Allison in Israel: Day 1

[Allison Fine is a social entrepreneur and writer dedicated to helping grassroots organizations and activists successfully implement social change efforts. She is the co-author, with Beth Kanter, of the bestselling book, The Networked Nonprofit. Allison spent the past week visiting Israel as a guest of the U.S. Embassy’s Office for Public Affairs. Here are her observations.]

by Allison Fine

Had a terrific first day talking to foundations and students here in Jerusalem. The day began with a presentation to foundation executives at the Avi Chai Foundation, a beautiful brand new building in downtown Jerusalem. This is a picture of the building from the outside.

Gorgeous, state-of-the-art on the inside, and, yes, ironically, a bit fortress-looking on the outside!

I also spoke to several grantees of the foundation and about 70 students at Hebrew University.

Here are just a few of the lessons I learned today:

  1. The foundation folks were very engaged during my presentation and our discussion. Not at all skeptical, even if they don’t appear to be fully engaged with social media as of yet. One fascinating development was that I raised the issue of the discomfort that a lot of non-digital natives have when the lines between public and private are blurred, and one Israeli woman said to me afterwards that there isn’t such a line for most Israelis. We’re all related, she said, we know everyone’s business already, there’s nothing to hide! I never expected that, in fact, I expected in a country so immersed in conversations about security that this issue would be of particular interest and concern. It was eye-opening for me to think about how contextually and culturally based, not just generationally based, the issue is.
  2. Twitter is not yet widely used in Israel. The feeling by some folks I talked to was that the site was late to have a Hebrew translation, so adoption has not yet gotten traction. My theory is that keeping Israelis to 140 characters to say anything is impossible!!
  3. I heard a great phrase today. Someone mentioned that there are people who inform on Twitter and there are others who “meform”. In other words, some are sharing info and others are just talking about themselves. I thought that was a brilliant way of putting it.
  4. The students at the university were absolutely fantastic. Engaged, idealistic, interested in working with NGOs either inside as staff people or outside as free agents. There questions are so smart and right on target, not about how to storm the fortress, but more about how to encourage organizations to open up. I was enormously impressed with them.

That’s it for Day 1 – it’s going to be hard to beat tomorrow!

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