On October 3, 2013, the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev (MCLN) hosted a gathering of the “Influential in the Negev” forum, which brings together prominent activists in the Negev, including non-profit directors, businessmen, local authority heads, industrialists, key third-sector figures, and social leaders from all spheres. As part of the program, a panel took place on “Gaps in Influence in the Negev” – referring to the disparity between the desire and the ability to influence decision makers in Israel. The panel consisted of Rina Matzliach, Channel 2 political correspondent; Tzvika Alush, owner of a media consultancy firm; Shmulik David, a consultant on policy change at SHATIL; and former Knesset members Taleb a-Sana and Haim Oron.
Following the panel discussion, three new Negev-related social projects were presented: Negev Jobs, a classified ads site for Negev businesses and residents; a venture founded by Bedouin high-tech entrepreneur Ibrahim Sana to outsource software testing to Bedouin in the Negev with the aim of helping them integrate into Israeli’s high-tech market; and a social construction initiative that entails setting up construction non-profits in conjunction with contractors, entrepreneurs, and local authorities to create affordable housing options for Negev residents.
The “Influential in the Negev” forum, whose roughly 90 members meet once every two months, was established to generate a dialogue that reflects the complex, unique, diverse voice of the Negev. At the gatherings, forum members discuss a range of topics relevant to the Negev, participate in field trips, and get to know the Negev in all its shapes and colors: visually, on foot, and through discourse. In addition, the forum promotes projects suggested by its members by networking between interested parties, offering support at various stages of the project, and providing a set of organizational tools tailored to the needs of entrepreneurs and their initiatives. The five core organizations of the forum are: SHATIL (The New Israel Fund Initiative for Social Change); MIFAM (centers for organizational training and development in local authorities); AJEEC-Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development; the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev; and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.