The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Israel’s National Insurance Fund today dedicated a new home for Hackaveret – Israel’s largest social innovation hub – in Lod, a city in central Israel. Launched by the two groups with a joint investment of nearly $3 million, Hackaveret (merging the Hebrew term for “hive’ and the English term “hack’) encourages the development of social entrepreneurs and innovative solutions to major social challenges facing Israel’s vulnerable populations. At Hackaveret, the entrepreneurs – often young adults or those originating among disadvantaged populations – are provided tools, expert guidance, and seed funding for their social ventures. If projects demonstrate impact and success in their pilot phases, they can be scaled up nation-wide with assistance of the government. Hackaveret’s building will serve as the physical center of operation and collaboration for the already 1,000 Hackaveret community members throughout Israel.

“We’re proud to leverage Israel’s track record of innovation in the high tech field by tailoring the hub model to social innovation, an area of growing activity with many passionate social entrepreneurs eager to help their fellow Israelis in need. By partnering with the government, and deploying the expertise we have learned from decades of social service creation, we can empower those dedicated to social change and improve the lives of the most vulnerable on a grand scale. We invite social entrepreneurs who want to bring about significant social change to join us at Hackaveret,” said Professor Yossi Tamir, Director General of JDC in Israel.

Among Hackaveret’s offerings — which include hackathons, makeathons, intensive bootcamps, and other workshops to address pressing social needs — is an accelerated 10-month track, during which social entrepreneurs receive a broad basket of services, including support for designing an operating model, funding for the initial pilot, and links to relevant partners in Government, the third sector and the Israeli business community. Leading mentors from JDC, the National Insurance Fund, and other industries will accompany the social ventures throughout the various development stages and at junctures when important decisions must be made. Every venture accepted into the fast track will be eligible for up to $55,000 (NIS 200,000) for its pilot phase. This menu of program options is made possible by a generous lead gift to JDC from the Houston-based Mary L. and William J. Osher Foundation.

Sixteen initiatives have already been accepted to the first Hackaveret fast track. They include: Chill, a system operating 24/7 to help young people in distress and save lives. Using an app on their smartphones, youth at risk can call on a specially trained student mentor who will be deployed to help them solve a challenge they are facing by accessing a network of social welfare interventions and agencies. Chill is being developed to empower youth facing substance abuse, violence, and other challenges and are reluctant to contact authorities or their families for help.

Another initiative, 2gether, aims to help seniors overcome loneliness and improve their quality of life through music. Utilizing an app, seniors can choose music which they share with their families, care givers, and retirement community and day center staff. The music choices spur conversations and builds bonds, especially for elderly whose families are living at a distance. Some 3,000 Israeli elderly are currently involved in the program pilot, which operates in retirement homes, municipalities, and day centers throughout Israel.

Operating in the land of Israel since 1914, JDC has worked here for more than a century to provide opportunity and empower the neediest through more than $2 billion in social services and aid. Today, JDC develops innovative social services in conjunction with the Israeli government, local authorities, nonprofits, and other partners for the benefit of Israel’s most vulnerable populations: children at risk, the elderly, the unemployed and people with disabilities.