Blurred boundaries: Muhtarlik as the right space for policy making in Turkey

Creative Commons License

Şahin B., Turan G.


  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/25741292.2022.2141490
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus, Political Science Complete, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Keywords: Policy design, design thinking, social innovation by design, public policy, local government, INNOVATION LABS, DESIGN, RETHINKING
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Turkey's central government's administrative structure includes a one-of-a-kind autonomous unit called muhtarlik that spans rural and urban neighborhoods with over 50,000 posts all over the country. Despite being a part of the central administration, muhtarlik is administered by local elections and is considered a hybrid institution that mediates citizens, the local government and the central administration. Muhtarlik originates in the late Ottoman Empire in 1829 as an attempt in modernizing state hierarchies and manages to continue its existence till now as the smallest unit of the administrative structure. However, the long history also causes blurred boundaries for the space the institution occupies. This paper focuses on this blurred space of muhtarlik as a possible policy making incubator and an accessible space for all the relevant stakeholders. In particular, the paper follows through the case study of two very different muhtarliks in Istanbul to understand the nature of this unique administrative unit. The research concludes that the geographical, social and relational proximity of the muhtarlik with the public as a stop gap unit creates an immense networking example. The paper contributes to the interdisciplinary approaches to policy making by analyzing the juxtaposition of the two processes relevant to policy making and design, the policy analysis and the design thinking process, to model a dynamic policy making process that provides a participative approach. The analysis and observation help explore the possibilities of a space by combining valuable experiences of citizen engagement, governmental tradition and designerly thinking.