The Negev Leadership Initiative

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Among the goals of HBS Israel is to help create new opportunities for public participation and integration of marginalized communities and to build socio-political agendas comprised of diverse groups in society. In 2009, one such project focuses on civil society in the Negev, Israel’s southern region. With only 600,000 residents (10% of Israel’s overall population), the Negev comprises nearly 50% of its landmass. The land itself is arid and infertile. The region's diverse populations remain fragmented and impoverished and a great majority of those who settled in the Negev did not do so by choice. Thus, the Negev is characterized as ‘the periphery’ in every facet of the word-suffering from neglect, budget shortfalls and poor public infrastructure.

Strong local NGOs aimed at social change remain few and far between and those that are active cannot advance the complex range of needs in the Negev without collaborating with other forces. The vast majority of community organizations in the Negev that do exist focus on providing direct services. As a result, the diverse communities and groups in the Negev are very much isolated from one another and from the country on the whole. As with so many other scenarios, it is those who live, work and go through their daily lives in the Negev who truly understand its needs as well as have the faith and support from the community to ensure success. 

The goal of SHATIL’s Negev Leadership Initiative is to enhance and create equal opportunities and foster active citizenship across the Negev to help revitalize the region and cultivate a vibrant civil, cultural and economic society in the Negev.  By creating a cohesive group of leaders from civil, academic and government sectors, the program will create a platform to encourage new discourse and action to establish a collective vision for the Negev. The hope is that cross-sector collaborations and partnerships will be developed that will strengthen strategies for social change.

SHATIL’s Negev Leadership initiative is an integral building block in our quest to increase participatory democracy in the area by providing local residents with the skills they require to organize and become part of the decision making process.  The program will provide a framework to develop leadership and managerial tools and skills in order to empower the Negev’s residents in their effort to bridge the gap with the rest of the country.