practices and connect their endeavours, helping them thrive in greater resilience.
VAHA is an initiative of Anadolu Kültür and MitOst e.V., funded by Stiftung Mercatorand the European Cultural Foundation. VAHA partner consortium is in a collaboration with the iac Berlin to implement a series of ‘thematic workshops and network meetings’.



At a time when uncertainty and censorship have come to characterise the political environment of our contemporary societies, a growing number of arts and culture actors are struggling to preserve spaces for democracy and informed communities on questions of social importance in Turkey, Europe, and their neighbouring countries.
Public access to independent cultural programming is, in the meantime, made possible by the players standing outside the mainstream. Yet, their unconventional position makes them vulnerable to a higher degree of instability since few opportunities are available to support their emerging actions. Many risks, such as shrinking funding, institutional control on public programming, and intellectual oppression, are narrowing the spatial standards for thinking, production, and outreach.
Thanks to their resilient character and energy, however, these actors are producing new community formats to voice the narratives of the oppressed, the forgotten, the marginalised, and the censored. Libraries, cafés, social venues, and cultural houses are becoming so-called hybrid spaces, offering alternative settings where the right to free thinking and free speech can be exercised.
VAHA explores these practices to drive the energetic flow of hubs and strategic alliances supporting freedom of expression. It sets the exploration of micro-resistances in a wider political context in order to foster a collective understanding of ways to regain spaces for open public debate in critically challenged societies and countries.
How does VAHA work? 
VAHA will connect and enable up to 50 independent arts and culture spaces and organisations for public programming to shape 16 local hubsinterconnected within an international solidarity network. Each hub partnership convenes up to three existing spaces, established in one of the selected cities across Turkey (Ankara, Diyarbakır, Eskişehir, İstanbul, Antalya, Mersin), or set in another area of Europe and its neighbouring countries.
Eight selected hubs from Turkey and eight hubs from other countries will first get the opportunity to develop pilot actions within their own environments and will be invited to follow the activity flow in the first phase. In the second phase, participants will be invited to scale up their work into a larger ecosystem of independent places for free discussion and open dialogue through an open structure of international collaboration. In this phase, a series of activities will support the scaling process.

What is the VAHA-support for? 

For its aims, VAHA offers to each local hub constellation:
  • A pilot activation funding of 5,000 EUR to experiment with new formats of collaboration.
  • Methods and tools to map local ecosystem resources and plan perspectives of sustainability.
  • Learning mobility grants of 1,000 EUR to foster knowledge and practice exchange among participants.
  • Regional/international collaboration grantsvarying between 10,000 to 25,000 EUR to scale-up pilot actions within more large-scale geography through collaborations with other hubs.
  • Peer mentoring to support the development of local hubs along the project lifetime.
  • Thematic peer-learning workshops through 4 online/offline small group meetings to gain specific insights for professional and organizational development and networking.
  • Access to international synergy building moments through 2 meetings, gathering all participants from diverse cultural contexts.
  • Opportunities to harvest, disseminate, and advocate at the local, regional, and international levels.
  • Participation in a solidarity network, building a resilient future for an ecosystem of independent spaces on public dialogue and cultural programming in Turkey, Europe, and neighbouring countries.


Who can apply for VAHA?

Representatives of spaces and organisations that offer public cultural programming, which are based in one of the Council of Europe member states, Belarus, Kosovo and Middle East & North Africa (MENA) countries, are invited to form local hubs and apply together.
For Turkey, the call for application is by-invitation-only in this pilot round of VAHA.
Ideally, three applicants representing three organisations are expected to form a local hub. The partners in each local hub can be composed of different types of spaces and organisations, with at least one of them holding a physical space for public events.
How to apply for VAHA? 

The Open Call-informations are available in English and Turkish.
For more information and inquires please contact:
Serra Özhan, Project-Manager Tandem Turkey at MitOst. Mail: ozhan(at)
Aysu Arican, Project-Manager Tandem Turkey at Anadolu Kültür. Mail: aysuarican(at)

To apply visit the website of Tandem For Culture Turkey.
VAHA-Visual by Julia from