A new Israeli program set to launch early next year will see young Israeli and Indonesian entrepreneurs come together—remotely—to develop solutions in the spheres of health, food security, and education to address challenges in the post-pandemic era.
The Israel-Asia Center, a not-for-profit organization that brings together budding leaders in Israel and Asia for a shared future, announced that it was starting a new initiative called the Israel-Indonesia Futures Program to tap into the tremendous potential in the world’s fourth most populous nation and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, says the center’s co-founder and executive director Rebecca Zeffert.
Zeffert established the Israel-Asia Center in 2011 with a mission to empower and connect the Israeli and Asian leaders of tomorrow, as well as strengthen ties between Israel and Asian countries. The center runs a number of programs, and over the past nine years has worked with dozens of young leaders from 14 different countries across Asia, including China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Mongolia, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.
The organization has also previously worked with participants from Indonesia—with which Israel has no diplomatic ties but maintains quiet trade and tourism relations.
The new program is the first dedicated to working solely with Indonesian leaders and comes at an opportune time—Israel is fresh off the heels of a series of normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan that will establish official government and trade relations with these Muslim-majority states.
Potential future ties with Indonesia—the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country—would be a real prize.
Indonesia is projected to become the world’s fifth-largest economy by 2030, Zeffert tells NoCamels, “yet there is currently less than USD 500 million in bilateral trade and trade in services between the two countries (including trade via third countries), and little connecting the ‘Start-Up Nation’ with this market of 270 million people.”
“Tremendous untapped potential exists—particularly during this post-COVID era—to find ways to tackle challenges together—in key sectors such as health, food security, and education,” she says.
The program will provide “an opportunity to tap into this potential—for up-and-coming leaders from Israel and Indonesia to gain a deep understanding of each others’ countries and cultures, to gain hands-on experience working with their counterparts from each country, developing active working relationships and longer-term partnerships.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role. Zeffert says that since the center’s programs depend on in-person engagements, the organization “underwent a challenging yet fascinating creative thinking process that forced us to think beyond our normal confines and to push beyond preconceived boundaries.”
The challenges were great, she says, but “it became clear that so too were the opportunities. For one, the rapid transition from offline to online events and meetings opened an opportunity to engage audiences, speakers, and facilitators we wouldn’t have been able to through in-person programs,” she explains.
“We also realized that this same transition was breaking down barriers—especially between Israel and countries with whom we don’t have diplomatic ties, and in such circumstances, that online programs would provide an easy first step to get to know one another and bridge those gaps,” Zeffert tells NoCamels.
The global health crisis also compelled the Israel-Asia Center to “re-examine and re-prioritize” the challenges it was addressing.
“One of the big take-aways from COVID, I believe, is that we need to be striving to create a better and more sustainable future. For us, this had to be a key anchor of our programs moving forward,” Zeffert says.
The result was the development of a “series of online country-focused leadership development programs, aimed at engaging rising stars from Israel and different countries in Asia to develop sustainable solutions to challenges in the post-COVID era. And we felt it was imperative that we begin with Indonesia.”
The Israel-Indonesia Futures Program is centered around challenges in the sectors of health, food security, education, and talent creation. Teams of four up-and-coming leaders (two Indonesians, two Israelis) will be recruited to each challenge to create customized consulting teams that will work together to develop a solution for their assigned challenge, Zeffert explains.
All teams will receive guidance from both Israeli and Indonesian mentors and will have access to startups, multinationals, and social enterprises to develop their solutions.
The program will include interactive seminars and workshops with high-profile guest speakers from both countries to explore their respective economies, cultures, and ecosystems, delve into the challenges each country faces—especially in a post-pandemic setting—and the emerging opportunities for co-innovation and partnership-building. Participants will also learn about existing Israel-Indonesia trade and economic relations and the potential for growth in trade and investment, and will engage in culturally specific networking and stakeholder engagement.
A key partner in the new program is Start-Up Nation Central, the Israeli non-profit organization that connects governments, municipalities and other partners to Israel’s tech industry. Zeffert says the organization will “bring to the table their unparalleled expertise, insights, and access to the Israeli innovation ecosystem.”
“Start-Up Nation Central’s mission is to build bridges to Israeli Innovation,” says Emma Vardimon, senior strategic partnerships manager at Start-Up Nation Central. “The Israel-Indonesia Futures Program is one example of such a ‘bridge,’ which provides the Israeli innovation ecosystem with opportunities to enter new global markets and fields of operation.”
“We’ve always believed that technology and entrepreneurship are catalysts for commercial collaboration between countries, and are looking forward to creating successful partnerships between Israel and Indonesia,” she added.
This article first appeared in NoCamels, which covers innovations from Israel for a global audience.