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

Betül Şahin*, Gülname Turan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Turkey’s central government’s administrative structure includes a one-of-a-kind autonomous unit called muhtarlık that spans rural and urban neighborhoods with over 50,000 posts all over the country. Despite being a part of the central administration, muhtarlık is administered by local elections and is considered a hybrid institution that mediates citizens, the local government and the central administration. Muhtarlık 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 muhtarlık 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 muhtarlıks in Istanbul to understand the nature of this unique administrative unit. The research concludes that the geographical, social and relational proximity of the muhtarlık 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-443
Number of pages17
JournalPolicy Design and Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Policy design
  • design thinking
  • local government
  • public policy
  • social innovation by design


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