Engine for Social Change
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121 – Engine for Social Change is a direct advocacy organization on social and economic issues, focused on building and strengthening public services across Israel to enable every Israeli to live with dignity and self- fulfilment. We are dedicated to uniting Israelis across sectors and partisan lines in promoting our goal of expanding access to services for all sectors of Israeli society. We have unique and deep expertise in formulating and directly advocating for policy changes, in partnership with grassroots organizations and civic groups, with a focus on health, education, employment, housing and welfare. We research and develop proposals for change, promote and advocate for them before both the public and the government, and mobilize the media to create public awareness.
The Need for social changes in israel
Israel is widely recognized as an advanced, developed economy, yet far less acknowledged are the widening social and economic disparities that harm our society. 19% of Israelis live in poverty, the highest rate in the OECD, and most of the rest suffer from economic difficulties. The average wage in many areas of the country cannot support the cost of living, and the social safety net is steadily eroding. If Israeli citizens are to fulfil our potential and advance economically, we must promote policy change to improve public services, offer opportunities for all citizens, and build a stronger, more robust society.
Why 121 – Engine for Social Change?
Many people care about this issue, and a great number of civic society organizations are doing terrific work to bring attention to the widening social gaps. However, most of these organizations do not engage in direct advocacy, and lack the capacity to translate their knowledge into actual policy change. There is a strong need for an organization that connects the various activists and groups working on socioeconomic issues, and that can directly, professionally, and practically promote policy change and implementation. 121 is the first organization in Israel whose core competency is policy advocacy on social and economic issues.
We believe that solid professional expertise and experience form the bedrock of effective advocacy. Israel today lacks professional advocates for the public who are focused on social issues such as health, employment and education. We fill this void, working professionally with grassroots partners to formulate concrete proposals, promote them through direct advocacy before legislators and regulators, and apply pressure so that actual change occurs. Our organization’s name, 121, refers to the influence Israeli citizens can have on the government through our work as the “121st“ member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.
How will we succeed?
We are focused and driven: Few civil society organizations work on policy change regarding public services, and those that do are not equipped to translate policy into action. We focus exclusively on policy change through advocacy. We are committed for the long haul, because we know that these changes take time.
We represent a very broad range of Israeli society: the periphery and the center, religious Zionism, secular society, Arab citizens and the ultra-orthodox. Our leadership comes from both the political Right and the political Left, but we are all committed to working together to achieve stronger public services and a more equitable society.
We have the right people: The organization is staffed by highly experienced professionals, who know how to develop policy and advocate for it with decision makers, government and Knesset, and also how to run successful media campaigns.
How do we measure success?
The measure of our success is effective policy change that advances social advancement, as defined at the outset of each program (detailed below). Over time, we expect our cumulative policy changes will significantly expand the social safety net in a responsible way, increase opportunities and reduce gaps, thereby making Israel a stronger and more prosperous country.
Our Current Programs
The "Springboard" – Partnership for Investment in the Workforce of the Future
Over the past year, we have established a partnership of business sector and civil society organizations. The partnership operates as a civic pressure group, which seeks to expand and improve government investment in vocational studies for adults outside the academic track. Our goal is that every year, 50,000 people will be trained by through government programs, whereas currently only 14,000 take part in such programs. High quality training will ensure participants are gainfully and productively employed in a wide range of occupations and sectors.
To achieve this goal, we propose a comprehensive reform of government vocational training programs. We will advance this reform by engaging decision makers, both civil servants and elected officials, and by catalyzing a public debate that will move this issue to the top of the national agenda. requesting a change in the public perception of the importance of the issue.
In the Springboard, the various stakeholders combine forces to tackle this national challenge: employers, civic groups, vocational training providers, opinion leaders and experts. Partners include: “Tzurim” (established by the Steff Wertheimer Foundation); Beyachad Foundation; Fidelio Foundation; WIZO; Rashi Foundation; “Ruach Hagalil” (led by Raya Strauss); Manufacturers’ Association; ORT; Cisco; Ross Foundation; Association of Craft and Industry; The Foundation for Socio-Economic Development; Zionut 2000; Al Fanar; Kemach; Association of Youth Centers; Erez College; Consul; Adult Education Association; Be-Atzmi; Handesaim TLV; Gal College; Momentum; Moona; Boaz Zafrir (Maman); Dita Bronitzky (Ormat); and Dalia Narkis (formerly of Manpower).
Dan Prat, Executive Director, Steff Werttheimer Foundation, commented: “Our organization works in the field and doesn’t have its own policy unit. Because of the partnership with 121, we had a breakthrough in our work with the government, particularly in the complex process of policy change. We greatly appreciate 121’s ability to connect a diverse range of organizations and stakeholders, mobilizing them to take part in a process of genuine change.”
Supporting Employment Among Senior Citizens
In collaboration with "Vehadarta", we work to facilitate the employment of people past retirement age. Our first goal is amending the National Insurance Law, in order to cancel or considerably reduce the deduction of support to employed senior citizens. Today, between the retirement age (62 for women and 67 for men) and 70, 60% of any amount earned above 5,850 Sheqels is reduced from National Insurance benefit. A person earning above 9,600 shekels a month is not entitled to a benefit at all. In combination with income and payroll taxes, effective marginal tax rates can reach 104% for those earning between 6,000 and 9,500 Sheqels.
In the future, we intend to advance additional policy objectives, including employer incentives and loosening mandatory retirement rules.
Rivi Beller, Executive Director of Vehadarta, commented: “121’s work is thorough, deep and meticulous. At the same time, it is a focused and agile organization, swiftly adapting and reacting to events… After many years of working on these topics, we are deeply impressed by 121’s ability to advance policy change of unprecedented scale and significance.”
Meals program for at-risk youth secondary schools
In Israel, there is currently no systemic response to the problem of hunger among students at secondary schools; unlike elementary schools, which benefit from a meals program targeted at the geographic and social periphery. Our policy research, conducted with the assistance of aid organizations and school networks, indicates that at least 54,000 students in secondary schools deal with hunger, hindering their studies.
Currently, we are working to organize a group of stakeholders and experts. This group will advocate with decision makers to establish a meals program targeted at secondary schools for at-risk youth, where the needs and urgency are most acute. Following that, we will work on a program that addresses the needs of all secondary schools.
Tali Nir, Executive Director: Tali is a social entrepreneur, jurist and journalist. She previously served as Deputy Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, where she organized campaigns for significant policy change in the area of Social and Economic Rights. She also has served as assistant to the State’s Attorney, legal reporter, editor and presenter on Israel’s Channel 2 and Galei Tzahal radio. LLB, LLM, MA
Roi Maor, Policy Director: Roi comes to 121 with over ten years of experience in social organizations, as Executive Director, Deputy Director, Board Member and Consultant. He was previously the Deputy Executive Director of Merchavim – the Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel. Roi is a current board member and consultant to organizations in the fields of human rights, media, shared society and education. MA
Laly Derai, Partnerships and Advocacy Director: Laly is a political and social activist and opinion writer. She previously managed the “Atid Yisrael” program for the absorption of immigrants from France; and was a journalist and editor in HaModia. Today she represents the Eli locality in the Mate Binyamin regional assembly; and is a board member of the Tor Hazahav movement.
Snir Shefer, Digital Coordinator: Snir is an expert in digital marketing, including building and promotion of websites and social media marketing. He has built e-commerce websites, and ran digital media campaigns for businesses and social organizations. He is currently studying for a BA in business administration, with a specialization in marketing.
Rina Matsliach: Leading commentator in Israel’s news corporation, anchor of Meet the Press and the Galatz radio morning news show.
Yossi Kuchik: Chair of the Israel Direct Insurance group, Owner of Yossi Kuchik Enterprises, Management and Consulting Ltd. Former Director General of the Prime Minister's Office.
Yosef Zeira: Economics Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in macroeconomics, growth and inequality, member of the Finance Ministry Advisory Board, president of the Israel Economics Association.
Bambi Tzuri: Strategic-regulatory consultant, specializing in health, welfare, law and education. Board member of the Ruth Vrobel Foundation, former Vice President of Gilad Lobbying; and parliamentary aide to MK Moshe Arens.
Eitan Singer: CPA, CEO and co-owner of Probook, co-founder of Spacing. Professor of Marketing at two colleges, board member of Israel’s Marketing Association. Former CEO of Zap, Rest and Dyunon, and VP of Publicis Ariely.
Meital Benchek: Executive Director of Kedma, an activist in the Jewish Home party and social media, advocating for women’s rights and families in distress. Founder of the Halakha Feminists group.
Shoshi Shtub: Media and government relations consultant. Former marketing VP for the Kol Barama radio station and the Haredi College in Jerusalem. Worked with Adina Bar Shalom to expand Ultra-Orthodox access to higher education.
Nasreen Hadad Haj Yehia: Head of the program for Jewish-Arab relations at the Israel Democracy Institute, completing her PHD on employment among Arab young adults in Israel, board member of the non-profit Ajeel.
David Ben Gigi: Government relations consultant and entrepreneur, chairs the Jerusalem District Council of the Association of IDF Veterans with Disabilities. Former chief of staff to Deputy Minister of Transportation Hotoveli.
Granit Almog-Bareket: Director of the Alumni Unit at the Mandel Foundation, chair of “Hakhlama Halomit” for supporting children with chronic diseases.
Ziva Mekonen Dego: Former Executive Director of the Association of Ethiopian Jews, and former project manager at the Education and Youth Division of JDC Israel.
Iris Fried-Mayzel: CEO of Logos Communications, a media relations firm. Senior strategic consultant with a wealth of experience in leading campaigns and crisis management.
We'd love to hear from you. Send us a message and we'll respond as quickly as possible.