Shatil last week launched project WEALTH, a major, international multi-year project that promotes Local Sustainable Economic Development (LSED) in the Negev and beyond. The kick-off event, a week-long international conference, took place on June 11-15 in Beer Sheva, Mitzpe Ramon, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, together with Shatil’s partners from Portugal, Italy and the Palestinian Authority. This program is sponsored by the European Neighborhood Partnership Instrument (ENPI).
“I thought the conference was wonderful,” said Ronit Heyd, Shatil Executive Director. “It brought to life a project that we have been working on for a long time…We met with partners who are like-minded, with the same goals and vision of sustainable economies in local areas. The conference brought to life new concepts of linking together local, regional, and global projects; we can use regional and global forces to support local endeavors.”
Discussed at the conference were issues concerning LSED such as: the need for alternative economic development concepts and policies, transfer of knowledge from academia to small businesses as a mean to empower the local economy, and alternative indexes for regional development. Representatives from Lunaria (one of the Italian partners) proposed the QUARS index, which measures quality of life through looking at a variety of social, environmental and economic factors. Other highlights of the conference included the two study tours, during which participants observed local initiatives and LSED models based on local cross-sector collaboration.
This project comes to address harmful global social, economic and environmental trends, which weaken local and regional economies. It fosters an alternative economic paradigm, one in which wealth is defined by the wellbeing of individuals, local communities and the planet. The international collaboration brings together NGOs, academic institutions and regional authorities with the aim of fostering economic clusters, geographically-based networks of actors working together alongside local institutions to promote policies more conducive to LSED.
“This project is a genuine opportunity to bring about change,” said Dr. Gili Baruch, the project’s director. “While the program is Negev-based, it will create a shift toward more sustainable regional development also on the Mediterranean sea basin.”
Shatill and its partners will engage in information exchange, develop best practices, and implement actual local sustainable economic initiatives in the field, both in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority. Within the Negev, Shatil will provide mentoring, consultation and guidance to local initiatives and promote campaigns to change policies that hinder the growth of LSED ventures.