Having returned to Israel, I finally have some time to reflect on my experience as a participant on the IVLP program in the United States.
While the program focused on “Promoting Human Rights,” and my blogs have emphasized the professional component and various meetings that took place during the trip, the journey was much more. In addition to these meetings, we were truly exposed to the “American way of life” – through dinners at the homes of Salt Lake City locals, to a baseball game in Washington, D.C, and a half-day at Disney World in Orlando.
I have noted a number of themes that seem to me to be present in the world of human rights organizations in the United States. Most of the NGOs we met with work in broad coalitions – including with other organizations, religious groups, and state actors. Many organizations, regardless if they are critical towards government activities, receive federal funding. It will be interesting to note whether this changes under the new administration (a concern expressed by many of the groups we met with). Finally, unlike in Israel, many of the human rights and civil rights organizations are more acutely able to recognize a problem and develop a plan in order to address it. The NGOs, therefore, appear to be run by a “business-model” rather than by a “political-model,” and do not operate with the same emotional fervor seen in Israel. The agenda is thus more about problem-solving than about “problem-maintaining.”
I have no doubt that my experience on IVLP provided me with new tools to maximize my work as part of Israeli civil society, such as how to frame arguments for diverse audiences and best practices in putting together a campaign.