First Offline Meeting After Lock Down of ME 2.0 Forum - 70th Session
The spirits were high when the members of the ME 2.0 Palestinian-Israeli Young Busines sLeaders Forum met last week for their first offline meeting after the long Corona lockdown break. While the ME community stayed in contact and continued their activity via zoom sessions also during the lock down months, it became quickly clear that digital sessions are in the end no real compensation for face to face life encounter.
The first offline session was also special in that it was the forum’s 70 th sessions since FNF Jerusalem kicked it off 10 years ago! So, much reason for the ME 2.0 community to celebrate the reunion! However, with the Corona threat still around, precautions had to be taken. Therefore, the offline session took place under the open sky in fresh air on the rooftop of the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv. This was also a good opportunity for our foundation to support troubled tourism businesses like the Abraham Hostel in these difficult times.
Gal Mor, one of the founders and owners of the Abraham Hostel, who is also a veteran member of the ME forum, welcomed his fellow members on the rooftop of his hostel sharing with them their hardships in times of Corona with no incoming tourism and restrictions on gatherings. Gal explained that they would have to shift their focus on local tourism and expand their local community activities. They also are exploring the options for enhancing overland travel in the region for foreign tourists for the benefit of all neighbouring countries.
How to achieve a full inclusion of the Arab population into Israel’s business sector?
A new member in the forum, Hazem Khattab, was the main speaker of the evening. Hazem is a Palestinian entrepreneur from East Jerusalem who is involved in different initiatives aiming for full inclusion of Arab sector into Israel’s business sector as well as nurture entrepreneurship spirit within the Arab society in Israel and East Jerusalem.
Hazem works as the manager of the High Tech sector of “Co-Impact”. The initiative aims at achieving a breakthrough in the rate and quality of employment of the Arab population in Israel business sector, which shows a very low participation of Arabs citizens: only 5% of today’s employees and only 0.3% work in management positions are Arabs, while they represent 21% of Israel’s total population.
The initiative is based on the understanding that closing the existing large gaps between Jews and Arabs in employment and level of income is critical for Israel’s economy and its democracy. The initiative elevates the many benefits for the business sector in hiring Arab employees, leading the companies through a process of internal change, learning, and expertise that will enable them to change processes of recruiting, hiring and retaining employees from the Arab society.
The work of “Co-Impact” is based on the collective impact model, believing that only with broad cross sector partnerships of all relevant stakeholders (representatives of companies, NGOs, Jewish-Arab business leadership, academia, public and government round table, philanthropy representatives, and leading young Arab entrepreneurs) one will be able to reach an impact, develop creative solutions and finally full integration.
Currently, the model is implemented in 34 companies and 8 sectors. While the final goal is to reach 100 companies within 10 years. Every year they reach out to 10 new companies to benefit from their program. The main argument for entry is that diversity in the work force contributes to productivity.
It takes about 3-4 years from implementation until results are visible and the process is completed. In 3.5 years, Co-Impact raised the percentage of management in the companies they have been working with from 0.3% to 2.8%.
The funding for this initiative is received from philanthropy and the project was adopted as part of the “Israeli Hope” project by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. The president meets the companies’ managers twice a year and they report to him directly how the business plan is progressing.
To support Co-Impact’s eco-system, a Young Co-Impact Club was established, which involves young Arab business managers and entrepreneurs, who strive to improve the involvement of the Arab community in the Israeli business industry.
Empowering East Jerusalem and making it a high-tech destination
Hazem also introduced to his peers the Jerusalem High Tech Forum (JHF), which he founded and chairs. The JHF was launched in a Hackathon with the vision to make East Jerusalem a high-tech destination. Today there are high-tech centers in Ramallah, Tel Aviv but not in East Jerusalem. The goal is to help the Jerusalemite high-tech sector, empower them and break the glass ceiling in becoming a thriving collaborative community.
When the Corona crises started, the JHF conducted a series of Tech Talks online, with the first one exploring how to use the Data for supporting health sector teams in their fight to contain the pandemic. In another session the forum focused on the challenges the professors and doctors are facing in teaching or learning online and how technology can assist them. One outcome was an app the forum developed for a Jerusalemite emergency room, which helps them to get in touch with 300 volunteers in a simple and fast way. In other sessions they taught students, parents and teachers how to learn and teach online and make use of the different technological platforms. The forum also built a complete curricular for an online coding course guiding parents to easily tech their children.
Professional challenges in the Corona Crises
After Hazem’s lecture members shared their professional challenges and resolutions arising from dealing with the Corona crises. Many forum members mentioned that with online meeting becoming the new norm, it is easier to reach out and meet with people than before the crisis, especially in the international context. Other advantages arising were identified in new needs for online education, real estate and banking sectors. The difficulties are mainly in the tourism sector while in other sectors many realized they do not need so many
employees, thus firing many of them who will not return. In Palestine, the business sector suffered more difficulties since the banking system is not that developed and the economic situation in general is more difficult. A mutual challenge is psychological – how to keep motivation in times of crisis and uncertainty?