In most countries residents are entitled to a number of social benefits, but few people ultimately claim these benefits as they may be unaware of them, of who is eligible, how to apply for them etc. Israel was no different, until recently when Kol Zchut developed www.kolzchut.org.il, which holds over 6,000 information pages, serving more than 6 million unique users annually (>50% of Israelis), dramatically increasing public accessibility to information, and boosting claims to benefits.
Rights and entitlements take-up – the social challenge:
In Israel, many rights and entitlements (R&Es) are legislated and budgeted for, but actual take-up is much lower than what the government, especially socially-oriented ministries and agencies, wish for. A major factor in this is an information gap – people are often unaware of their rights, of what the claiming process involves (which forms, how and where to submit them), etc. Moreover, rights are written in legal bureaucratic language that can be difficult to understand, and information is often dispersed between various places. These factors contribute to a reality in which the government is far from realizing the social values and policies it aspires to.
Kol Zchut is an innovative systemic solution to the information gap of R&Es:
Kol Zchut (Hebrew for "All Rights"), making its first steps in 2009, took the aforementioned challenge as a basis for its mission statement: "Creating a fundamental improvement in the take-up of R&Es by Israeli residents, through bridging the information gap".
The objectives of KZ were designed to address the causes of the information gap:
A. Missing information – we must create a comprehensive database of as much information as possible, about as many R&Es, in as many life situations as possible.
B. Additional information is essential for actually realizing R&Es – any core information regarding R&Es must come with actionable information on how to consume these, where to go first and where later, relevant forms etc.
C. R&Es are written in formal, legal language – information must be in simple and accessible Hebrew and Arabic (the largest minority language in Israel) while maintaining the essence of the information itself
D. Information regarding the same life situation is dispersed between various sources – the data should be reorganized and list the R&Es from all relevant sources
E. Those who need the information most probably have less capacity to reach and use it – we must make our solution useful to help-givers such as social workers and volunteers, and translate all the information for the benefit of the Arabic speaking minority in Israel.
When setting out to pursue these objectives, we carefully considered our core values and relative potential as a socially-driven NGO, and chose the following strategic components [see section 3.1] :
A. Developing a highly interconnected web site, using a free, customized & open-source, Wiki-based infrastructure
B. Developing cross-sector collaborative processes for writing and updating the contents of the web site, as well as disseminating if for public use [see section 4.1].
C. Assuring the web site is available to all sectors of the public – free of any charge.
Who and how many benefited from Kol Zchut so far:
The direct outcomes KZ are far beyond what we envisioned for 8 yeas of operation [see more in sections 4.2 & 5.1]:
A. More than 6 million unique users visited KZ in 2018. This is estimated to represent 2-3 million individuals using KZ, out of 6 million Israeli adults (out of 9 million residents). These numbers are growing steadily since day-one of KZ.
B. The "helpers" community. Social workers / NGO volunteers have a "system of record" that they use whenever in need to help a client
C. Through a large number of surveys - 26% of the users stated they have been assisted by KZ to realize at least one right .
D. KZ is widely used by all sectors of society, including low income, lingual, ethnic, cultural and religious minorities etc.
Kol Zchut also created a systemic effect by a) thousands of social workers and volunteers integrating KZ into their professional work and procedures; b) many government agencies voluntarily collaborating with KZ as a complementary component in promoting information to the public; c) since 2017 the Ministry of Justice and Ministry for Social Equality (with the assistance of JDC-Israel) heavily supporting KZ and dramatically improving KZ integration within the public system.
How do we plan and foresee the future of Kol Zchut:
A. We see Kol Zchut expanding to more comprehensive coverage of content, regarding R&Es in many more life situations, with full translation to Arabic, and maybe to other languages.
B. We see Kol Zchut being used by more Israeli residents and more public professionals, raising not only the actual level of R&E take-up, and also the public sense of self-efficacy in realizing rights in Israel.
C. We see Kol Zchut connected and enabling the development of related capabilities serving the public (such as R&E calculators, location-based service search platforms etc.)
D. We see Kol Zchut integrated more deeply into the government system.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
There have been similar efforts in other countries focusing primarily on a) government-citizen relationship b) government services c) computation engines of the citizen rights.
KZ looks at the problem differently:
1. People search for R&E's in a context of an EVENT e.g. cancer / layoffs / childbirth etc.
2. They need 360 degrees of information including labour laws, medical insurance regulations etc.
3. They need plain language with as many examples as possible
4. In many cases R&Es are a result of court rulings that are not necessarily embedded into public sector web sites
Based on these assumptions we translated the legal system into meaningful "blocks" that can be utilized in one or more specific context.
On top of that, we created a fabric of methodologies, technical features and collaboration strategies that allow us to benefit from the professional expertise and experience of public services professionals as well as from the wisdom of the crowd.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Kol Zchut was launched in 2010, and as of 2019, it is implemented and mature, influencing a vast number of Israelis on a regular basis.
However, it is still developing and adapting in several ways:
A. Increasing the coverage of R&Es to new fields
B. Keeping up-to-date with the continuously changing legislation and regulations
C. Updating our UI to fit the potential of technology and needs of the public (mainly those who need KZ most)
D. Deepening our cooperation and integration with government organizations and processes
E. Encouraging and supporting the development of related infrastructures (e.g. R&E calculators, GIS -based services etc.), of which Kol Zchut can serve as a vital component.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Kol Zchut holds a fundamentally collaborative approach – not assuming to own the knowledge in this field, but rather creating the collaborative process, in which organizations from all sectors – public sector, non profit and academia – participate for the benefit of the public. Dozens of these organizations take part in proofing the information, and disseminating it to the public. The public is also part of updating the web site, through a heavily used "content change proposal" mechanism.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Every person or family in Israel holds R&Es in many life situations, in fields such as education, housing, social security, health, and many more. KZ therefore aims to be used on a regular basis by EVERY resident of Israel, as well as EVERY professional assisting people who are in acute need but less capable of using KZ themselves.
The results listed next show that KZ is getting close to meeting this objective.
We see government agencies and other NGOs as collaborative stakeholders in KZ.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Kol Zchut is continuously measuring results and impacts mainly through extensive use of Google Analytics and random user surveys (~4,000 answers in 2018).
In terms of direct results (data is relevant to 2018):
A. KZ was used by 6 million unique users (Israel has 9 million residents), generating 26 million page views, and the numbers are growing continuously. Around 260,000 returned to use KZ 8 times or more.
B. KZ directed users 1.5 million times to specific places (e.g. forms) in government web sites (a 71% growth from 2017).
C. 82% of the general users and 92% of professionals reported a high level of satisfaction in using KZ
D. 26% stated they have realized at least one right assisted by the information of the web site and an additional 29% started working to realizing their rights after using KZ.
E. KZ contains more than 6,000 information pages in Hebrew, out of which 55% (in 2 years 90%) are translated Arabic.
We see KZ and its vast usage growing even further in coming years.
Challenges and Failures
The main challenge in the development of Kol Zchut was promoting the possibility of meeting its objective (all information in one "place"), as the problem of R&E take-up seemed insolvable in a systemic way. Our main approach was showing the results in a very clear and tangible way, one step at a time.
A few more of the challenges were:
A. Leading a collaborative approach in an arena that is conflictual and confrontational at times, and gaining the trust of potential partners. Our approach here was clarity and consistency with our values, patience and attentiveness to the needs of partners, and maintaining a respectful culture of partnership and in everyday life.
B. Prioritizing between the important components, such as writing and updating content, translation to Arabic, and development of new technological capabilities.
C. Achieving financial sustainability, while offering the information totally free of charge to the public.
Conditions for Success
We can name the following enabling conditions for success in the context of Kol Zchut:
A. Wide agreement about the notion that whatever R&Es are legislated and budgeted, the public should be aware of them and be able to claim them independently in most cases. When there is a fundamental dispute over the objective, a participatory-collaborative strategy will not hold.
B. Collaboration with public services is relevant when they see the citizenry as "customers" and not as "beggars". As such they look at KZ as a partner rather than as competition or as a nuisance.
C. Most of the information should exist in some obtainable form – Kol Zchut set out to make information accessible to the public, and could not have done the task if the information was not available on the Internet in whatever kind of format.
D. Independent resources for the first, proof of concept phase, followed by government funding as the initiative develops to a growing scale and dependency of the public.
As far as we know, Kol Zchut has not yet been replicated either locally or worldwide, although we were invited to give presentations in several places. We believe that the challenge of R&E take-up and the information gap at the heart of it is relevant to many countries, states and local authorities. It is reasonable to believe that with adaptation to the local context, the factors causing these problems are similar, and therefore the approach, as well as some of the actual tools developed by Kol Zchut, are applicable.
1. Patience. Especially when starting small. It takes a long time to author content and it takes a longer time for the public to access and appreciate it.
2. Measure. As a digital operation everything should be measured and be used for day-to-day management as well as strategic changes (e.g. the shift to smart phones),
3. Collaborate and do not compete. Our strategy was to recruit the public services with KZ usage. You cannot do that and in parallel compete with them. Identifying key collaboration-oriented stakeholders is crucial.
4. Respect the constraints public services have and do not use that as a reason to over-criticize them.
5. Listen to your customers via their e-mails, surveys, analysis of site usage (Google Analytics. Hotjar etc.), personal comments, site visits (social services departments) etc.
6. Continuous adaptation. Responding to your customers, adapting to technologies etc,
7. Numbers are not everything. What is more important? 10,000 page views of information allowing a Eur 2 discount on some bill, or 100 page views of information relating to specific rights of someone with some rare life-threatening illness?
Kol Zchut is eager to promote its usage elsewhere. We believe that it is relevant everywhere. We will be happy to share our experience, methodology and naturally our Open Source technology.