Hana Hertsman's Blog

Posts from the “municipal management” Category

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.

Digitaf – An Innovative Kindergarten in an Advanced Digital Space

Posted on March 16, 2015

I often mention that my mother was a kindergarten teacher, and that early childhood education had been integrally woven into my childhood upbringing. Despite having chosen a different career path as an adult, I have always been devoted to cultivating the young generation, constantly striving to realize the vision of Holon as The Children’s City.

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In recent years, I have been feeling the need to broaden my knowledge and specialize in the area of early childhood education, and I have recently completed my Master’s degree in this field. I have undertaken to adapt the pedagogical principles to the vast technological possibilities that are today available for all, without allowing the means to obscure the end. I always keep in mind the main goal: recruiting modern technology for the benefit of cultivating a curious, creative, and innovative generation, while not neglecting to focus on social skills such as cooperation, acceptance of others, and empathy – which are equally important.

Kindergarten is one of the earliest pedagogical institutions children encounter in their lives, and its influence on their future development is paramount. Some claim that kindergartens should preserve the traditional educational processes, which are based on social and sensual experiences, and should avoid the penetration of innovative technologies which, one way or the other, overwhelm children from the day they are born. I believe that meaningful learning cannot be disconnected from modern society, from the world children live in and from the experiences they encounter along the way. My aim is to find the golden mean that appropriately combines technology with the aforementioned traditional educational processes.

These days, we are planning the establishment of Digitaf – a digital kindergarten. Digitaf will constitute an experimental innovative educational approach, which perceives children as both consumers and producers. Digitaf’s pedagogical learning environment will be based on pedagogical approaches of early childhood education, while naturally incorporating innovative modern technological devices into different areas, such as art, design, music, and sciences. Technology will serve as the means to achieve troubleshooting, creativity, team work, and additional skills that are required in the Information Age. Digitaf will include didactic interactive tables, a recording studio, 3D printers, and more. This way, children will be able to experiment with using 3D printers in order to design and produce toys, parts, and tools – all by themselves.

Digitaf is intended as a compulsory nursery school; it will include learning centers in the following fields: literacy, arts, mathematical thinking, crafts, theater, audio centers, nutrition, and sociodramatic play centers which are available in all kindergartens. The unique and innovative nature of the kindergarten finds expression in the complete integration of digital technology across all kindergarten activities, while preserving the spirit of the traditional kindergarten.

Digitaf will maintain a relationship between the inside and outside structure: the design of the courtyard will be based on the principles that are maintained within the interior structure. The aim is to establish an environment which encourages a high level of physical activity. For example, a unique adventure park will offer challenging activity spaces, a cave to crawl into, a hill to climb, etc. Children will also experiment with using a variety of building materials.

Digitaf will be located at the Jesse Cohen Quarter, as part of a technological community center, and will collaborate with digital centers adjacent to it: the Israeli Center for Digital Art and the digital manufacturing laboratory (FabLab).

The construction of the kindergarten will take place in a hall sized 200 square meters: 170 square meters are intended for the kindergarten area, while 30 square meters are intended for a joint center which will collaborate with the digital manufacturing laboratory (Fab Lab). The joint space will serve kindergarten children by day, and host afternoon activities for Jesse Cohen residents and for Holon residents in general. The modern architectural structure of the kindergarten will reflect the combination of early childhood education and technological innovation.

These days, we are concentrating our efforts on raising funds and resources for realizing the notion of Digitaf and for equipping it with the necessary technology. Hopefully, our efforts will bear fruit, and Digitaf will serve as a model pedagogical framework that demonstrates a harmonic adaptation of the educational system to the technological advancements of the 21st century, which have become inseparable from our daily lives.

Holon Municipality has launched a public participation website, calling upon its young residents to log in and speak their minds

Posted on December 30, 2014

Over twenty years ago, when we first set upon formulating the vision of the Children’s City in Holon, one of our most prominent purposes was to keep young population inside the city, as well as to attract young population into the city. A large population of young residents is a source of new energies; it breathes new life into the commercial and professional activities, the community experience, the physical cityscape, and the human fabric across the city.

Together. Think. Young – the facebook cover of the campaign

Throughout the years, as the positive image of Holon grew stronger, the number of children in the city has increased. These children have turned into young adults, forming a new generation that faces a wide array of possibilities and opportunities. I can personally attest that as chairwoman of the municipality’s tender board, I often come across these young adults, many of whom have an impressive educational and personal potential. Despite the lack of work experience and personal experience characterizing their age group, they are capable of absorbing large amounts of diverse information, thoroughly understanding matters from different perspectives. They are highly cooperative, and naturally they are highly motivated, eager to prove themselves and do well.

However, notwithstanding the great promises and the open horizons, these young adults are facing rather complex issues. On the one hand, there is a wide range of educational and occupational possibilities in this era of globalized markets; on the other hand, the labor market is constantly changing: new occupations arise while others vanish, and there cannot be any promise of economic security. This amounts to confusion, fear, and uncertainty. As a municipality, we have the ability to help this population, which is normally less reliant on municipal services. For this reason, over a year ago we established the Department of Young Adults, whose purpose is to promote the interests of this crucial segment of population.

Among other initiatives, we settled upon adjusting the public space for the needs of young adults: we designated a special area of the central library as a study space for students, we provide a free counseling service for young adults who are undecided about study paths or career options, we hold discounted cultural events and leisure activities which are oriented at young adults, allowing them to spend time around their peers, we operate special gymborees during the burning hot summer days, we hold discussion meetings with young adults at local bars. In addition, a designated center for young adults is currently under construction. Hopefully, this center will become an attractive hub for this age group as of the summer of 2015.

At the end of December 2014, the first phase of an online public participation procedure was concluded. Young residents were called upon to log in to a designated website and post their ideas, needs, and expectations from the municipality and from the city, all pertaining to the lifestyle of young adults in Holon. This way, we can lay the foundations for our future plans based on a genuine understanding of the needs and desires of this population.

The online discussion was open to the public for three weeks, during which 350 users were registered to the website, 212 new ideas were raised, and 483 comments were posted in the different discussions. Nine users who posted the most “liked” ideas were awarded valuable prizes. The next phase is collecting all the ideas and comments, analyzing them and drawing conclusions for the future projects of the Department of Young Adults, always seeking to maintain a constant dialog with the public.

The Future Town Square: a Real Experience in a Virtual Reality

Posted on November 27, 2014

A while ago I received a letter from a girl, a Holon resident, where she told me that on their free time she and her friends hardly ever go out: they stay at home, chat on Facebook and WhatsApp, and keep chatting on their mobile devices even when they meet face to face. Her parents, she wrote, keep nagging her to go outside and play – like they had used to do back in the day – but there is nothing to do outside. “Maybe at City Hall”, she was asking, “you would think of a place where we could play outside?”

This letter, which follows other requests of the same nature, has reaffirmed my longtime feelings and thoughts: the virtual world cannot be the only option. Even in our digital era, people are still seeking social connections, yearning for unmediated face to face encounters. A study has been published recently on the importance of social connections in the maintenance of mental and memory-related skills at an advanced age. If social interaction is beneficial to this extent with adults, then clearly it is crucial for children, who are constantly developing physically and mentally. Prolonged sitting in front of screens is undoubtedly one of the causes of early age obesity, which has become worryingly prevalent.

An American study has identified 200 social street games in the United States in the 19th century, compared to today’s 30 at best. Apart from the physical activity, the benefits of outdoor play lie at their contribution to the development of social skills, leadership and cooperation skills, and to the understanding of rules and boundaries.

Drawing inspiration from Children’s Games, I believe people in general, and children in particular, should regain their hold of the squares. This can be done by using innovative technological means which are suitable and attractive for today’s younger generation.

In my vision I can see a square, our Mediatheque Square for example, which is active throughout the day and changing according to the different crowds.

This way, for example, in morning hours the stone floors show different shapes, while music plays in th background (possibly only through headphones that are connected to a mobile device), and a virtual guide conducts a gym class for senior citizens. Later in the day, in late morning hours for instance, the floors of the square turn into a giant Checkmate board, and pensioners meet in order to enjoy this challenging thinking game. During afternoon hours, the square can become a playground for parents and young children, who gather and play age-appropriate games. Obviously, evening hours are dedicated to teenagers, when the square turns into a colorful disco party. One of the advantages is that players get to customize a certain area of the square using their mobile devices: they get to choose games and activities according to their preferences. Visitors can watch and participate, and enjoy newly discovered connections with members of their community.

כנס ערים חכמות ברצלונה 2014

The technology is already here: the challenge is to implement it according to our needs. Of course, the project is yet in its conceptual stage, seeking a technological/entrepreneurial partner, but I believe that in this case we can harness technology, which has long been notorious for making us alienated and estranged, for the purpose of promoting the opposite process of bringing people together and strengthening the sense of community, while breathing new life into the town square and the public space it provides.

What do you think?