A father from Migdal Haemek was on the verge of despair. His five children suffered frostbite from leaks in their apartment. His wife couldn’t go out
because of a debilitating, untreated toothache. “I don’t believe it’s possible to make a change,” he said.
Dganit Biderman, CEO of Lehetiv, had decades of experience in the municipal education administration and a PhD in local government systems. From personal experience, she knew that poverty wasn’t an
unchangeable fate. She understood – and decided to address -this father’s despair.
The family needed to believe in transformation. They received a case manager and personal coach who accompanied them to various institutions. They weren’t alone going from Social Security to Amidar (pubic
housing), from the Employment Bureau to the Social Services Department. The children received tutors, the wife received dental treatment. The parents learned to trust that they could escape poverty permanently.
After three years, the data in Migdal Haemek spoke for itself: 88% of families stopped receiving government assistance, 97% joined the workforce. Dganit believed the model was economically viable: working with each family costs 70,000 ILS and saves the state 400,000 ILS.
When Dganit joined MAOZ’s Meitzim Accelerators, she identified another key player: local government. The municipality provides discounts on property taxes, the social services department provides social workers, but
each department keeps its own database. Mayors don’t have answers to simple questions: They don’t know the number of poor people in the city, what they need to escape poverty and the cost.
Dganit started with a pilot in Migdal Haemek and Yokneam. In Migdal Haemek a partnership was built to turn back the clock on poverty. “It took a lot of courage. It’s hard for local authorities to say: ‘We have poverty and
we’re addressing it.’ It’s easier image-wise to say, ‘I’m increasing the rate of military enlistment or matriculation.’”
The pilot set objectives and a course for service, starting with some innovative models. They established a poverty “war room” to monitor and synchronize the activity of all departments. Dganit is also developing a technological tool, a dashboard that will allow officials to communicate
and get a real time status updates. Thus, if the mayor knows of 50 unemployed women, he can turn to Ikea, for example, and say, “I have workers for you.”
“In the past year, we established an international laboratory for researching poverty – in which we are developing the dashboard and creating modular solutions. Some families need the full accompaniment
package, others only need specific interventions. Some cities only need the dashboard, others also need trainings.
Dganit joined Meitzim Accelerators to create a precise strategy for expansion and fundraising. These solutions cost a lot, but, thankfully, some believe they are also worth the money: Social Finance Israel issued
social impact bonds, the first in the world to a povertyfighting
philanthropic organization. “The investors decided that could make a profit on the savings created when government assistance is no longer needed,” she explains.
And her victories? “There’s a young woman who dreamed of getting a degree and wasn’t accepted to any academic institution. It became clear that her achievements were tarnished because for 12 years she
couldn’t hear. We got her a hearing aid and mentored her. Today she’s a college student.”