Tevel b’Tzedek (“Tevel”) is an Israeli NGO that develops and supports Israeli and Jewish leaders passionately engaged in tikkun olam—repairing the world. Tevel offers three immersive volunteer programs, ranging from one month to one year, where individuals from Israel and Jewish communities worldwide work with impoverished communities in Nepal, Haiti, Burundi and Israel to enhance the livelihood, capacity and wellbeing of their inhabitants.
Since its founding in 2007, Tevel’s work has had a significant impact—the organization has dispatched almost 700 volunteers to 13 communities across four countries. Not only have the volunteers brought about meaningful change in these communities, but the immersive service experiences have inspired Tevel participants to become Jewish leaders committed to social and environmental activism.
Despite the profound impact Tevel’s immersive volunteer programs have had on both volunteers and the communities they served, Founder and Director Rabbi Micha Odenheimer believed more could be done by sharpening their focus on Tevel’s alumni. In 2012, Rabbi Odenheimer determined that Tevel needed to design an engagement strategy for its alumni following their service trips and that Tevel would focus the bulk of its efforts on Israeli alumni.
In 2013, Tevel took its first major step toward its alumni goals by hiring Aviad Houminer, a former Tevel volunteer in Nepal, to serve as Tevel’s part-time Alumni Coordinator. Aviad’s first course of action was to meet with as many Tevel alumni as possible to better understand the alumni activities that had previously taken place and to hear suggestions for future programming.
After assessing the major challenges, Aviad developed a four-part strategy for Tevel’s alumni community—a strategy that he believed would deepen Tevel’s roots in Israeli society, while also attracting a significant number of alumni to continue their participation. Moreover, the strategy offered different levels of involvement to allow alumni to participate to the degree that best met their availability and interest. The strategy included the four core areas below:
- Educational Enrichment: Sharpen and better define ongoing intellectual enrichment opportunities for Tevel alumni in Israel.
- Educational Activism: Train Tevel alumni to share their social values with other young Israelis to spread the Tevel vision and boost alumni’s confidence as leaders.
- Fair Trade Activism: Establish Tevel as the official representative of fair trade in Israel—a cause many Tevel alumni care deeply about—to empower alumni to promote sustainability and help producers in developing countries improve trading conditions.
- New Initiatives: Support alumni in launching their own initiatives.
One year after Aviad began his alumni programming overhaul, he assessed the organization’s performance and determined that Tevel had made a great deal of progress. In one year, Tevel had successfully:
- Piloted multiple programs to test and analyze alumni engagement;
- Prepared alumni to be educators on issues related to Judaism and the environment through an instructive course;
- Launched several educational enrichment programs;
- Developed a social entrepreneurship course;
- Initiated activism work in Israel on the issue of fair trade; and
- Reached participation of over 50 alumni throughout the various programs, the majority of whom logged many hours of involvement.
After reviewing the past year’s work, Aviad determined that the most successful program had been the training course that prepared alumni to educate others, while the least effective segment had been the fair trade activism program. He realized that the key obstacles were time constraints—at this stage in their lives, Tevel alumni are busy with studying, working and leading social lives, and many are already involved in volunteering and social action projects in their universities or home towns.
As a result, Tevel subsequently placed more emphasis on alumni-initiated programs. Rather than overwhelm them with additional obligations, Tevel could empower alumni by supporting the projects they are already involved in and passionate about, thereby creating more buy-in and commitment.
Note: Case study reflects data through May 2014.
Tevel adjusted its alumni programming based on its initial findings, and as of November 2014, it had achieved great results across three key platforms:
- Tevel Social Innovation Accelerator: In partnership with PresenTense, Tevel created a widely used platform that supports its alumni in developing social action initiatives in Israel that further Tevel’s organizational goals. Participating alumni completed a training program with PresenTense and have launched four successful initiatives since the program's inception.
- Educational Curriculum and Content Development for the Israeli Public: The Tevel Alumni Program and The Society for International Development-Israel initiated a joint program to educate Israeli teenagers about the challenges facing the developing world and to inspire them to become involved with international development activity.
- Tevel and SID staff worked together to develop a three-session curriculum which was presented to the Israeli Ministry of Education and approved for implementation in high schools, pre-military programs and youth movements.
- After receiving approval from the Ministry of Education, a curriculum training program was conducted in October 2014 for 10 Tevel alumni.
- Participants in the training session are now certified to teach the program curriculum, which has already been marketed to potential audiences. The program has been implemented in five pre-military academies and schools including: Mechinat Amichai, Gymnasia Herzeliya and the Jerusalem Scouts.
- Through the program, Tevel hopes to expose at least 1,000 young Israelis to the world of international development and global social justice.
- Alumni Activism Program: This program engages Tevel alumni in volunteer projects that advance social causes in Israel.
- Ongoing Projects:
- Jerusalem Gatekeepers Project: This program, which has been open to Tevel alumni for the last three years, advocates for and creates awareness of employment rights for security personnel employed by HR companies at schools and other institutions. This project has evolved and seen great success: not only has media coverage of the project increased, but the project recently provided information to the Ministry of Industry and Trade that resulted in new “indirect” employment legislation. This year, 15 students were trained as volunteers in the program, including three Tevel alumni.
- Fair trade initiative: Because the challenges of implementing such a wide-scale program in Israel without cooperation from key corporations have been significant, Tevel decided to shift its focus to responsible consumerism. Tevel is participating in an initiative to create a public database that evaluates companies in Israel on a variety of social criteria including: pollution levels, employee rights and benefits, “family-friendliness” and utilization of fair-trade sources of production staples. WIZO Israel, Ma’agalei Tzede, TAU, She Codes, the Public Information Workshop and several other organizations are also participating in the initiative.
- New Initiatives:
- “A tree in the city” Jerusalem Urban Agriculture Initiative: This initiative brings urban agriculture to Jerusalem to improve the city landscape and decrease the carbon footprint that results from importing produce from other areas of the country. This program provides Tevel alumni with scholarships that fund efforts to advance the initiative and recruit partner organizations to help implement specific projects throughout the city.
- Ongoing Projects:
Through its three-pronged strategy of engaging with its alumni, piloting engagement programs and pivoting its programming based on the preliminary performance of new initiatives, Tevel has cultivated a robust array of effective alumni activities. The organization is continuing to develop innovative ways to engage its alumni, with plans to launch a Tevel Alumni giving circle in the near future.
To learn more about Tevel b’tzedek’s work, please visit their website at www.tevelbtzedek.org.
The strength of Tevel’s alumni community and the dedication of its members were demonstrated by alumni’s remarkable response to the earthquake in Nepal in April 2015.
Following the earthquake, hundreds of Tevel alumni contacted the organization’s headquarters and Nepal offices to inquire about the fate of the individuals with whom they had worked and to find ways to help.
In response to the tragedy, and to support Tevel's relief work, more than 100 alumni took part in:
- Fundraising Events:
- Tevel alumni organized eight different fundraising events, including three concerts, three parties, a film screening and a photo exhibit. The events attracted over 1,350 participants and raised over 4,350 shekels.
- Tevel alumni created and promoted an online fundraising campaign that raised 70,000 shekels.
- 10 alumni returned to Nepal to volunteer upon hearing news of the earthquake; and
- 20 alumni volunteered at Tevel’s headquarters in Israel, helping with different aspects of the organization’s work in the aftermath of the earthquake.
- Many Tevel alumni were interviewed on television, radio and in print publications following the earthquake.
The response of the Tevel alumni showcased their deep emotional connection to Nepal and their commitment to the organization.