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.
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
Oryan Lavi, Partnerships and Advocacy Director: Oryan has extensive experience with promoting social agendas and policy change. She served as legislative counsel to the Israeli Bar association, parliamentary aide and head of the Netanya College Student Association. LLB
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.
Rami Adut: PHD in sociology. Director of policy advocacy at the Hazan Center in the Van Leer Institute, former manager of the health project at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
Our Current Programs
Increasing government investment in workers’ training: Western countries currently invest a great deal of resources in training workers to acquire the skills needed for a rapidly changing employment marketplace. But Israeli investment in vocational and basic technology training is minuscule, falling well short of present and future economic needs. Together with the Stef Wertheimer Foundation and other partners, 121 is launching an advocacy campaign to create a government initiative that will provide workers with the necessary competencies. Our proposal for reform will be based on the most successful models at home and abroad, and a broad view of professional development within the current and future labor markets. We will advocate for this plan before civil servants, elected officials and the media. Our campaign will present the severity of the current situation and the risks of inaction, as well as the benefits for Israeli society and the economy if the proposal is implemented.
The fulfilment of rights for medical services by the country’s HMOs (Kupat Cholim): Together with the Association for Patients’ Rights, we focus on ensuring that citizens understand and can access the services to which they are entitled under Israel’s State Health Insurance Law. We will develop and advocate for systemic and structural changes that will reduce the effort, time and knowledge required to obtain medical services. We will begin by mapping systemic factors that bar access to these basic rights. Focusing on the most relevant factors, we will formulate detailed proposals for policy change and engage decision makers to advance their adoption. This will be accompanied by a media campaign to highlight these obstacles and the need for their removal. Our goal: within two years, the HMOs will commit to changes in their work procedures in ways that increase fulfilment of rights, and within three years, these changes will be implemented.
Senior Citizen Employment: In 2016, 20% of Israelis over the age of 65 were still in the workforce, a rate far higher than the average among OECD countries (14%), and which has doubled since 2000 (when it was 9%). Work has become a financial necessity for many of the senior citizens in Israel, due to their high rate of poverty and low level of government benefits. Other seniors wish to work because they derive satisfaction and achieve self- fulfillment through employment. 121, in partnership with Vehadrta, is working towards removing obstacles that hinder employment among senior citizens, including rules regarding benefits, employer incentives and the mandatory retirement age. We will first address rules which reduces benefits for seniors who continue working beyond the retirement age. These rules are both unfair and create significant disincentive for employment. We will also be working to raise the income threshold for deduction, reduce its rate and ensure the laws are applied equitably to all types of income (rather than just to work).