Creating a Learning Community from North to South: The Senior Staff Forum on Social Welfare Policy
Using technology for the purpose of furthering education has always been a priority of the Mandel Leadership Institute. One of the largest spaces in the Institute is devoted to a Computer Resources Centre, and sophisticated technology is used for conference calls, multi media presentations and internet and intranet site development. Several years ago, a Mandel fellow was confined to hospital, and the Mandel Institute facilitated a real-time video link up in order to enable her to continue her studies.
Recently, Mandel’s technological facilities have been used on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services to enable social policy experts and social services professionals from Beer Sheva to Haifa to debate and discuss critical issues in social welfare, without traveling across the country to do so.
The Senior Staff Forum, which examines and discusses aspects of the social welfare policy of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services, was founded in 2004 at the initiative of Ministry director general Prof. Dov Goldberger as an educational forum for senior Ministry officials. It includes some 80 officials with the rank of national inspector or above, as well as the directors of Ministry services and departments.
In the two and a half years since its inception, the Senior Staff Forum has met 16 times, with the participation of personnel from the Mandel Leadership Institute’s Senior Civil Service Program. As of May 2007 The Mandel Leadership Institute has been hosting the Senior Staff Forum.
The 15th meeting of this kind, which focused on “specialization and general practice in social work,” was broadcast live on the website of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs for the first time since the forum’s inception. Viewers were encouraged to ask the speakers questions and make comments by telephone or email during the broadcast.
The live broadcast was part of The Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services attempt to expand the discussion on the Forum’s topics of interest. They sought to provide an opportunity for discourse among a large number of social-services personnel and social workers, to allow those who could not attend the forum in person actively participate nonetheless, and thus to disseminate as widely as possible the knowledge and topics that arose from the discussions.
Indeed, the live broadcast of the Forum prompted groups of social workers to sit together to view the proceedings and to take an active role in solving the issues that arose. The Internet broadcasts are perceived as an opportunity to narrow the conceptual gaps between practitioners and Ministry officials. The existence of a community of social workers engaged in a constant discourse with policymakers and professionals in the Ministry can enhance the understanding of social problems and help the Ministry set more effective policy.
The 15th Senior Staff Forum may be viewed here (Hebrew)