January 8, 2019

The Strategic Power of the Partnership

Amir Shacham Associate Executive Vice President, Global Connections

The concept of partnership relations between Greater MetroWest NJ and communities overseas is difficult to explain and hard to measure. What often confuses people is the fact that in partnership relations we are not talking only about specific, framed, isolated projects and their evaluation. We are also looking at other impact parameters like:

  • ripple effects on other related projects
  • accumulating impact over time
  • wider communal influence
  • people-to-people relationships
  • personal identity building of global community members
  • outcomes on both sides of the ocean

These are all strategic goals of the partnership relationships but, so far, we have not been able to capture, measure, and market them other than through anecdotal stories and gut feelings.

So here are some more stories and feelings:

In this photo, Osi Lankri is hosting two Ofakim natives in her well-known kitchen for her famous kuskus dish. On the left is Aviad, Arik Herman, a leading international designer. On the right is Eyal Assulin, a renowned international artist. Read the below article about his work. Both grew up in the neglected, peripheral Negev development town of Ofakim. Both were able to build successful worldwide careers. There are among many others from all walks of life who have done the same, including Osi. She has built her flourishing home catering business out of nothing. The second photo shows emerging leader Tal Magera. Born and raised in Ofakim, he is finishing his master’s degree in public administration and was recently elected to become the youngest city council member.

We need to ask ourselves how much our partnership (P2G GMW-Ofakim Merchavim) has influenced the success stories of these individuals and many of their peers. The answer is somewhat upsetting: We will never empirically know.

However, this is what we can guess and assume:

When Eyal was a teenager, his exposure to leading artists and art students at the newly built Klinghoffer Igloo art station helped him develop his artistic skills and identity. We can assume that the seeds of his decision to become the first Ofakim’s Betzalel Art Academy graduate and lecturer were planted there at the Igloo. We can guess that the projects that he was involved with after graduation helped him decide to base his studio and grow his family in his hometown of Ofakim. Our Federation and partners, through our P2G relations, were there with Eyal on every step of the way, in the last 20 years. It was not one project but an accumulation of many formal and informal interventions, accompanied by the personal relations.

We can guess that when Osi joined the first women’s empowerment project of P2G, some 15 years ago, she didn’t imagine that her home and her cooking would become a magnet for hundreds of people every week. We can assume that the seeds for this unique business were planted when she conducted workshops and fed thousands in Greater MetroWest. But we will never know for sure… would her success have happened without the Greater MetroWest relationship?

We can assume that Tal Magera polished his natural leadership skills while serving as a rishon in Greater MetroWest. We can guess that his success in raising funds for the Israel Scouts branch in New Jersey and his participation in the P2G steering committee as an IDF officer planted the seeds for future leadership roles. We want to think that his experiences with our Federation partnership has something to do with his career, but we simply can’t prove it.

How do we combine our goal to measure and evaluate each project we fund with the complex and perhaps vague concept of partnership? I suggest that we do everything we can to integrate success equations into everything we do, from the get-go. We have to be strategic, planful, and thoughtful. At the same time, we should market the “partnership relationship” as a strategy in and of itself. Let’s take pride and celebrate every achievement of our partners. The fact that these communities are in such close, long, and ongoing relations with us makes them part and parcel of our extended family, unrelated to any specific project and any particular program that we helped fund over the years.