Seven Years On
As we open Year 7 of Onward Israel, I am pleased to provide this short update. The first of our Winter 2017-8 programs begin in two weeks. Currently we are scheduled to include more than 320 participants, a growth of some 20% over last year’s winter cohort. We are proud of our continuing robust partnership with Hillel on our Latin America entrepreneurship leaning program, with Tav Tech on their coding and programming program and with Olami on their Jerusalem based internship/learning opportunities. We are also entering into our 6th season of the Onward Israel AUJS Academy program and continue to offer internship and professional development opportunities for students and young adults from the Former Soviet union. Finally, in partnership with Masa, we are once again providing an opportunity for young people from around the world to spend the winter in Tel Aviv to intervene in areas such as technology, start-ups and marketing.
You Need to Apply Yourself
The winter programs, in particular the Latin America Hillel program, will also feature the first ever use of the Onward Israel social media app. This app, designed over the last several months in partnership with Webbing Labs, was created for the dual purpose of alumni engagement and program management. Its purpose is to widen the communication between participants, foster the creation of networks and communities of interest and increase the transparency and availability of program information. We hope that through this approach we can improve on some of the issues of communication and information sharing that participants highlighted in their program reviews last year. Of equal importance is the use of the app for alumni engagement. Our new Mobile App Content Manager, Jessica Korsunsky, and a group of Onward alumni functioning as appbassadors (J) have begun to populate the app with relevant and interesting opportunities for alumni and are reaching out to expand the range of possibilities listed. I will continue to update about this exciting new development.
The Early Bird…
As some of you might recall, at last summer’s Connections event, we partnered with Share Some Friends to allow alumni to recommend Onward Israel to their friends. More than 10,000 referrals were registered- creating an amazing opportunity to help fuel our future growth. In the months that have passed since, more than 1100 people have pre-registered for 2018- asking to be directly informed when registration officially opened on November 15. More than 300 additional people have also been referred to us by our partners at Masa. Last Wednesday registration opened for nearly 50 of our 80 offerings this coming summer. On Day 1, 114 applications were received- and after four days of registration we now have more than 280 applications, considerably ahead of last year’s pace. We have a long way to go of course- and the hard work of our North American team and all of our local partners will be required until the end of registration in March- but we are encouraged by this beginning to Year 7! Our recruitment and marketing partnerships with Masa, Hillel, Olami, selected Birthright organizers and the Jewish Agency has already shown value in generating leads and we hope to build on this foundation in order to reach our goal of more than 5000 applicants for this summer’s programs.
Your Future is Always Ahead of You
While our efforts are firmly focused on the 2018 launch described above, we need also think of the future of Onward Israel beyond, from 2019 and Onwards J. Our challenges, in order to continue to make this opportunity available for growing numbers of young people, remain the same: building up capacity of housing and internships in Israel, expanding program frameworks, widening the number of applicants, and successfully raising the funds to sustain such growth. New ideas and strategies are beginning to percolate; on December 4 in Denver we will have a chance to consult with some key national players and funders regarding such approaches and to translate our objectives into concrete approaches for 2019. Stay tuned in future updates, and in our network partner meeting in April, for more details.
In the meantime, before Thanksgiving and then Hanukah- best holiday wishes to all.