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A Collective Breakthrough in Arab Employment

We know that Israel is one of the most diverse countries in the Middle East, but there is work to be done to address the low rate of Arab employment. Arab citizens comprise about 20% of the population, but only contribute 8% to the country’s GDP. At the same time, only 55% of Arab citizens with over 12 years of education participate in the workforce. Arab citizens who do achieve higher levels of education often do not work in their field, or face wage discrimination. Disparities in unemployment rates, fields of employment, and levels of income are detrimental to the economy and inhibit social cohesion between populations.

Our partner organization, Collective Impact: The Partnership for a Breakthrough in Arab Employment, was created to respond to these disparities and create a long-term, sustainable “breakthrough” in the existing patterns of discrimination. They aim to increase the employment rate and improve the quality of employment of the Arab population through inter-sectoral partnerships between employers, government, institutions in Arab society, and program sponsors. They also provide companies with resources to create internal changes to help Arab employees succeed and create a lasting culture of diversity in the workplace.

Collective Impact works with many of the largest companies in Israel, including sizable branches of international corporations. They believe that targeting the internal culture in these influential companies will help create institutional change across all sectors of the workforce.

Collective Impact has local roots in Boston. Founding partners, Yifat Ovadia and Dr. Sameer Kassem, are alumni of the Wexner Israel Fellowship Program at the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership. While studying in Boston in 2013, they sought to address the challenge of low Arab employment, and developed their idea into a successful NGO that today offers consulting, research, and training for 10 major companies in Israel.

Collective Impact is allowing Israel’s Arab citizens to fulfill their professional capabilities, while encouraging employers to initiate change in their organizational culture and remove the barriers that exacerbate inequality.

Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, commended their work last July, saying, “A year and a half ago, when the founders of Collective Impact exhibited its goals to me, I was skeptical. Today, I think we need to declare these goals openly and loudly. You have proven that they can be attained. You - the CEOs and teams that are here - are revolutionary! In 18 months you have achieved what you took upon yourselves. You have shown the way to achieve a breakthrough in Arab employment…. The employment market is the best measure of our ability to live together, and to be a bridge of hope for Israel, and the Middle East.”

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