A young and fast moving economy, during the last decade, Israel has experienced the most severe effects of the neo-liberal economy - with continuously growing gaps between the rich and the poor, economic and social neglect of the geographical peripheries and destructive environmental effects. In light of this situation, there are nowadays quite a large number of bodies in Israel, both governmental and NGOs, working for economic regeneration in the peripheral areas. Therefore, our training programme aimed to expose the people who already have wide fieldwork experience to the ideas behind Plugging the Leaks and Local Alchemy and by that to offer a fresh perspective and an opportunity to integrate these tools into their work. By convening a large and diverse group of leaders and social entrepreneurs from all parts of the country, we created a network of practitioners who could draw from their own experiences, share their ideas and take a systematic look at their area of activity in order to create a more holistic vision.
The Israeli project is co-ordinated by The Heschel Centre for Environmental Learning and Leadership, an independent NGO promoting sustainability, and Shatil, the New Israel Fund's empowerment and training center for social change organizations.
We organized a six day seminar in June 2008 for the directors of thirteen social change organisations. Following the course, three regional action groups were formed which meet to further advance their shared goals. The southern group, working in the Israeli region of the Negev, will work together to formulate a regional vision and position paper on strengthening a sustainable economy in the Negev. They hope to engage local leaders, community members and representatives of the local public and business sectors in this effort, while building their ideas through examining and reflecting upon their own work in using the Plugging the Leaks and Local Alchemy tools.
Local projects are now being developed in the field. One example is developing a Plugging the Leaks strategy for Yeruham a development town in the Negev desert: Yeruham is on the verge of large development in the tourist sector. The tools acquired through the project will ensure that this development benefits the residents of Yeruham and the town itself rather than outside investors, developers and service providers. For example, study tours often visit Yeruham. However, they are all planned, led and run by outside tourist agencies, so that the economic benefits do not accrue to Yeruham itself. The initiative being planned will enable such tours to be run by local tour guides, use local service-providers and take in sites and businesses of interest to the town itself. Rather than using a catering service from Be'er-Sheva or eating elsewhere, for example, tours will use food-providers from Yeruham. In the medium to long term, local tourism businesses will develop which are based on a network of local providers and employees, and which also see as part of their goal and vision how they enhance Yeruham's image and future.