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Author's profile photo Sandra Schlichenmaier

Reflections on the first week of the Social Sabbatical (Istanbul, February 15)

One week of the SAP Social Sabbatical is already over. 12 employees from 10 different countries are joining the SAP Social Sabbatical and build the Team Bogaz Delights.

This blog post should reflect on the first week within the subteam “Habitat”.

Why do you participate in a SAP Social Sabbatical?

The SAP Social Sabbatical is a program of SAP CSR team (Corporate Social Responsibility) with the objective to support emerging countries in the area education and entrepreneurship. It gave me the unique opportunity to make a difference in the life of other people all over the world and in the same time develop my personal intercultural leadership skills when working in diverse teams.

What is your project about?

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During my SAP Social Sabbatical in Istanbul, I am working for the non-profit-organization “Habitat Center for Development and Governance” which is an independent organization counting with 18 employees ( They work closely with UNDP on youth related matters, with a focus on education and policy development. Habitat’s volunteer network is very strong and composed of youth councils, university clubs and local youth NGOs throughout Turkey. The volunteers were included in their strategy from the start.

Its main objectives are to:

  • Increase the power of young people for decision making and problem solving
  • Foster youth participation in all relevant areas for their lives

Our whole SAP Social Sabbatical teams consists of 12 team members, however in the Habitat team, I am working with:

  • Ana Paula Ebeling (Brasil)
  • Krishna Anantharajan (India)
  • Me, Sandra Steiger (Germany)

How can you change the world during the SAP Social Sabbatical?

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Habitat is a 20 years old organization which has to react on changing political and social changes within the country. In the last years, Habitat was strongly project oriented helping with youth participation and knowledge transfer in the focus areas IT, finance and entrepreneurship. As a reaction to the changing world, we should help Habitat defining a long-term strategy for the next years to become more sustainable in the future. Now, at the end of the first week, we have already achieved a lot: After speaking to many different stakeholders and partners of Habitat, we could finally understand the organizations business model, and create a “Customer Information Sheet” which contains all the gathered information. This document is useful for Habitat as it structures the organization from an outside view to better understand the working model.

What was your best experience during the SAP Social Sabbatical?

My best experience was a trip to Bursa together with Habitat where we could attend a meeting with all stakeholders of the National Youth Parliament. Bazak, an employee of Habitat took us all the way with her private car to Bursa and we could stay with all the stakeholders for 2 days to understand Habitat’s work. I am very impressed by the hospitality, freakness and friendliness of the Turkish people. Not only at the customer site, even on the street, where people do not speak any English world, they are willing to help you finding the right direction to your hotel or answering other questions. The same for the staff of your hotel: We are living in a small hotel with only 13 rooms (so the hotel is only for us). The hotel staff is always available; bring you tee or even fruits or sweets when working a day in the hotel.

What was the biggest challenge during the SAP Social Sabbatical?

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12 people from 10 countries is a cultural experience: This diversity I have never experienced before. Somehow, people have a similar way of thinking, working and habits as they are all employees of SAP, but with little things you encounter differences every day:

  • Brasilians lift their hands when a bus is arriving
  • Australians don’t know shoehorns
  • Indians like seeing elephants
  • African people get very excited when they see snow

However, not only those little things, also the way of working in a group is different. I have experienced myself as a German as time-conscious and structured whereas others focus on interpersonal relationships or respect. Now, after one week, we did a very good job so far in working as a team, but I am sure, I will experience some other cultural surprise in the next 3 weeks 😉 .

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