Taking every opportunity to improve lives

In a school playground smiling Dr Hasan Tanriseven shares 'high fives' with students beneath a Turkish flag
Dr Hasan Tanriseven at a commencement ceremony at a college, Tire district, Izmir, Turkey

A Lancaster alumnus has won an award for his ‘exceptional contribution to creating positive social change and improving the lives of people in Turkey, where he is a senior civil servant.

Dr Hasan Tanriseven starts every morning thinking about what he can do for local people in Giresun province, the Black Sea region of Turkey where he is deputy governor.

In Turkey, governors are senior local administrators, reporting directly to the national Ministry of the Interior, implementing both central government policy and developing their own. Hasan has a wide area of responsibilities covering disaster management, climate change, the environment, urbanisation, social security and industry.

“If you are open minded, active and educated, and can see opportunities, you can implement many projects as a governor. When people are happy, I am happy,” said Hasan, who spent a year at Lancaster University doing a masters by research on energy geopolitics.

“The climate in this region is changing, and we have had some disasters due to climate change with heavy rain and other environmental problems including pollution.”

Hasan has a track record for making positive social change that has helped many people – from students, the elderly and the disabled to migrant workers, refugees and other foreigners living in Turkey.

“We have made life easier not only for Turks but for foreigners also. When I was district governor of Alanya, there were more than 30000 expats living there. I was the first district governor to contact them, and would meet with them regularly, asking what problems them encountered and helping to solve them.”

Hasan’s proactive approach to helping people was recognised recently when he won the 2022 British Council Study UK Alumni Award for Social Action in Turkey. These awards celebrate ‘leaders in their fields who have used their experience of studying at a UK university to make a positive contribution to their communities, industries and countries.”

Hasan wanted to serve people from the start of his career. He studied political science and public administration at the University of Ankara, while working part time as a journalist.

After graduating, Hasan started work as a civil servant in the Prime Minister’s office, focussing on regional development, while continuing to study for a Masters’ in Public Administration. He then moved on to work in governors’ offices around Turkey.

In 1999, he enrolled on a PhD, researching oil policy in Turkey – inspired by being brought up in Batman, a fast-growing oil city in south-eastern Turkey.

In 2013 he was awarded an EU sponsored Jean Monnet scholarship to research how Turkey could act as a bridge between the EU and major oil and gas producers to its east. He chose to do his research masters at Lancaster University, attracted by the international reputation of UK higher education and the ‘renown’ of Lancaster Environment Centre.

“This was a very new area of research. Turkey does not have enough oil and gas but has really strong relationships with many oil and gas rich regions in Central Asia and the Middle East, which it can use to help Europe. What has happened in Ukraine with Russia has shown that I was right, and that Europe needs to find new sources of oil and gas. Turkey already has a new gas pipeline project delivering gas to Italy, which I believe could be expanded to include other European countries.

“Energy price rise is a huge problem, but also a huge opportunity for Turkey as well as for Europe: if we cooperate, it can open new horizons for both parties.”

Hasan paid tribute to Dr Andy Jarvis, his Lancaster supervisor, and to the support and friendship both he and his family received during their year in Lancaster. “My year in Lancaster expanded my horizons both personally and professionally.”

When Hasan returned to Turkey, he became district governor of Alanya, a popular tourist destination, and also took on the role of administrator for Alanya HEP University, helping it to expand quickly while continuing to provide a quality education.

Eventually, Hasan found doing two jobs simultaneously too much, but he continues to lecture and carry out research at several universities, combining his real-life policy experience with his theoretical knowledge.

One achievement he is particularly proud of is the excavation and opening of Zerzevan, a ruined Roman castle in Çınar district, which was being ignored despite its cultural importance. He pushed the local university to make a scientific investigation and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to support the project.

“It was a long process, but now it is open and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey.”

One lesson he took away from his year in the UK, was the importance of bringing the third sector on board when trying to do good in his area.

“I saw in UK that you have lots of charities and NGOs making a great contribution to society. Now it is a must for me, to involve some local NGOs into our projects and to discuss projects with local people. That way, it will be more successful.”

“It's a fantastic feeling to be one of the UK Alumni Awards winner and I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity.”

See a video of Hasan talking about his career and the British Council Social Action Award.

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