Turning Progressive Values into Policy

“We are in a turbulent time in Israel,” Director of Shatil’s Center for Policy Change (CPC) Michal Sella observed. “It’s nearly impossible to do meaningful advocacy work when the Knesset dissolves itself every few months.”

The last 18 months have been tumultuous for Israeli politics, with continuous election cycles, parliamentary stand-offs, and a unity government on the brink of dissolution. Israelis and Israeli social change organisations might be forgiven for steering clear of advocacy work altogether.

Yet Michal Sella, and Shatil CPC experts Eran Klein and Hovav Yanai, saw an opportunity in the uncertainty. The government may be unstable, but for the first time in years, it includes policy makers open to a progressive vision for change. Organisations that had long written-off the potential for work with elected officials are increasingly interested in advocacy activities. Yet some lack the tools to conduct effective policy-change work. Shatil saw opportunity for impact. In response, Shatil initiated the Advocacy Springboard, a five-session workshop dedicated to increasing the capacity of progressive organisations to advocate for policy change.

Of the 40 organisations who applied to take part in the inaugural workshop, 16 were chosen to select a staff member responsible for advocacy work – with a specific policy change project — to participate. Those projects seek to address a variety of issues, from changing the way banks are permitted to garnish the wages of those receiving public benefits, to evaluating the government’s policies on mental health care, or increasing Palestinian women’s share in the workforce.

Participants came from a range of social change organizations seeking tools and connections to further their advocacy work. Ofer Erez, IRAC’s Director of Public Policy and Outreach, remarked, “I came to the course because public policy work combines theoretical knowledge and practical experience. There is no substitute for participating in practical learning with those who work in the field.”

Participants took part in five virtual half-day sessions, which covered policy change tools and strategies for working in the Knesset, with government ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office, and with the media. The last session was a simulation which allowed participants to test out the tools covered in previous sessions. Participants were also given an opportunity to consult with CPC staff and guest speakers, who ranged from policy advocates and media consultants to members of Knesset and aides.

Springboard participant, Director of Advocacy and Social Justice at Rabbis for Human Rights, Becky Keshet-Cohen, remarked on the usefulness of the workshop and the caliber of speakers. “The most useful part,” she insisted, “was the opportunity to pause and think critically about this work we’re doing everyday. We often work alone” as an advocate, she said, “and it’s a complicated field. So it’s helpful to set aside a space to talk and think with others about advocacy and social justice.”

Ofer Erez agreed: “Beyond learning about the political arena and the tools one can always research independently, the course provided an opportunity to meet with colleagues and experts in the field, and a rare chance to expand the discourse and explore new perspectives.”

Shatil’s Center for Policy Change plans to offer the Advocacy Springboard semi-annually to cultivate a growing ecosystem of organizations able to effectively advance progressive policy change in the Knesset and beyond.

December 2020