A year ago we met at the Wexner Summit on Social Justice. We each arrived with skills and connections, our particular interests among the vast field of need in the world and a desire to collaborate with other Wexner alumni to help the world in some small (or big) way. We went through a series of open space rounds, narrowing down the possibilities by voting with our feet and having a lot of fun getting to know each other in the process.

In the end, I spearheaded a group to better the lives of senior citizens living in Israel. Because I am the Chief Scientist in the survey and mapping department of the Israeli Ministry of Housing, I thought in terms of mapping and technology. Each person on our team brought their own skills, and together we created our mission: to create tech tools to enable engagement and better decision-making among the elderly and the people who want to help them. 

We worked for a year together and created an app, a website and partners in the private and public sector in Israel to join in our efforts. We recently presented our project at the Summit’s second and final gathering a few weeks ago in Washington DC. You can see our PowerPoint presentation and learn more about our project if you click on the video above.

I was impressed to see all the other projects that had developed as well — completely different from ours. It was very motivating to learn about the various outcomes from our Summit work groups, about 15 in all. Our group, “Social Justice Tech,” is continuing and if anyone would like to join us from the Wexner network, you are more than welcome!

The PowerPoint photos will explain a lot about what we are doing, but basically, as we researched we learned there was a need to have this information in one place, because it didn’t exist: (1) Where do we need more services for senior citizens?; (2) Where can one find activities for senior citizens?; (3) Where can one volunteer to help senior citizens?.

We realized we would have to work on the following tasks:

  • Create a database of public institutions and service providers helping the elderly
  • Form collaborations with stakeholders
  • Study similar initiatives in other places (there is a great one in Canada)
  • Design the app and test its functionality, especially ease of use with the elderly

We developed a prototype for Beer-Sheva and will go to scale with it once we learn from it. Additionally, we have already gained the buy-in from many partners who have agreed to collaborate: The Prime Minister’s Office, The Ministry for Social Equality, The Ministry of Welfare, The Ministry Of Health, The National Insurance Institute, The Culture and Sport Ministry, local authorities: JDC and ESHEL and individual volunteers.

What’s next? 

Improvement of the system and database will debut on December 8th. We are going to test it in a Hackathon (an event in which 150 computer programmers collaborate on software projects) in collaboration with IDC students and Google. 

Please take a look at the slides for more details and if you are interested in replicating in another country or joining our forces, let me know!

Yaron Felus is a Wexner Senior Leader from 2015 who lives in Ra’anana. He is Chief Scientist for the Survey of Israel (SOI), the survey and mapping department of the Israeli Ministry of Housing and Construction. Previously Yaron was a professor at The Ohio State University and the Technion. He can be reached at felus@mapi.gov.il.