Community and Residents
Community is the fabric of relationships that a person weaves in his life, and profoundly affects his sense of friendship (socialization), quality of life and the meaning he finds in it. Global processes that put the individual at the center, the effects of capitalism and erosion of traditional social structures have made life in the modern city alienated and lonely to a large extent. Cities that foster community activism and involve residents in ongoing municipal work gain more involved residents, whose satisfaction with the municipal service is higher, and their bond with the neighborhood and city in which they live is stronger.
In this document we endeavor to formulate the City of Haifa’s community vision, describe the existing situation and deduce from it the necessary actions within the resources at our disposal to narrow the gap. At its center is the municipality’s intention to cultivate direct ties with residents and between the residents themselves, and turn them into partners in urban processes. Those who are deeply familiar with the city’s unique qualities are those who have chosen to make it the center of their lives. With proper joint action, we can evaluate Haifa’s relative advantages and together turn it into a much better version of itself.
Community is the fabric of relationships that a person weaves in his life, and profoundly affects his sense of friendship (socialization), quality of life and the meaning he finds in it. Global processes that put the individual at the center, along with the erosion of traditional social structures (the extended and nuclear family, tribe, village), have led organizations and institutions around the world to recognize their necessity and invest resources in restructuring community frameworks or building new organizing frameworks – all the more so in the modern city where alienation is higher than in small communities.
Involving residents is the way local government invites them to play an active role in shaping the municipal service they receive. They can be involved from the planning stage to the decision-making and execution stages, subject to the scope of involvement that the authority allows and their own willingness. As with any service we receive in the digital age, residents have an interest in influencing the design of the service they receive in exchange for the payment they make to the authority (municipal rates, or arnona). Cities that foster community and involve residents in ongoing urban work gain more involved residents whose satisfaction is higher, and affinity with their neighborhood and city is stronger.
In this document we endeavor to formulate the City of Haifa’s community vision, describe the existing situation and deduce from it the necessary actions within the resources at our disposal to narrow the gap. Following years of neglect and low prioritization in the municipal system, the community sphere lags far behind. While this document or actually employing a community affairs consultant does not erase this gap, it is a necessary first step.
Cities in Israel and around the world are in constant competition for resources and residents, and for improving their satisfaction with their place of residence. The most attractive cities are those that succeed in fostering communities and local affinity, and adopt an organizational culture that sees the resident as a partner. In doing so, they invite the resident to serve as an agent of change in the city’s success, and s/he in turn becomes a force multiplier in the positive trends it undergoes. This document lays the foundations of such an organizational culture in the municipal system and throughout the City of Haifa.
A resident of Haifa will feel that the municipality and its branches in the neighbourhoods are an address for their needs and a home for fulfilling their wishes, and take an active part in shaping the reality close to their home. The Haifa Municipality will create a positive service experience, encourage its residents in the various neighbourhoods to forge direct relations between themselves, and exhaust opportunities to influence and adapt its services to the needs of the public in its various shades while fostering the city’s uniqueness.
Establishing a Community Division (Culture, Community, Sports and Sea Administration)
In the municipality:
Historically, the community domain has had a very low ranking in terms of manpower and resources. Until now, the community sphere has operated as a department only, affiliated with an administration whose main occupation was in the field of culture. So far, no clear procedures have been established for municipal support in terms of manpower or operating budgets for community centers, and the organizational structures located in the area are very different from each other. Various areas of activity, usually concentrated in the Community Division in sister municipalities, are dispersed in Haifa between various branches of the municipal system (education, welfare and more). Compared to other municipalities, the activity budgets allocated to the field are very limited in scope, and not regulated at all.
Although many properties are scattered throughout the city, their physical condition is poor, most do not have a professional perception of community organisation, and they serve mainly as spaces for holding group classes. Moreover, most centres do not operate within a clear hierarchical organisational framework, and their ongoing relationship with any municipal entity is not regulated.
In view of the under-regulation and poor professional level in the field, so far only a few significant public involvement and sharing processes have been conducted. These processes need a strong and stable community organisational infrastructure to produce a valuable outcome, otherwise they can be more harmful than beneficial.
Recently, the community sphere in the municipality was elevated to the status of a Division as part of the Administration undergoing a reorganisation process – the Culture, Community, Sports and Sea Administration, in its new name, which will oversee the fields of culture, community and society, sports and the sea. In this framework the division, led by Tali Goldstein, director of the Community Division, is undergoing far-reaching institutionalisation processes – setting standards and characteristics, allocating budgets, designing its organisational structure and charting the assets of the buildings and fields under its responsibility.
Organised community structures of residents, which once existed in most neighbourhoods of the city, have been eroded and some even dissipated. With the exception of a few neighbourhoods with defined statutory structures that maintain involvement or organised representations such as Neve Sha’anan, Kiryat Haim and partially also Hadar, in most cases there is no regulated and recognized community structure. The affinity and life framework that the Haifa neighbourhoods once gave their residents have also weakened in recent decades. In the new neighbourhoods (Ramat HaNasi, Ramat Peres) this issue is particularly valid in view of the lack of traditions or structures from previous organisers.
Constructing and professionally regulating the Community Division in terms of regulations and budgeting, formulating an organizational and professional perception, and a hierarchical structure as a condition for building a reasonable volume of community activity in the City of Haifa. Before a budgeted and regulated professional division is established in the municipal system, backed by the basis of community space and organizational structure, the potential for damage from cooperative processes is high and the ability to maintain any activity in the neighbourhoods is low. Therefore, this stage is a condition for any other activity that we will endeavour to initiate in the community field in Haifa.
Collaborative processes require a stable hold on community areas, capable of maintaining them from start to finish. In the absence of such a basis, political interests or foreign considerations are liable to take over these processes. Thus, instead of the residents’ participation being a significant issue that will build renewed trust in the system, the result may be increased friction, tendentious participation and disappointments for the residents involved. As part of the upcoming year of activity we will inaugurate the following collaborative activities:
- Implementing a cooperative budget in a single neighborhood as an integral action within the framework of a large-scale program (Bat Galim)
- Implementing basic concepts of involving residents in a broad multidisciplinary urban plan – the strategic plan for Hadar
- Enabling processes in the framework of the municipal system’s planned activity, such as establishing the center in the Neve Paz neighborhood
In view of the understanding that a variety of activities in the field are already conducted by various urban entities, we are striving to implement professional concepts of organization and community building, and apply them to the ongoing community work in the neighborhoods. In practice, these concepts should be instilled in the professional teams to improve how they are evaluated and supervised, so as to utilize the potential inherent in every activity to the fullest. Following are examples of professional concepts oriented towards community building and organization that have adopted urban programs conducted in various fields:
- Organizing business networks – A venture led by Urban Economic Development consultant Sebastian Wallerstein from Haifa 2030 that aims to consolidate small and medium-sized business communities in various commercial complexes throughout the city. The professional experience required for the project is community organization experience, and its ongoing connection to community elements is a necessity.
- In our neighborhood – A two-stage project led by the Service to the Resident Administration head Yossi Cohen. The first stage is dedicated to raising the level of operation in a specific neighborhood, and the second fosters house committees in favor of improving the appearance and maintenance of private and open spaces in the neighborhoods. In both stages, community elements on the ground must be connected in order to improve cooperation between the municipal system and the individual resident in the neighborhood.
- Sports activities in the neighborhoods – There are already many sports activities in the city and its neighborhoods, of a mainly community nature. They must be charted and the interface points between the Community Division and its branches identified, and connected to the community activities conducted in the field, adapt relevant community training and regulate methods of evaluating success. The leading factor is the Sports Division, but in terms of the community and connection to activity on the ground, it is assisted by the Community Division’s professional guidance.
- Community culture program in the neighborhoods – In light of the renewal of the Culture Department, the framework of cultural activity in the neighborhoods and the ongoing connection between the relevant departments should be characterized, so that the Culture Department can offer the accompaniment of professionals in the fields of culture and production, while the Community Division takes care of the connection to activity in the field and ongoing neighborhood life.
- A plan to redesign the public space – Recent examples are Khatib Street and the Sirkin complex. The specific community process, which is being conducted in every neighborhood, needs to be connected to tactical urbanization processes and the redesign of the public space planned in various neighbourhoods throughout the city, while ensuring that planning and execution support the needs on the ground as expressed by the intended users and that the ongoing conduct involves relevant elements in the community.
Various groups, geographically or disciplinary, are already active in the city, but their relationship with the municipal system is weak. Of these, those that can be a force multiplier must be located, that is, to enhance and strengthen the relative advantages of the city and grant them an urban shell. This can accelerate the process of clarifying the relative advantages of the city and provide high values for relatively low inputs. Following are groups that can be included in this project:
- Community gardens and the various urban nature communities active in the city
- Communities that have gathered around the worlds of sailing, surfing and sea
- Haifa conservation and history groups
- Networks organized around entrepreneurship and advanced technology
- Networks of businesses in the local tourism field – the city’s success is their success
Since the municipality’s organizational structure does not include hierarchical management of the neighborhoods, and there are no initiation or preservation activities, the municipal system is engaged in providing an ad hoc response to specific needs. In order for various activities – operations, service, society – to be maintained in neighborhoods over time, multidisciplinary coordination must be promoted in the municipal entities’ ongoing work. For this purpose, a regulated activity axis must be built for each neighborhood, coordinated by all parties that bring as wide a neighborhood perspective as possible to the municipal table. Only when such mechanisms become routine will it be possible to step up a level, towards a cohesive urban vision for each neighborhood in which all branches of the municipal system operate in the field.
In order that different geographical spaces realize their inherent community potential, a public space must be designed to enable this. Short-term physical change programs, such as the strategic plan for Hadar and various plans for redesigning the public space, are a springboard for community encouragement. In order to reach their potential in these spaces, opportunities must be found to involve residents in their implementation, promote perceptions of community encouragement within the physical planning of the various public spaces, and foster significant meeting arenas in the lives of residents.
Main planned activities
Establishing a Community Division (Culture, Community, Sports and Sea Administration)
- Drafting the division’s regulations and manning it.
- Creating a human resources and budget standard for the division’s headquarters and community centers.
- Building a training program for implementing community-building concepts with teams in field.
- Defining how to cooperate with the Israel Association of Community Centers, indicating urban geographical activity spaces and regulating a hierarchical organizational structure.
- Constructing an annual work plan and a multi-year plan for the continued growth of the community organizational infrastructure in Haifa.
Modeling the municipal system’s work with a neighborhood land lot (Community Division)
- Regulating cooperation with the Israel Association of Community Centers in terms of standards, regulated operating spaces and a common professional conception. Charting areas of the various lots and building the hierarchical structure of the organizational, professional and budgetary casing that the Community Division provides.
- Creating agreed-upon urban mapping to work with a neighborhood according to the Community Division’s field structure.
- Annual planning of the “In Our Neighborhood” project, relating to the urban activity schedule in the neighborhoods and building a procedure for applying the project in the neighborhood in its various stages.
- Creating a pilot program in the Kiryat Eliezer neighborhood to summon active community members to convene around one table, leading to a common vision for the neighborhood.
- Implementing comprehensive plans in two neighborhoods (Bat Galim as part of the 100-year plan, Hadar as part of the strategic plan).
Organizing sustainability communities (Community Division and relevant consultant)
Pilot program with urban nature communities (conducted by environment and sustainability consultant and the Director of the Community Division):
– Charting the existing communities.
– Charting the needs from municipal entities.
– Convening a meeting with the participation of all parties in order to build a service envelope and define the routine of the ongoing relationship.
Future examining of the model with other groups:
– Communities that gather around the worlds of sailing, surfing and the sea (Maritime and Sailing Consultant).
– Haifa conservation and history groups (Planning Consultant).
– Networks organized around entrepreneurship and advanced technology (Innovation Consultant).
– Business networks in the fields of local tourism (Business and Tourism Consultants).
Implementing the concept of community building among urban partners (bodies responsible for each process are listed in the relevant section)
Locating relevant existing programs in the municipal system and updating them with professional concepts of community building, in cooperation with the relevant leading element:
- Culture and sports in the neighborhoods (division directors) – building training programs in cooperation with the professionals in each of the divisions; creating scales for measurement and evaluation, in terms of community building, of the activity carried out in the neighborhoods.
- Establishing business networks (Haifa 2030 business promotion consultant and the Business Promotion and Licensing Department) – characterizing the way neighborhoods work and creating an interface between existing communities and local businesses. Accompanying the decision-making process and their implementation in the field.
- Examining the possibility of involving residents in planning processes for redesigning the urban space in the neighborhoods.
Integrating resident involvement processes in urban activities (Community Division)
- Charting the main processes expected in the framework of the strategic plan for renewing Hadar, and characterizing actions to involve residents at all relevant intersections, in light of the scale of public participation.
- Planning a collaborative budget process as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Bat Galim neighborhood.
- Executing a public-involvement process in the Neve Paz neighborhood and other neighborhoods according to an existing urban plan.
Adapting physical infrastructure to community needs (Engineering Administration / Operations Administration / the Yefe Nof construction company)
- Charting meeting arenas used by residents throughout the city according to the extent of their actual use.
- Electing a number of public parks throughout the city for a pilot project, also considering the relevant community center’s involvement and responsibility, and the existing potential for community activities.
- Characterizing an infrastructure update package that encourages community (e.g. installing electrical outlets, setting up a stage, etc.).
- Implementing in a number of locations in the city in accordance with given budgetary capabilities and in combination with a plan led by the existing community.