Ramat Gan’s Sustainability Training Program Ends, Marking A New Beginning for Sustainable Practices

By Ran Raviv, Heschel Staff

Do city clerks and managers need to be able to dream?

Do directors of the various municipal departments even know what it means to dream?

It seems that at least these two questions were answered in the affirmative in the Ramat Gan Municipality managers training program, that the Heschel Center ran in partnership with the Hiriya Educational Center, beginning back in September of 2017 and finishing last month. The training, which took place as part of the larger “The City Goes Sustainable” program, spearheaded by the Ramat Gan Department of the Environment, set for itself the ambitious goal of creating a cadre of municipal leaders, directors of all of the municipal departments, who will lead inter-departmental work that will make Ramat Gan a sustainable city.

The representatives who participated in the course were chosen from the different units of city government, on the basis of their personal commitment to the issues, and their willingness to go beyonds the limitations of their job descriptions, and regardless of prior knowledge or experience in the field.

The vision and the determination of Yael Kaplan, the director of the Department of the Environment, enlisted strong backing from the municipality, necessary to free up the workers for the 12 full days of the training program. These were dedicated to the task of learning the issues, but no less importantly, to creating a group that speaks a common language, and who can work together to promote complex initiatives involving the different departments of the city.

The festive conclusion, which took place on the 24th of April, attended by Ramat Gan Mayor Israel Zinger, Doron Sapir (chair of the Towns Association), the city’s COO Moshe Bodaga, and all the departmental directors, as well as colleagues from other municipalities, was fascinating.

It demonstrated in a way that was clear to all the long journey of growth and learning that the participants undertook since beginning the course in September.

When they presented their initiatives for promoting sustainability, each of which is based on close inter-departmental collaboration, and depend upon transforming the organizational culture of the municipality, the courage to dream was palpable, as well as the ability to communicate those dreams, and the visions that were derived from them, together with their translation into a series of moves to incorporate the approach into Ramat Gan’s work plan for 2019.

When one understands the enormity of the challenges that are faced by local city governments in Israel, the answer to the questions with which we opened become clear: without dreams and visions and creative solutions, we simply will not be able to create cities in Israel that will be good places to live.

Are the department directors in city halls nationwide up to the challenge of dreaming, and making those dreams come true? I believe so. And so far, experience has proven me right…

The entire project has been the fruit of the cooperative effort of the Department of the Environment, which subsequently changed its name and is now the Department of Sustainability and the Environment, and alongside Yael Kaplan, who led the initiative, was Racheli Groschko Krochmal, who enabled all the efforts to come to fruition. All the consulting and mentoring of individual projects and their implementation was provided by Aviad Sar Shalom, and the training process itself was facilitated by Iggy Arm of the Hiriya Education Center, and myself, Ran Raviv, of the Heschel Center.