Topaz – Leading Social Innovations – Enhancing Civil Society

“Dreams are not so different from Deeds as some may think. All the Deeds of men are only Dreams at first. And in the end, their Deeds dissolve into Dreams.”  …” But, if you do not wish it, all this that I have related to you is and will remain a fable.” (Herzl, Theodore, Old New Land, (1902)

Topaz – Enhancing Civil Society” is a dynamic social space, which incorporates a network of Israeli creative nonprofit enterprises, passionate social entrepreneurs, activists and social leaders, working both in the Israeli social field and in the international arena since 2000.

For close to twenty years, Topaz has launched over sixty creative new enterprises. Together with its partners Topaz pursued a wide range of social causes among them establishing secondary schools for disadvantaged teenagers; developing and operating youth and family support centers; advancing a wide range of community based educational programs; initiating rehabilitation programs for treating disabled, traumatized and marginalized groups in the Israeli society and world-wide. 

Aside from its core operations, a diversified spectrum of innovative ventures and civil society organizations have been developed under the auspices of Topaz in the fields of education, leadership, volunteerism, social justice, women empowerment, disaster relief, humanitarian aid, and refugee assistance. Through its work, Topaz contributes not only to the Israeli society but also to global well-being by advancing Tikkun Olamnotions and values.

To enhance social change, promote social engagement and advocate social justice by advancing a wide range of innovative intervention models, knowledge management platforms and human capacity building strategies. Through our social ventures we increase pluralism, tolerance and social resilience. Through creative social innovations, we turn social challenges into opportunities, which, in turn, unravel social problems and reinforce sustainable change.

Topaz works in the social and public spheres in order to ensure that Israel will provide high quality social, educational, health and cultural services to all its citizens. Topaz believes that Israeli society must be a sensitive and supportive society for global and universal needs and challenges. A society that preserves and promotes the civil, social and cultural rights of every person and every citizen whoever he may be, wherever he may be.

Four sets of core values are imbedded into all operations: pluralism and social tolerance, civil and social justice, commitment to peace – between people, cultures and among nations and the values of voluntarism, mutual responsibility, giving and compassion. 

Topaz’s overall goal is to advance social change and develop civil society infrastructure through entrepreneurship, volunteering and social leadership in the fields of education, welfare, health, sustainability, culture and recreation both in Israel and worldwide.

  • Initiating, designing and operating replicable and high social impact social programs in Israel and world-wide.
  • Empowering and improving the quality of life of disadvantaged populations and marginalized groups, especially focusing on children and youth at risk and their families.
  • Identifying and nurturing social entrepreneurs who fuse a deep social commitment with great compassion and endurance.
  • Exporting and assimilating Israeli knowledge in the areas of social entrepreneurship and development.
  • Advancing international development projects and delivering humanitarian aid in the fields of health, education, community development and gender equality, agriculture and livelihood.
  • Developing of educational, social and artistic projects and institutions that combine art, leadership and strategies of social change.
  • Creating and operating civil society infrastructure programs in the fields of digital technology, volunteerism and lay leadership.
  • Activating an Israeli-Jewish volunteer movement in Israel and the Diaspora, based on the universal and humanitarian values of Israeli culture and tradition.

Three of our leading global enterprises are Brit Olam – International Volunteering and Development and Inspiration – Arts, Leadership, Social Change.

Brit Olam (meaning – world alliance or everlasting covenant) is a humanitarian founded in Israel in 2005 in light of the Jewish imperative of Tikkun Olam. Brit Olam promotes the participation of volunteers from Israel and from other communities in international humanitarian activities. Brit Olam’s activities include sustainable community-based projects designed to reduce poverty, hardship and vulnerability in fragile communities; humanitarian relief to victims of natural and man-made disasters; and dispatching volunteers to support and empower children, families and communities in need. Our programs strive to promote tolerance and cultural open-mindedness, and to disseminate Israeli expertise in the domains of education, health, environmental studies, agriculture, assistance for refugees and disaster relief. Throughout the years, Brit Olam has operated in over 20 countries in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia, both in relief operations and development programs. In 2008, jointly with the Kibbutz Movement , Brit Olam established Natan – the Israeli International Humanitarian Relief Coalition. Brit Olam’s activities are conducted in partnership with local development organizations, business organizations and international development agencies.

Inspiration – Arts, Leadership, Social Change (initiated in 2011):  Inspiration’s Vision is to cultivate art as a catalyst for effective social change. It’s mission is to instill artists and social activists with the tools needed to translate their talent into measurable impact to the world’s most pressing social challenges. Inspiration stands on the foundation of three central pillars: Education: Training students from around the world to develop their art as a vehicle for high impact social change. Knowledge: Building the foundation for social change by developing methodologies, providing knowledge accessibility, organizing conferences and workshops, and connecting similar-minded individuals and organizations. Practice: Creating programs that inspire, educate, motivate and cultivate the next generation to become social artists and entrepreneurs.  Inspiration’s communities host artists on the spearhead of social change and trains them to become inspirational leaders. Inspiration connects nations and cultures, artists and youngsters, faiths and languages. Inspiration’s vision is deep-rooted in the universal language of art and has the ability to promote peace, camaraderie and dialogue between communities.

 

IMPROVE – International Movement of Professional Voluntarism . IMPROVE is a social and professional voluntary movement which incorporates giving and volunteering by professional people in all fields and occupations. It is based on notions of cultural pluralism, community capacity building, and unconditional offering of humanitarian care – among individuals, states and communities.

The movement is driven by basic principles drawn from Jewish and Israeli ethics and traditions – principles of sharing with others, mutual reciprocity, and “Tikkun Olam”, the commitment to transform the world to be a better place for all.

The activities of IMPROVE are anchored in the universal values of human love, brotherhood and solidarity, embedded in a deep commitment to friendship and peace between people and nations[1] – Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” (Proverbs, 3:17).

NATAN International Humanitarian Aid

Brit Olam and the Humanitarian foFundation of the Kibbutz Movement initiated in 2018 the formation of the  NATAN association for International Humanitarian Aid. Natan aspired over years of activity to fulfill fundamental values of respect for the individual to life, pursuit of liberty, the right to a secure life, food and shelter and freedom of expression.  Abie Nathan, an iconic Israeli humanitarian, provided the inspiration to the organization that bears his name,  providing humanitarian assistance to any individual in need, in Israel or throughout the world. Experienced by the many security events in Israel, NATAN has developed a specific know-how in psychosocial approach to population in stress or trauma. NATAN’s resume includes some of the major disaster zones in the last half of the twentieth century since 1968 when Abie Nathan established the fund for the children of Biafra.  NATAN is an all-volunteer organization, independent of any governmental or religious institution.  Our missions in the field are exclusively composed of credentialed professionals volunteering to share their experience and skills.  NATAN currently has a roster of over 500 professional volunteers who have been vetted and interviewed, many of whom are ready and available for immediate deployment abroad based on emergent needs. NATAN depends solely on contributions from individuals and/or non-governmental organizations. Our operations are funded on an ad-hoc basis, based on the changing needs and emergent situations. NATAN works to catalyze capabilities, resources and areas of expertise by organizations and individuals by utilizing the relative advantages of Israel as a center of knowledge and experience in emergency relief.   Among the members and founders of Natan are several individuals and organizations who have been involved over many years in humanitarian aid operations throughout the world. Natan has provided primary medical care to those in need as well as psychosocial training , all provided by volunteer Israeli doctors, medical personnel, social workers and psychologists.  As a rule Natan works with other NGOs, local and foreign, with the philosophy of “capacity building” as a major tenant to its raison d’etre. 

 

Branches and international activities

Topaz has established several branches around the world. Most prominent among them are in Germany and Uganda. The 2019 work plan focuses on opening new branches in South Africa, Brazil, Taiwan and South Korea. In addition, Topaz continues to operate in various countries through Brit Olam’s, Inspiration’s and Natan platforms, operations and programs, and the through the growing IMPROVE movement..

To date, Topaz is composed of four organizational divisions each led by a team of lay leadership.

  • The division for volunteering and civil society infrastructure and technology.
  • The division for social entrepreneurship and impact enterprises.
  • The Brit Olam International Development and volunteering division
  • The Inspiration division for Art, Leadership, Social Change.

Our members, volunteers and activists represent a wide array of citizens from diverse fields, including the social sciences, social work, law, philosophy, and business. Many of our programs are carried out on a volunteer basis, including the investment of personal time, knowledge and financial resources. The founders of Topaz, Brit Olam and Inspiration are experts in the field of community and development work with an emphasis on children and youth. Some of our leaders have been working as consultants and program developers for more than twenty-five years. We combine the skills of our experts and activists to plan, train and instruct field workers, entrepreneurs, volunteers and community leadership. The three associations were founded by Dr. Michael (Mike) Naftali, who, to date, serves as the association’s president.

 “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”. (Isaiah Chapter 2, 4)

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