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Social policy change program of Social Work, Tel Hai College


Founder and Academic Head of Policy Practice Track: Dr. Ayala Cohen
Head of Policy Practice Track: Ms. Roni Heinbach
Program Coordinator: Hila Kedem

It's time to stop plugging leaks – and high time to build enduring social structures

Social workers are society's Dutch boy with their finger plugging our leaking social dyke. Except, they are no longer expected to simply plug the leak until the adults arrive to fix it. They are the adults, and are expected to act on a policy level, as well as in the field, building stronger, more enduring social structures – while the dyke is leaking. Unfortunately, the undergraduate level training programs for social workers simply do not include the tools and know-how needed to influence decision-makers at the national and local levels, which is what is required for this kind of social work.

The knowledge imparted to undergrads is rather oriented towards professionals who man the trenches, handling personal and family social fields – teaching them how to plug society's leaking dyke, not how to design, build and maintain stronger structures.
The Social Policy Change Program is designed to bridge the gap between the need for social workers to promote social change, and the absence of training and subsequent non-involvement of students and social workers in changing social policy.

Who is this program intended for?

The target population for our program around 20 B.A social work students, interested and committed to engagement in meaningful social change. Each applicant will undergo a personal interview to ensure they are ideally suited for the program and that the program is ideally suited to them.
What exactly does the program set out to do?
What the program aims to do is enhance the ability and knowledge of participants regarding social engagement and the practice of policy.
First, and most importantly, the program is designed to foster the commitment to social justice that is necessary to persevere in the face of confusion and adversity – and there will be plenty of both in the path ahead to a better future. You will need all the willpower, self-confidence, and self-efficacy we can give you- or rather, help you discover within yourself. Beyond this all-important goal, the program also sets out to expand your knowledge of social policy and your understanding of the close connection between the social work profession and social policy.

Finally, you will be provided with the critical thinking toolkit required to perform social policy analysis, as well as policy practice skills – tools to intervene and shape the development of social policies. This includes a lobbying workshop, social activism training, a Shared Decision Making workshop, participation in the ESPAnet Israel Social Policy Conference, and participation in relevant Knesset committees. We aim at training a generation of informed and capable social activists prepared to bring a full toolkit to the social policy shaping arena. However, theory and workshops will only take you so far.

Theory and practice

Accordingly, in addition to undergoing a comprehensive theoretical background throughout your studies, you will also gain Hands-on experience.
Starting in the second year of the program, you will have a chance to participate in the Social Forum where you will put your critical thinking skills into practice. However, even in your first semester, you will simulate analyzing specific areas of social policy. During the second semester you will put these skills into practice, in groups of 4-5 students accompanied by professionals from the field. In the third year, you will begin to experiment with implemented policy change interventions in social issues of your choice, informed by issues brought to us by community organizations. That means working hand in hand with communities throughout the Galilee Panhandle and beyond – exactly the social engagement and community outreach Tel Hai College is all about.

Some previous student led interventions include:

• Kiryat Shmona District Courthouse - identifying problems effecting people's ability to receive legal services and intervening in order to establish a post office on the premises.

• Making Change- Promoting national legislation to reimburse social work student for travel expenses during their fieldwork, as well as establishing a branch of 'OSIM SHINUY' social work student association in the northern region of Israel.
• Promoting a continued assistance framework for adults with special needs who attended the "Shahafim" special education school, some from Druze communities in the Golan Heights, by creating a coalition of local council men and assisting a parent committee to recruit politicians for the cause.
• Ensuring enforcement of labor laws by collecting data on employers who do not respect worker's rights ( an internet survey was conducted and online complaint forms filled out), contacting the Enforcement Commissioner in the Ministry of Economy, researching legal material regarding enforcement standards and more.
• Assisting in promoting an agenda for dealing with sexual harassment in a local hospital and dealing with this phenomenon.
• Promoting the establishment of a Radiation Institute at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed and assessing the subject of resource MATCHING and its consequences for local authorities, aiming to change the present allocation method that violates social equality and justice.
• Encouraging Hebrew acquisition by Ethiopian immigrants.
• Raising parental awareness regarding school age kid's nutritional needs.
• Modification of the welfare system resource allocation in small municipalities.
• Setting a policy regarding Palestinian children begging at road crossings in the northern district.
• Handling renting policy of apartments to students in the area.
• Enhancing the accessibility of the government Ombudsman's service in Kiryat Shmona to residents and professionals.

Taking pride – and taking stock

Taking pride – and taking stock

In addition to these impressive projects, we take pride in the achievements our students have racked up in the ten years since the program was established. They include a first place in a national research paper competition in the field of homophobia and transphobia, organizing a conference on standardization at Tel Aviv University, establishing a framework for young adults with special needs from the Druze villages in the Golan heights, and the acceptance into the government cadent program of two of our graduates.

In the upcoming years, we intend to expand our theoretical framework, open up a new course on media as a social change tool, and quantify the benefits of various aspects of our program for the graduates, so that we know where to focus our efforts.
In addition, we will be expanding our academic and social collaboration network, establish a regional social incubator, and establish an online presence. The future awaits those who dare to shape it – and Tel Hai does was never characterized by students who balk at the challenge.

Quotes from letters by our alumni:

"I decided that the situation could not continue as usual at the expense of applicants who are not aware of their rights so I recruited my boss, district director and other social workers.
In the end, after we made such a clamor, the CEO realized that he had no way of evading the issue; he decided to change the situation. Yesterday he informed us the applicants would be given what they deserved by right.
During the entire process, I thought about you and wanted to thank you for the tools I received. What I learned is helping me deal with the situation at hand, not to give up and to obtain my desired result :) Thanks! "

"I think I see a lot of things in a broader view than other social workers in the NGO where I work, and I am sure and certain that the program had a significant part in determining my professional path and the way I choose to do my job."

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