The Merhav program was launched through the Government-Civil Society Initiative, which has been implemented since 2012 as a joint venture of the government, representatives of the Diaspora, and the JDC Institute for Leadership and Governance. The ultimate goal of the Initiative is to enhance the interface between the government and civil society in order to strengthen social resilience in Israel.
The program was established with the understanding that there was a need for the formation of a group of key individuals in government ministries and local government who were committed to promoting the topic and could act as agents of change. The main goals of the program were: impart knowledge, change perceptions, and provide tools to enhance the interface between government and civil society; to promote professional contacts among the participants and establish a professional network; and to promote inter-ministerial cooperation. The program included a learning phase and a phase in which projects were developed in small groups.
MJB conducted an evaluation of the first cycle, implemented from March to July 2014 with 24 participants from seven government ministries and local government. In order to examine the longer-term outcomes of the program, MJB has conducted a follow-up study a year after the end of the program. To this end, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with nine program graduates. The emphasis was on changes in the activities and practices of the participants in the context of their ongoing work.
Among the main findings of the follow-up study:
The program contributed to the acquisition of knowledge and the strengthening and changing of perceptions of the interface with civil society. Some of the respondents even reported a transformative change in their perceptions.
Most of the respondents reported that they were applying the knowledge and perceptions they had acquired in their routine practices, although some to a limited extent. Respondents noted that they feel the need for more practical tools that could help strengthen the application in practice.
The program also contributed to creating and strengthening involvement in inter-sectorial processes and projects. Although, most respondents reported that they were no longer active in furthering the specific projects that they had begun to develop in the program.
The program expanded the participants' acquaintance and professional ties with other government offices and local authorities as a basis for more effective cooperation.
After completion of the program, the program staff remained in contact with the participants. However, they emphasized that the program did not continue to provide assistance in advancing the projects and a structured framework to strengthen the professional network and their involvement in the broader Initiative.
The findings are being discussed with the program staff and are serving to strengthen additional cycles that are already being implemented.
The study was initiated and funded by the Government-Civil Society Initiative.
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