Hana Hertsman's Blog

Posts by Hana Hertsman

Holon’s Digital Vision

Posted on March 19, 2017

Video:Holon’s Digital City Square – Concept

It is over two decades now that both our city and municipal practices are a reflection of a unique vision which sets our long and short run policies and goals. The vision, which was continuously updated over the past few years using a wide public-participation process, is divided to several main chapters relating different aspects of the city life and municipal responsibilities. Among them you can find community, education, industry and trade, culture and leisure and of course – Holon, The Children’s City, our city’s DNA and identity which reflects in each and every one of the city practices.

An entire chapter of the city’s vision refers to the municipality vision, stating: “The municipality encourages innovation, follows the principles of the multidisciplinary management and promotes cooperation, knowledge based decision making and the use of technological means”  This Mission Statement should lay the foundations for our Digital Vision – a necessary organizational tool which will adjust our city’s strategic plans to the era where technology evolvement has a crucial influence on both reality and consciousness, privately and publicly.

Our obligation as the policymakers is to incorporate our citizen’s perspective into the decision-making process, keeping in mind that we are not only providing them with service but also with the best costumer experience possible.

This adjustment of the system, the strategic plans and strategic assets to the digital age will be implemented using our new work method “Collective Impact”, launched earlier this year, which sets the goal of creating a horizontal collaborative platform, promoting a synchronized execution of our municipal goals while considering long-term implications, adjusting our citizens needs and measuring and analyzing results further along. This method allows us to self-reflect by asking a line of questions – what made us choose these specific assets to begin with? What our aspirations are? What are the significant changes we ask to create in our citizens’ lives? What our desired outcomes are? For example – while evaluating our unique assets, identified with the city – The Children Museum, The Mediatheque, The Design Museum and The Story Gardens we must reflect on how these assets benefit our citizens, particularly our children. How can we use them in order to empower our children and transform them into curious skilled citizens of the new world – aware, involved, cultured and enlightened human beings?  One of the first steps towards meeting this goal is training the municipality and the subsidiary companies employees with digital skills being the transformation agents.

 I have no doubt in my mind that the right strategic plan derived from a solid digital vision has the power to maximize these assets value and to march The Children’s City to the next level.

The digital vision is a significant opportunity to take our next big leap forward. In order to maximize its execution level we must define our desire outcomes and to put our joint efforts into an empowering collaboration process while all functions aims towards meeting our shared municipal goals.

What Makes an Outstanding Employee and Why Women are No Longer Afraid to Excel?

Posted on February 7, 2017

Recently we held our annual Outstanding Employee of the Year Awards here in Holon Municipality in which we honored 6 of our outstanding employees in addition to one outstanding staff.

While the average organization usually provides one specific service, the municipality provides a wide range of different services – education, culture, eldercare, family life and private and public physical environment are all just a part of the responsibilities being held by the municipality. Therefore, the city’s both directors and employees represent a wide variety of professions and expertise, despite the diversity we can find a common ground and joint characteristics between those who outstand.

The outstanding employee will be the one you can always relay on, the one doing his tasks to the fullest, a team-player focusing both on the micro and macro. This employee will not break under pressure, he will be an initiative leader for his co-workers and patient and empathic service giver. He will be an inspiration to his colleagues and a good influence to the entire workplace.

These virtues among others were part of the criteria for choosing our outstanding employees. I take pride in the fact that here in Holon Municipality, a lean-management organization with a relatively low number of employees, we are able to find each and every year a large group of employees meeting these criteria. Not only we find these employees to be praiseworthy, It is important for us to honor them since they are a significant part of our success with following the city’s policies and meeting the city’s goals.

This year, accidently or not, all of our Outstanding Employees of the Year were women from across the municipality administrations. Is it a coincident that recently we witness an increasing presence of women getting their appreciation on their work publicly?

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, in her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” writes: “Many women prefer to stay put and be safe in their career, which is another effect of gender stereotype. They avoid new challenges because they are unsure that they have the right skills. That can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. A study has shown that men apply for jobs when they feel they meet 60% of the skills requirements, whereas women only apply if they meet 100% of the requirements”

Sandberg calls for a perception change: “Women should not be afraid to take risks, pursue growth and challenges and ask for promotions” I feel as if these changes are already taking place, we can see more young women taking a different approach. They are no longer afraid to celebrate and publicly speak about their performances and their contribution to the system and to take risks and challenges they would not take before.

Congratulations, our Outstanding Employees and thank you for your significant contribution to the Municipality and the City.

Thinking, Planning, and Carrying Out. The Children’s City Has All Ages in Mind

Posted on December 20, 2015

Age Friendly City presentation, held at the 2015 Akko Convention on Urbanism 

Holon has been age-oriented for over two decades now. The Children’s City vision statement is based on the understanding that the residents are the city’s pillar of strength; thus, master plans and work plans have been devised focusing on the younger generation and their families. These programs allow for long and short term planning of the services and physical environment intended for children, adolescents, young adults, and senior citizens, all while constantly seeking the optimal urban mix.
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A model of get-together areas for senior citizens at public spaces. Design: Erez Mulay, social designer. The model allows seating arrangements for large groups (up to 10 people), in a semi-hidden spot. On the opposite side, comfortable seating areas for individuals who prefer to overlook the hustle of the street.

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Over the past two decades, we have realized that devising programs tailored to a specific age group can be useful when doing the same for other age groups as well: for example, the master plan for children and youth has elements in common with the master plan for senior citizens. The endeavors associated with devising master plans for these two age groups, seemingly belonging to one of two extremes, are rooted in the inherent perception that sees residents as customers and partners to the process of city development. Both programs seek to create a friendly environment, which takes into consideration the relatively high dependence of these two populations on municipal services and environment.

The master plan for senior citizens was devised through a process of public participation and in collaboration with the Ministry for Senior Citizens. According to the master plan for Holon senior citizens vision statement, “Holon is thankful for its senior citizens’ past and present engagements with urban development. Holon is committed to act in the favor of its senior citizens and provide them with comfortable surroundings during their years of retirement”.

This vision outlines four strategic guidelines on which the master plan is based: offering senior citizens the ability to live in their own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably (Aging in Place); promoting an intergenerational and interdisciplinary overview; implementing a Pro-Active Senior Citizen approach; developing an innovative array of services tailored to the needs of senior citizens.

One example would be the existing project aimed at adapting Holon’s public open spaces to the needs of senior citizens. The project is led by Dr. Rinat Ben Nun from Holon’s Department of Senior Citizens, along with designer Erez Mulay from the social design studio, who mapped relevant needs after touring senior citizens centers across Holon, interviewing senior citizens, and methodically gathering information. Apparently, small groups of senior citizens of homogeneous ethnicity gather in semi-hidden spots, in the vicinity of commercial centers, public toilets, and drinking fountains. It appeared as if they were adapting the public spaces to their own needs.

For example, placing cartons on top of stone benches in order to insulate against cold, and adding extra chairs in seating areas for bigger crowds. The research identified the senior citizens’ need of intimacy, combined with the need to feel close to the heart of the city. Furthermore, at different hours of the day the very same public space serves groups of adolescents, so obviously it should meet the needs of both age groups. Following the observation phase, senior citizens attended the Design Museum Holon exhibition on shading of public spaces, and participated in a design workshop dedicated to get-together areas and shading for the benefit of senior citizens. This way, benches were designed to meet the needs of senior citizens and guarantee shading, comfort, and intimacy.

The master plan for children and youth, which is my brainchild, is led by representatives from the Division of Welfare, Department of Education, Community and Recreation Network, supported by the Strategic Planning Department, all of whom spearhead the program. The master plan for senior citizens seeks to further leverage the city’s investment in the younger generation, so as to implement a comprehensive and inclusive approach which encompasses all aspects of the child’s life. The program addresses all areas of children’s lives (apart from education): health, recreation, and more.

We are currently in the final stages of data collection through:

  • Implementation of a public participation program, with around 3,300 participants, for children and youth ranging from kindergarteners to high schoolers, which reveals their needs and passions.
  • Mapping programs and services, allowing for a more thorough examination of the existing programs and services across Holon.
  • Data collection focusing on children and youth (as documented in city records and in additional records), aimed at forming the average child’s profile.
  • Collecting experts’ information on the important aspects of children’s development (on a global level).

As mentioned above, the master plan for children and youth is underway, and we are currently carrying out several projects. For example, the public participation program has identified the need of residents to use public spaces in their vicinity as venues for children’s entertainment activities. This was the idea behind the Children’s Park Theater project that operates during the summer holiday, offering children’s plays at nine parks across Holon.

An additional matter that was identified during the process of public participation is the children’s desire to expand their knowledge outside of school. In Holon, we seek to implement the City As School approach, allowing children to broaden their horizons at a variety of local facilities and institutions, surrounded by a more enticing environment. This is also a way to make the children feel more connected to the local community, which further enhances their educational experiences. This project is still in its infancy.

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In brief, the Children’s City serves as a social anchor for different social groups; its uniqueness guarantees that it provides the utmost services for the various age groups, each according to its unique set of needs.

Female Executives in Local Authorities

Posted on November 12, 2015

There seems to be a prevalent lack of accurate data and information regarding the actual numbers of female executives in local authorities, probably due to the fact that no regulation exists that requires the publication of such data.

Thus, we have neither a basis for comparison nor an index for improvement.

Nevertheless, based on the unofficial data we have collected, although the rate of women holding positions in local authorities is relatively high, the rate of female executives is rather low.

Data received from the Knesset Research and Information Center in 2011 suggest that in 55 local authorities, the rate of female executives stands at 0% (!), in 8 local authorities the rate stands at 1-9%, and in 48 local authorities the rate stands at 10-19%.

A 2014 study conducted by Adalya Consulting & Management and Dr. Itay Beeri presented the rate of women holding a series of senior positions: the rate of women serving as mayors stands at 3%; the rate of women serving as CEOs stands at 10%; the rate of women serving as municipal engineers stands at 13%; the rate of women serving as legal advisors stands at 24%; the rate of women serving as treasurers stands at around 11%. In the Education Department, the rate of female executives stands at 36% – which stands to reason, since education is perceived to be a more ‘feminine’ field.

In Holon Municipality we get a completely different picture: the rate of female employees stands at 70%, and the rate of female executives is just over 52%, making the majority of executives within Holon Municipality.

The researchers who conducted the afore-mentioned study were seeking to identify the factors that contribute to the exclusion of women from senior positions and from local government decision making processes, and to provide recommendations as to how this situation can be turned around.

Among their recommendations: advertising current data on the rate of female executives in order to raise awareness and turn the situation around, raising salaries of female executives who reside in peripheral areas so as to advance women of lower socio-economic status, implementing a policy of reserved slots while overcoming cultural prejudices, providing incentives to local authorities whose annual reports show a high rate of female executives, integrating women in tender committees, and assigning a dedicated consultant for the advancement of women within each local authority.

Without a doubt, women are just as capable of holding senior positions as men are, and we should find ways to fulfill the great potential that lies among our female employees, while motivating them to pursue successful careers and providing them with all the necessary managerial tools and leadership skills, for the benefit of all parties.

Organizational as well as personal incentives can make a change and allow women to pursue their dreams. As nature has it, all changes begin with one single seed, which sets the stage for all others to come. Once the model puts down its roots, women all over Israel will know that no goal is beyond their reach.

Social Responsibility: It is our responsibility! Thoughts on winning the Ministry of Interior Prize for Social Responsibility

Posted on July 30, 2015

prizeSocial responsibility is based on the moral principle whereby organizations and bodies, even if they were established for profit, have an obligation to improve the society and environment in which they operate. In recent years, we have encountered this concept in the context of commercial companies, which take it upon themselves, in addition to their business activities, to devote part of their efforts to contributing both to society and the environment.

In the case of public bodies, it might be thought that there is no reason to talk about social responsibility, since their very existence and activity derive from the strength of their social responsibility and commitment.

Those of us who work for the benefit of the public in the framework of public service see importance and value in the intent and awareness of our social responsibility, even though, apparently, it is taken for granted as the reason for our existence.

The local authorities are at the forefront of public service and maintain direct and daily contact with their customers in a variety of fields. The quality of this connection, its nature, the variety of fields that it includes, its sensitivity to unique populations and needs, and more, affects the daily lives of millions of residents – men, women and children.

Such, for example, is the service charter, which we implemented 17 years ago in Holon, and which, at the time, was considered innovative. Via this charter, all residents can learn which services they are entitled to receive, at which level of service, and within which time frame. This information is transparent, is published on the municipal website, and is regularly checked by me, with the goal always being: where can we do better, and what should and can be improved? This is also the reason why we have published a booklet, in printed and digital versions, entitled, “There is someone here to serve you,” and why we update the booklet every few years, and republish it. In addition, we publish on the municipal website information about all the Municipality’s spheres of activity and the names of its office holders, and we are opening additional channels of communication with the public, such as on the social network. All these activities, which seem trivial today, were not taken for granted in the past, and, to our regret, even today they are not carried out by every public authority in Israel. The goal is, of course, to make it easier for those in need of the Municipality’s services to receive them, and to improve the technological means, so that, when reporting a problem, they will learn when it is expected to be handled, in accordance with the service charter.

However, we as a Municipality are not satisfied with this, because, for us, the residents are not merely our customers; we regard the residents of Holon as our partners. This is the reason why, since I first assumed the position of Director General, we have been conducting a series of processes for including the public in the work of the Municipality, starting from formulation of the initial vision, during which the public expressed its opinion on a variety of issues, such as: a new outline plan that we were working on, renewing and refreshing the municipal vision, promotion of young people, and a master plan for children and adolescents. Out of a sense of social responsibility, we have attempted to reach as wide a public as possible; all residents are invited to enter a special Internet site that we have set up, and to participate, and to present themselves and their ideas. We also carried out activity to reach special population sectors, such as, parents of children with special needs, as well as the children themselves, on whom we focus our efforts. The feelings, thoughts and suggestions of the participants are taken into account, and have an impact on municipal policy.

The special population sectors are close to our hearts, and we regard as a national mission the need to create awareness of those who are different, through understanding their world and their needs. Our Children’s Museum presents the world of the blind, the deaf and the elderly, by means of a series of activities and empirical presentations, and for this purpose it employs people who are members of these sectors. Blind guides lead the ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ track, deaf guides lead the ‘Invitation to Silence’ track, and elderly people are the wonderful guides at ‘Dialogue with Time.’

Within the municipal framework, we also employ people with special needs, who aren’t accepted by most places of employment, in order to give them a work experience like everyone else’s.

The subject of volunteering keeps me very busy, and it is clear to me that the Municipality’s job is to encourage and guide people in general, and teenagers and children in particular, to take part in volunteer missions in the community – such as: making a connection with isolated people, undertaking maintenance work and gardening at elderly people’s homes, providing assistance through “Shil” (Advisory Services for Residents) for people who have difficulty dealing with bureaucracy, activity by municipal employees as part of ‘Good Deeds Day,’ and more.

As stated, as part of our social responsibility, we are continuously seeking ways to improve our services and to improve ourselves, to streamline processes, and to check which issues can be changed in order to provide optimal internal and external services.

The Ministry of the Interior acted wisely, when it decided to award a prize to the local authorities, in appreciation of the social responsibility that these bodies exhibit throughout their ongoing activities.

I am proud that we have earned such appreciation for a series of activities and processes conducted by the Municipality, among them: Advanced implementation of the Accessibility Law throughout the city, holding cultural events for all residents, promotion of residents’ security and preparation for times of emergency, inclusion of the public in municipal affairs, encouragement of volunteerism, and more.

Project Based Learning – why and how this could work in Israel

Posted on May 20, 2015

My impressions following a visit to High Tech High, which applies PBL.

Today, the advantages of PBL are getting clearer: the traditional learning method simply doesn’t seem to work. The world is changing, the amount of information we can access is practically endless; thus, the required skills have changed, the teacher is no longer the ultimate source of information, and attention deficit disorders are a way of life.

I have recently visited the High Tech High schools in Los Angeles and San Diego. These schools have been applying PBL for many years, and can teach us a great deal about the merits of this learning technique. Following this inspiring visit, I would like to share with you some insights.

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Learning as part of the culture.

PBL goes far beyond learning; PBL is an overall cultural change. It is integrated into the culture of discussion and into codes of behavior, and its success is based on mutual respect, listening, and knowing one’s limits. We had the opportunity to witness how children collaborate on a project. Although physically and mentally each child enjoyed considerable leeway for action – it was quite clear who does what, what role the student plays and what role the teacher plays as a tutor, what is right and what is wrong, and what is the nature of collective responsibility, including that of a young child, to fulfill all personal and group capabilities. Without cultural readiness, PBL is unlikely to succeed.

Interdisciplinary experiential learning.

PBL is the future of education. Why? Because this is our way to foster a curious and productive generation, that learns through interdisciplinary activities. We saw the way young children learn physics through their hands, building an entire model by themselves, from research to implementation. A Shakespearean performance the children put on was yet another example of a way to teach history, literature and language skills, design, and science. The children learned the play, were assigned their roles, made their own costumes, designed the set by themselves, and the result was a performance that completely reflects their characters and their state of mind. Another example is their research on animals, conducted in the aquatic museum. The children study the issue, ask questions regarding the different ways to rescue endangered species, launch a campaign, design and promote it. Another example is the preparation of a diet based meal, which follows the study of nutrition through different aspects of chemistry and biology, including health repercussions. The meal, in the presence of the students’ families, is regarded as the highlight of the semester: this way, learning is a meaningful, experiential, and community-oriented process.

Unique schools with equal opportunity.

Children from underprivileged families were not a rare sight at the schools we visited. The fact that these children take part in this kind of curriculum gives them an excellent starting point despite of their background. This is made possible through charter schools, which are independent and allow for uniqueness: they hire highly professional teachers, and – albeit under cautious supervision – they don’t strictly follow the curriculum set by the Ministry of Education, so teaching methods are varied.

Highly motivated teachers.

Teachers working at the schools we visited are proficient in fields outside their profession. They participate in enrichment courses and workshops that make them competent in other domains. At the same time, a network of support and professional cooperation ensures that teachers give their best for the success of the students. The entire learning environment encourages cooperation and openness. There is no staff room; there are no bells ringing for recess; there are activities and break times when necessary. The teacher provides continuous mentoring during the entire learning process. For instance, we saw how children learn engineering through disassembling and assembling mundane devices, such as cameras. Each disassembled part is measured, registered, photographed, and uploaded to designated software, where it is documented. Later on, the parts are reassembled on a computer screen, and remanufactured through 3D printing. The students find information online about damaged or missing parts. And the teachers? The students’ enthusiasm rubs off on them, and this is where a true joy of creation begins. It may sound almost surreal, but I believe this will become the new reality in more and more locations, including Israel.

A Bond of Hearts: A heartwarming encounter with Jews and Israelis in New York

Posted on May 7, 2015

With Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York

With Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York

The hardships, dangers, and fears involved in living in Israel often make us feel isolated. In recent years, it seems, this feeling of isolation is getting even more intense.

During an exciting encounter held recently in the United States, I was happy to realize an entire community is thinking of us from across the sea, feeling connected to us, empathizing, showing interest, and even willing to pull their weight.

As part of our efforts to bring about an innovative educational initiative in Holon – the Digital Kindergarten Digitaf – I had the privilege to attend an especially heartwarming event and share the latest news of Israel and Holon with members of the New York Jewish community. I felt that I succeeded in laying the foundations for a new perception, a new attitude that places the younger generation in the center, seeking to provide the younger generation with targeted tools and skills required for personal development and success, while creating a powerful values-driven community.

Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim, former Israelis, have been living in the United States for many years. Like many of their compatriots, they immigrated to the United States in order to pursue their professional career. Zigi Ben-Haim, a valued artist, has won multiple prestigious awards for his art. His pieces are displayed in prominent museums such as: the Guggenheim and Brooklyn Museum in New York; the Israel Museum and Tel Aviv Museum. The couple had been so kind as to volunteer their house for a special Holon-oriented gala, in the presence of tens of participants from the Jewish and Israeli community in New York.

In addition to Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, the event attracted a large number of visitors, who expressed a great interest in Israel, who were eager to hear about every piece of information related to contemporary life in Israeli society, and were willing to delve into issues such as Israeli education, culture, zeitgeist, and perceptions among the younger generation in Israel. I was surprised by the young age of many of the visitors, who shared information about themselves and wanted to better understand the meaning of Holon as the Children’s City.

Those young visitors were thrilled to hear about Holon’s unique initiatives, and about our efforts to foster the younger Israeli generation through exposure to culture, which equips them with knowledge and skills that will eventually make them into knowledgeable, curious, moral, creative, and productive citizens. I told them about the special activities held in Design Museum Holon, about the unique workshops for the entire family, about the synergy between our formal educational system and our cultural institutions, and more. Appreciation, fascination, and curiosity permeated the discussion; the participants expressed their willingness to tighten the bond with Holon and Israel, as well as invest in mutual learning.

Acknowledging the importance of sustainability for the sake of leaving a clean and healthy environment for the next generations, they were naturally impressed with the ideas I laid before them: investing in children, instilling values of tolerance, social engagement, and community involvement.

Without doubt, this evening was nothing short of exhilarating. I hereby wish to thank our hosts and all who participated in the event and helped organize it.