Routine emergency

Ahuva Yanai, the CEO of Matan – Investing in the Community, talks about organizations creating a civil society in Israel, a country that deals with occasional but regular crises.

By EFRAT L. COHEN
January 5, 2015 14:09
Ahuva Yanai

Ahuva Yanai. (photo credit: PR)

 
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Operation Protective Edge, over and above the conflict in Gaza, saw the home front deal with difficult situations, especially for those in the South.

This time around, almost the entire country heard the sirens that gave us less than a minute and a half to seek cover. As in any time of emergency, the voluntary sector rallied social organizations that fulfilled the important role of supporting the community, be it concern and aid for the elderly unable to leave their homes during air raids, children living near Gaza, families who lost their homes or soldiers at the front.

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Ahuva Yanai, the CEO of Matan – Investing in the Community, talks about organizations creating a civil society in Israel; about a vital and creative civil society that must deal with occasional but regular crises of varying intensity where emergencies become the norm; and about the turning point that started with the Second Lebanon War to the point of understanding the need for cooperation among the three sectors – government, business and NGOs – and their relevance in Operation Protective Edge and today.

Yanai has been the CEO of Matan-Investing in the Community (United Way Israel) since 2001. Prior to that, she served in the IDF for 28 years until her retirement in 1999 with the rank of colonel. Her army positions included IDF ombudsman, head of the academic HR branch and head of the casualty liaison branch. Over the years, she has also been involved in various social and business endeavors.

Matan is a social organization dedicated to fostering a strong civil society by creating partnerships with corporations and philanthropic foundations and donors, social organizations and government. Matan’s expertise in creating successful connections and facilitating effective social investments is aimed at effecting social change. Since its establishment in 1998, Matan and its partners have invested more than NIS 430 million in the community and in excess of 180,000 volunteer hours in community projects throughout the country.

How do you see the expansion of the civil society model? The Second Lebanon War was a turning point for understanding the importance of the social sector and its activities. The moment we seek support for the home front, in times of quiet or crisis, the voluntary sector can respond quickly and is able to answer specific needs, whereas the government is not equipped to give an immediate and necessary response. The NGOs work in the field throughout the year and have proven expertise and knowledge, both daily and in times of war. Our contribution is now taken as a matter of course.

One of the significant conclusions reached after the Second Lebanon War was that cooperation and coordination among the three sectors leads to improved and effective functioning in the next crisis. Despite other situations (Operation Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense) on the way, the real test came during Operation Protective Edge. This conflict stands out because the war affected extensive geographical areas and threatened the civilian home front for a considerable length of time.



What is the meaning of inter-sectorial cooperation? The government via RAHEL (The National Emergency Authority) and NGOs came prepared to the meetings, familiar with the sectors and with ideas for enhancing additional cooperation and building on the success of existing partnerships. The winning formula seemed to be one plus one equals three! That is to say, the coordination didn’t affect the core activity of those voluntary organizations but rather opened up additional channels dealing with special needs arising during crises.

As Matan is an organization that forges partnerships between businesses and the community during times of crisis as well as normal times, we recognized the need for businesses to act and cooperate with the other sectors.

During Protective Edge, the front line was somewhat hazy and unclear. All of us, businesses and NGOs, were part of the home front threatened by missiles, we and our families, so that we sat around the meeting table each wearing several hats with a multitude of needs challenging us. Through simple and direct coordination, businesses discovered that they too could benefit from the experience of the NGOs which, for example, provided solutions in the area of trauma for their employees. They realized that the NGOs could provide them with real assistance and were not just organizations to contribute money to. The mutual exchange of knowledge gave them the sense that despite the crisis there was connection to the field, a finger on the pulse and that RAHEL was coordinating the information.

with the sectors and with ideas for enhancing additional cooperation and building on the success of existing partnerships. The winning formula seemed to be one plus one equals three! That is to say, the coordination didn’t affect the core activity of those voluntary organizations but rather opened up additional channels dealing with special needs arising during crises.

As Matan is an organization that forges partnerships between businesses and the community during times of crisis as well as normal times, we recognized the need for businesses to act and cooperate with the other sectors.

During Protective Edge, the front line was somewhat hazy and unclear. All of us, businesses and NGOs, were part of the home front threatened by missiles, we and our families, so that we sat around the meeting table each wearing several hats with a multitude of needs challenging us. Through simple and direct coordination, businesses discovered that they too could benefit from the experience of the NGOs which, for example, provided solutions in the area of trauma for their employees. They realized that the NGOs could provide them with real assistance and were not just organizations to contribute money to. The mutual exchange of knowledge gave them the sense that despite the crisis there was connection to the field, a finger on the pulse and that RAHEL was coordinating the information.


What does the phrase mean today? The cooperation during Operation Protective Edge developed after the Second Lebanon War and led to new procedures including regulatory procedures, an area not known for its cooperation but, at its very best, “those supervised.” Actually, the regulators took a step forward to a new and unique “cooperative regulation.” As a result, for example, the Income Tax Authority came to agreements regarding tax payments or the Justice Ministry prepared new legislation (new law for NGOs). This is a refreshing departure. This will be a test of the success of the new cooperation and for the voluntary sector not just as a body to be inspected but as a body to take part in the discussion. As CEO of a social organization partnering hundreds of NGOs, I think we are still talking about a process but one where we can expect change in terms of our lives as donors, those who are beneficiaries of the work of the NGOs and the entire community.

Inter-sectorial cooperation is evident throughout Matan’s work as can be clearly seen in the shared challenge of capacity building and leadership in the voluntary sector, with the assistance of volunteers from the business and public sectors. Matan leads the way in teaching and sharing knowledge in the field of management in social organizations.

We recognize that quality management stands under daily testing, testing leadership and the ability to cope and being prepared for that next crisis. A strong civil society in times of crisis will succeed, and resilience will prevail.



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