Hana Hertsman's Blog

Posts tagged “municipal management

Tif-Taf: A New Place that Turns Parenthood into a Rewarding Experience

Posted on October 30, 2014

“I love him so much, but he won’t stop crying, I’m not sure why and I’m trying to understand what it is that he wants. I offer different toys, I talk to him, I try to make him laugh, and eventually we both end up crying together.”

These are the words of a young mother. She waited so much for her baby to come into her life, she was excited trying to imagine how he would look like, how they would spend time together, hugging, cuddling and laughing – but something just isn’t right.

Today, there is no shame in admitting: being a parent takes learning. Those parental instincts aren’t always there to guide us; parents can hone their skills of this seemingly natural craft, and truly savor the time they spend with their children.

A new center for parents and toddlers (aged 0-3) has recently been launched in Holon. Together with educational experts, I listened to the lecture given by Prof. Pnina Klein, a renowned researcher in the field of education, at the opening ceremony. Prof. Klein’s philosophy of early childhood education constitutes the foundation of the new center.

One of the most important principles Prof. Klein mentions is treating parenthood as an enjoyable, joyful and enhancing experience for both parents and children. My own experience as a mother and others’ experience has taught me that, all good intentions aside, the reality is not always what we had in mind or what we were aiming at. Upon the birth of their firstborn, many parents enter a world of uncertainties and questions.

During her lecture, Prof. Klein highlighted some of the dilemmas and challenges young parents face, alongside the methods and solutions the center will be offering them:

How to encourage the parent and enhance his sense of capability? How to enhance the child’s sense of capability? How to set boundaries while still making the child feel loved? How to plan ahead before spending time with the child? How to tell which activities are suitable for the child? How to make the most of our time with the child? What is a Mental Menu? How to teach children new things at their own pace, without forcing them to use certain ways of action, in a way that allows them to make mistakes? How do we, as parents, act as mediators between realities or games and our child? How much time do we dedicate to focused activities with our children, barring distractions and other parallel actions? How to plan activities with our children? How does our conduct with our toddlers influence development and success in the long term? What are our ambitions with respect to our children? How to do the right thing at the right time without putting the cart before the horse in terms of the child’s needs? How to prepare the child for a competitive, high-achieving and sometimes disappointing reality, without subjecting him to a similar reality ourselves?

During the lecture we were shown several videos that follow the process of mentoring parents according to Prof. Klein’s method. The videos show clearly and visually how the behavioral patterns of both parents and children change through learning. The videos illustrated some of the principles Prof. Klein’s method is based on.

Following is a taste of Prof. Klein’s principles:

All babies need to be loved; they need to be around a person who is happy to be with them. Let your baby know and feel that you love him, hold him close to you, treasure your time together.

Give yourselves the opportunity to enrich your child and rejoice in him. See how important and special you are to him; acknowledge how much he needs you and loves you in a special way.

Positive feelings open the door to emotional, social, and mental growth, through feelings of trust and attachment to people.

Allow your children the opportunities to develop, so that they would live a better and more fulfilling life – and so would you.

In the short period the new center has operated in Holon, it has already attracted thousands of young parents who enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the innovative equipment, and benefited from the high professional level of the mentors onsite. It is my hope that these mentors will provide more and more parents with important tools and insights that would contribute to enhancing young parents and nurturing a new generation of happy and thriving toddlers.

Master Plan for Children and Youth by the Makers of the Children’s City

Posted on October 23, 2014

Innovation in Holon is at the heart of everything we do; it is only natural to implement it among children and youth, who have been our main focus over the past twenty years.

In early July, before Operation Protective Edge, I had the privilege to be part of a unique experience while I attended the first convention of the Master Plan for Holon’s Children and Youth, organized by the Welfare Department, the Division of Educational Administration, the Community and Leisure Network, and the Strategic Planning Department.

Although I attend quite a large number of work meetings, I was truly excited to witness this gathering of 150 professionals and experts from diverse institutions – the municipality, municipal subsidiaries, government offices, associations, and all relevant units – all setting as top priority the needs of Holon’s children, instead of the needs of the organizations they represent. This gathering is a harbinger of a thorough and comprehensive process, which is believed to create a major change for the better, and I will explain why.

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As we all know, for the past twenty years Holon has branded itself as the Children’s City. Holon’s longtime expertise and its commitment to the advancement of children’s education, culture and welfare places it at an advantage. Our endeavors improve the residents’ quality of life, raise the city’s reputation among its residents as well as nationwide, and attract young families who seek a good environment to raise their children in. Thanks to these efforts, Holon is famed for its initiative and drive, which is reflected in all its areas of purview. Naturally, though, this reputation also incurs an ever growing set of expectations and demands, which cannot or should not always be realized. The reality we have created is evolving and changing, raising new questions and thoughts such as: Where do we go from here? What should we put more focus on? What should we change? What should we invest more (or less) in?

What makes this master plan uniquely advantageous is the fact that it considers all aspects of children’s lives, aspiring to provide care for all age groups: from birth to eighteen years, while focusing on a variety of domains such as: health and sports; informal education; community, leisure and culture; children and youth at risk; immigrants from Ethiopia and the former USSR; physical environment and accessibility; the digital era and its implications; special needs; religious populations, parenthood and family, and more.

This comprehensive program, which outlines objectives and work plans, will allow us to enhance and regulate the current initiatives oriented at children and youth across the city. The program brings us one step closer to realizing Holon’s vision as the Children’s City. The mere existence of such a project, alongside the process of planning it and later on implementing it, is bound to leverage our children-oriented initiatives to new and exciting levels.

Gladly, we enjoy the cooperation of Joint Ashalim, which specializes in developing programs and services for children and youth at risk.

Following are the objectives of the plan:

  • Leveraging Holon’s children-oriented initiatives to even higher standards.
  • Developing a sustainable plan which does not depend on duty holders.
  • Detaching from traditional divisions of responsibility, allowing for more cooperation and flexibility with respect to the functioning of different organizations.
  • Providing a holistic and integrative viewpoint that meets the full range of all children’s needs.
  • Deepening the local children and parents’ attachment to the city.
  • Creating an educational process aimed at encouraging proactive residents.
  • Engaging Holon’s administration, its executives and subsidiaries in the city’s wide scale children-oriented initiatives, while taking all conditions and needs into account.

The writing of the plan is due to finish in the summer of 2016. Much progress is expected up until then. Stay tuned!

The implementation of innovations in the municipal management

Posted on February 26, 2014

Innovation, initiative, leading change and breakthrough are concepts that we are used to associating with the private sector, business and science. Even me, after twenty years as the city manager of Holon, who had a lot of experience working in different positions in the public sector, I am satisfied and proud to say that these concepts can and should guide the directors in the public sector in general and the municipal sector in particular.

Thanks to our experience in Holon, I can say that if you believe in and are sure about the need and the ability to innovate, you will succeed to have many people follow you. First, as claimed in Rogers’s “diffusion of innovation” model, the innovators are those managers and employees who by their nature tend to accept changes easily and are not afraid of changes. They “jump into the water” with enthusiasm and they even love to be challenged, excited and curious about it.

The “early adopters” who are relatively few, will join the innovators. The “early adopters” are the managers and employees who are a bit afraid of any change, but after the first group has adopted the change, they are תקשוב בגני ילדים (1)willing to learn from the experience of others and “dip their feet in the water”. In the next stage after the “pioneers”, a larger group will join whose Rogers call the “early majority” who already see the benefits implemented and exercised by others and join pretty quickly. Thereafter, the “late majority” will also join. It is also a relatively large and significant group that is ready to “join the party”. Finally, the “laggards” will join. They are few and see any change and innovation as very difficult and they may never adopt the innovation or may adopt it if they don’t have any choice even though it seems that they dislike it. In the end of the process they become insignificant in terms of quantity and impact.

I realized that this model has proved itself each time anew. We can clearly see this in adopting technological innovations: We will always find people who are “crazy for it”. They love to adopt innovations and to buy the most advanced gadgets that had just hit the market. They are the ones that will enjoy discovering new functions those that are useful and those that are not. Only after a while, we see the rest of the public adopting the innovation. They will adopt, with hesitation at first and then increasingly with ease, what was only for specialists. Finally, the miraculous device of yesterday becomes everyone’s device of today, a regular tool for every child and even for every baby. Today it is known that infants who are only a few months old, achieve the highest degree of natural smooth motion with their finger on the screen, that anyone who was born prior the new millennium would have to learn.

However, in my opinion, a technological innovation is only one aspect and not the most important. Technology is a tool that makes it easier for us to adopt innovation in thinking, in ideas, in concepts and in methods. We should understand that any new innovation can potentially be perceived as a threat, which decreases the feeling of security and survival. Most people tend to choose something which is familiar and known to them, but if we know how to bring innovation to the population. If we accompany, encourage and support it, we can even get those who express reservations to like it.
Here are some examples. Some of them have already become a public knowledge and others are in the stage of implementation and adoption.

Today, every business, every project and every private or public organization has a vision. However, over twenty years ago, defining a vision of the city and the municipality in Israel – was totally rare and almost non-existent. The idea that a bureaucratic organization which is expected to provide a number of basic services suddenly decides for itself what it wants to be , what it wants to excel in and how it differs from all the others – was considered rather pretentious and an unrealistic idea. Moreover the thought that you can focus on a subject such as “the city of children”, and through its inspiration set the programs and resources was almost unimaginable. The concerns, criticism, disbelief in its necessity, were expected and obvious. It was a thinking revolution. The fact that the vision of Holon was carried into effect and that many cities followed it was thanks to a belief in its way, determination and consistency, that motivates more people to join the circles: senior managers, middle managers, involved employees and ordinary employees, involved residents, residents who are not involved, residents of other cities, opinion and media leaders, visitors, professionals and ultimately an abstraction -called “public ” or “public opinion”.

Another example is the public participation in the decision making process through using new technology platforms. The conclusion that is gradually being established for many years is that it is important to set a public policy through understanding the public’s needs and expectations. Also, the decision making process relating to citizens or residents will include public participation in some steps. We had held public meetings for different themes already a number of years ago and even today we set public meetings as part of a preparation of a new master plan in Holon. At the same time, a year ago, we had set up an interactive website which invited anyone who wishes to contribute ideas to the renewed vision as part of refreshing the urban vision. The goal was to allow the residents share their opinion. Indeed, hundreds of ideas came from the public and we received comments and references. Today it is part of our new vision and we implemented it in our work plans. I believe that we will find technological ways, such as social networks for public discussion on different issues, also in the future. Of course, this will require a new mindset, one that knows how to handle criticism and even protest, but also knows how to teach the public what is the opportunity opened up and how to get the best out of it. I have no doubt that sooner than expected, the public will adopt the new possibilities, as today the use of social networks is growing and expanding as a significant communication channel towards the city.

A more recent example is the area of education. Today we can already see computers and ICT learning systems in schools and kindergartens, but this is not the issue here. Today, it is clear to many professionals, what the public already knows, that the education system and schools in their traditional format are losing their advantages. The teacher as a source of knowledge pales in comparison to the many sources of information that are available through the internet and the big questions that are asked: What will we teach? How to teach? How to teach better? One of the insights is to make learning meaningful to the student, causing the student to be proactive, to initiate and to be creative in the learning process, while exposing him to advanced technological means and reinforcing new skills that would be required in the future. This is also why memorization and rote -based tests are increasingly perceived as irrelevant. These days we are in the midst of a pilot project in nine kindergartens in Holon, where we combine the best of advanced technological means including computers, projectors and tablets, which will form a means of empowering pedagogical processes we seek to promote. Technology integration is done simultaneously with the training and long-term support of kindergarten staff: teachers and teacher’s assistants. The technology integration itself is not enough. We must understand and think through what benefits we actually want to achieve from it. Only on the basis of this understanding, it is possible and necessary to open new opportunities for the educational staff and children and show them the advantages of the innovation.