Volunteering in Israel

OD in All Volunteer Organizations: The Case of Hadassah Israel

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(Abstract from a Lecture in the 1998 World Conference for Organizational Development, Nairobi, Kenya).

Volunteer organizations throughout the world face the need to become more professionalized in order to survive and to better fulfill their goals which usually are:

In many cases becoming more professionalized mean more employed staff including in managerial positions - a change that might raise philosophical issues in an all volunteer's organization.  A tension is introduced whereby some employees are contractually tied to the organization being required to carry out certain duties whilst other voluntary members are there by free will and cannot be ordered around in the same manner and can leave without obligation.

In this presentation a window is opened to the inside of an OD process carried out in Hadassah Israel. This presentation will then be a basis for discussion about OD in all volunteer organizations.

Hadassah-Israel (H-I) is a womens, Zionist, volunteer organization connected to Hadassah International and the Hadassah Womens Zionist Organization of America. Areas of special interest, awareness, involvement and activity are: health promotion, Immigrants Absorption, education, the status of women, environmental issues and the quality of life.  H-I support Hadassahs projects and institutions in Israel (Hospitals, Medical and Nursing schools, Colleges, Youth Villages, Research Institutions). 

The stages of the wave of professionalization prior to the introduction of the OD consultant were:


1.  Courses and workshop designed mostly to develop the volunteers and the leadership (existing and prospected).

2.  Courses and workshop designed to improve aspects such as PR, Fund raising etc. 

The  OD process

The OD process included diagnosis followed by  the development of a  strategic plan called Hadassah 2002 that included improvement on 3 levels. All three levels were supported by extensive training and development activities:


Organizational level:

 Development of a mission statement and a strategic program.
 Installation of a steering committee and sub committees.
 Improving basic organizational processes such as decision making and time management.
 Improving the organizational structure mostly through empowering the vice presidents and creating a management forum and through better job descriptions.
 Introducing a PR consultant.
 Employing an organizational  manager.

Chapter level

 Introducing a mentoring program for new and existing chapters - coached mostly by the chapter presidents.
 Improving information flow  between chapters and head office.

Members Level (volunteers)
 Training and workshops (perceived as an internal motivator).
 Improved coverage for personal expenses connected with volunteerwork.

The  plan was developed with the intention of  making the volunteers more professional (to develop in-house skills, reducing the need to buy-in external expertise).

Example of Intervention: Inter - cultural Relationship

One of the big issues in Hadassah Israel is that there are two different internal cultures (English speakers - mostly ex-American Jewish  women that came to live in Israel; and Hebrew speakers).  Each group has its own chapter and their activities are different. This division  was treated as a Pandora Box - better not to be touched.

Stage 1

In the first stage, a letter was send to all the membership. The aim of the letter was to open the Pandora's Box in a challenging, but safe way in order to encourage members from the two different cultures within Hadassah to value the contribution of each other. The message in the letter  was that the contributions were different but all equally valuable.

Stage 2

A workshop was built using the 7 Forms of Interaction Model. The aim of this workshop was to learn to appreciate the differences between the two cultures and the strength that combining forces could bring to the organization. In each workshop, a more or less even number of Hebrew and English speakers participated. The workshops were carried out in both Hebrew and English, and included the following parts:

1.  A play describing a joint project carried out by an English and a Hebrew speaking chapters. The play was acted by two volunteers, one from each culture.

2.  Working separately (English - Hebrew) with two facilitator On issues such as: strengths and weaknesses of my group/ the other group, projects I want to volunteer for etc.

3.   Working together on the same issues.

Stage 3

The workshops were a big success on the emotional level. On the practical level (working together) some more work had to be carried out to put systems in place, e.g. mentoring chapter presidents and  facilitating actual common projects.

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