The Israeli Association of Community Centers was founded with a mission of community building. But how do we know if it’s succeeding? CEO Raz Froilich is leading the integration of databased thinking that will help identify which children need enrichment and which activities increase the sense of community in a town

Every Wednesday at 5 pm there was a Judo class at the community center in a small town in the north. At 5:30 pm there was a ballet class and, next door, a magic class. In the Arab town 10 kilometers away, the community center was empty in the afternoons – no classes, no enrichment for children.

The Israeli Association of Community Centers (IACC) determined that the number of children participating in afterschool activities, especially in Arab towns, was dramatically lower than the potential. Together with the
Ministry of Education, the IACC developed the “afterschool activity for every child” program in the north, at a cost of 100 ILS per child per year.

“This is exactly what we wanted to do with the data – identify gaps and create solutions,” explains Raz Froilich, IACC CEO. Raz understood the great potential of data to create social change. “If a lack in activities was identified through the partial data collected to date, imagine what we can do if we collect precise and focused data.” And thus, the seeds were planted for a data revolution.

When the IACC was founded decades ago, it was guided by a vision of community: “To turn housing into a neighborhood, a building into a home, a group into a community,” said Hayim Tzipori, the first CEO of the
Association. Now, with an annual budget of one billion ILS, 190 community centers and 6000 employees, the Association is a central body for informal education.

“When I became CEO, we spent the first two years trying to get our heads above water – marketing, human resources. Everything was urgent.” Raz recounts. Once stable, we could think about our purpose. Raz came to Maoz’s Meitzim Accelerator with the following questions: “How can I know if the activities I am doing are most effective for actualizing the vision for
community? And how do I know if we’ve succeeded in implementing the vision? We first wanted to verify that everyone knows what we’re talking about when we say community,” explains Raz. Thus, they began to develop
the index for measuring a sense of community.

“We decided to put systematic work into data collection about activities and trends – rather than the individual participant. The participation data on 1.5 million people has a lot of information. With this information, we can direct our activities to advance our goal.”

Currently, the Association is updating the technology system in which data is entered. The goal is to create a national database that will make it possible to understand detailed data and broad trends.

The big challenge facing the organization is a cultural change. Employees are learning to make decisions based on data in a way that upgrades the
main tools they currently use: intuition, experience and gut feelings.
Raz is convinced that the change will improve services for residents. “If there is an excellent Community Center in Yeruham that isn’t providing
a successful solution for 9th graders, but in another town, there is an excellent program – the people in Yeruham can learn from them.”

The database will also, for the first time, provide a national snapshot regarding informal education. “In 3-4 years, I want to wake up and see that the IACC is an entity that works based on objectives. Intuition is important in educational work, but we must base decisions on knowledge. And most importantly, the data will also serve all other social organizations and those
who set policy. We’re going to stop working blind.”