Generating a Socio-Economic Leapfrog

Yesterday, The Reut Institute organized the First ISRAEL 15 Vision Conference and I had the privilege of attending.

Inspired by the Clinton Global Initiative, and bringing together leading figures from different sectors of Israeli society, the focus was on how to turn Israel into one of the leading 15 countries in the world in terms of quality of life.

The necessary discussion: to understand what is needed to move from socio-economic growth to leapfrogging and the type of leadership required to initiate it.

Multiple sectors, including mayors, senior civil servants, businessmen, non-profits and social entrepreneurs, philanthropists from Israel and abroad and representatives of Diaspora Jewry, were brought together to harness support.

The vision requires a leapfrog: a process that takes places as a result of a combination of Government ‘Top Down’ policies and the launching of ‘Bottom Up’ processes. This happens when a nation sustains out-of-the-ordinary growth for a prolonged period. Current examples include China and India and countries such as Ireland, Finland, Singapore and even Israel, over the course of the past few decades.

As to our world of philanthropy, we can play a critical role in furthering the Vision by promoting better management and higher productivity in our sector.

And diaspora Jewish philanthropy, in particular, is in an excellent position to influence both local municipalities and the nonprofit community.

The significance of this point extends beyond ‘bigger bang for the philanthropic buck’. About 85% of Israel’s labor force is in low-tech, a sector which suffers from low productivity compared to developed countries. As productivity is highly correlated with income, its rise is critical for Israel’s wellbeing.

Philanthropists are also in position to funnel more funds to nonprofits and social entrepreneurs that are dedicated to promoting growth and development and to improving the quality of life of all Israelis.

The Conference concluded with a keynote address by New York Times correspondent, Thomas Friedman. Best known these days for his insightful book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, a ground-breaking work on the confluence of globalization, outsourcing and technology, Friedman both informed and educated the participants with his theories, insights into a book-in-process and diplomatically abstained from answering questions on the U.S. Presidential contest.

To read more about the role of philanthropy and interaction with the Vision, check out Jewish Philanthropy in Israel in our Symposia section; a series by the Reut Institute founder, Gidi Grinstein. Post 8 specifically speaks to the The Israel 15 Agenda as a Possible Framework.

updated June 8: Thomas Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times is pretty much verbatim some of the comments he made during his address.