Erinch Sahan Q&A: “I’d like Picasso to paint my portrait: I always wanted a pointier jaw”

Erinch Sahan was born in Turkey in 1981 and is Business and Enterprise Lead at the Donut Economics Action Lab. He previously worked at Oxfam and as CEO of the World Fair Trade Organization.

What is your earliest memory?

Climbing a disused cannon in my hometown just outside of Bursa. It was last used after World War I. People gathered there every year on the anniversary of the city’s liberation from Greek troops, which coincidentally coincided with my birthday. I used to think they were celebrating my birthday.

who are your heroes

Michael Jordan was my childhood hero. I figured if I practiced enough, I could make game-winning goals like him. As an adult, it’s George Orwell. The raw honesty of works such as Down and out in Paris and London resonates with me.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

Hello Stranger by Will Buckingham. I’ve fought to stay there as I long for a sense of home. His book gave me a sense of why this is a struggle for so many.

[See also: Deyan Sudjic Q&A: “Anybody who isn’t in a state of anxiety isn’t paying attention”]

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Which political figure do you look up to?

Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. He has built a movement that cuts across society. Fighting the forces of division is one of the most difficult tasks.

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what would be yours thought leader Area of ​​Expertise?

How to shape companies. I’m happy when I see models like Patagonia’s steward ownership or platform cooperatives like Fairbnb. I think about how such companies can do things that normal companies can’t – like pay workers much better and invest boldly to save our planet.

In what time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The early 1900s. It would be exciting to see how the modern world emerges. Technology advanced, ideas bubbled, people traveled, and there seemed to be a number of different paths humanity could take.

What TV show couldn’t you live without?

The western wing. It portrays a soothing fantasy of the post-Cold War era, when good people in positions of power created a better world for us all.

Who would paint your portrait?

Picasso. I’ve always wanted a more pointed jaw.

What’s your theme tune?

NY State of Mind by Nas.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Sit with the discomfort – from conflict, frustration, disappointment, pressure. I try to follow him. But sometimes I withdraw from uncomfortable moments.

What is currently annoying you?

That culture wars will arise around climate change. People who get active (vegans, pro-bikers) are labeled smug hipsters. This seems like a convenient way to avoid facing the truth: that we all need to change our lifestyles.

What single thing would make your life better?

Less car-centric streets.

When were you the happiest?

March 2011 I landed in Oxford from Australia, newly hired to work for Oxfam, excited to meet new friends and start a new life.

Which profession would you have chosen in a different life?

A basketball commentator. I spend too long listening to NBA podcasts.

Are we all lost

Probably. But let’s fight.

Erinch Sahan will perform at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on October 10th

[See also: Kathy Reichs Q&A: “I worry every time my grandkids go out”]

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