Enable change. Empower others. Execute.
In conversation with: Joel Berman, Chief Operating Officer.
We caught up with our COO on all things UJIA, and on how UJIA is becoming more and more innovative and tech-oriented in its processes; all in order to deliver better education, increase participation, increase donations and make staff work efficiently and comfortably.
How long have you been at UJIA?
Tell us about your UJIA Journey…
After so long in a commercial environment, I was ready for a refreshing change. I realised I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life. I felt like I needed it; a new meaning and a fresh start somewhere where I could apply all my skillset. I originally worked as a management consultant, specialising in company growth. After orchestrating a management buyout, I spent 7 years in the data and telemarketing industry; setting up call centres, implementing data automation and introducing new innovative solutions for my company. I used to work with some really cool clients like Scottish Power and E-on.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
As COO, on a day-to-day basis I have the privilege of working across the organisation and not just within one department. I’m involved in many areas from fundraising to programming to marketing, and across the UK and Israel. If there is something or someone that we think makes the organisation work more efficiently, I would be in charge of making sure that solution or that person gets introduced to UJIA. Essentially, my role is to ensure efficient running of the organisation. This covers all areas that people don’t generally see, such as compliance and governance, data protection, IT, property, human resources, operational success, technology implementation and marketing and communications oversight.
What was UJIA like pre-Joel Berman? What has changed from when you started, to now?
As you would expect from an organisation with such history and prestige, it takes some time to implement change. However, there were changes that needed to be made, both structurally and culturally, whilst understanding that it wasn’t that simple as they needed somebody with the expertise to do it. I have to first credit our professional team for doing a fantastic job in implementing all of the solutions that we’ve chosen to move forward with, as if it wasn’t for them, this ship would never sail!
Some of the changes that have taken place over the past 2 years:
- Jazzed up the office space, introduced a hot desk arrangement and provided laptops for most people.
- Automated and digitised the application process for Israel Tour. This has made it easier for people to apply, deal with flights changes and book their tickets.
- Bursaries are now more fairly distributed to the most needy families
- Created an Israel Tour loan fund for families that we felt needed cash flow assistance
- Greater focus on social welfare training and provision for our education department’s programming.
- GDPR training for ensuring your data is safe and we’re adhering by new data protection laws.
- An intranet for staff to communicate, combined with flexible working tools which allow to work more easily out of the office, if needed, and to collaborate with others across the organisation regardless of their location.
- Moving towards a paperless environment and taking more social responsibility
What’s next for UJIA?
We’re constantly looking at ways of working more efficiently, and our next step is making sure Israel Tour is a better experience for everybody. We’re working on a couple of things involving AI, a new website for a better user experience, and we will perfect our app for annual dinners, events and conferences.
All of us here get inspired by our everyday work. We’re passionate about the vision of engaging young British Jews and Israel, about our programming, leadership training programmes, and we believe in the cause.
Personally, I love how we engage young people and I love finding out about their journey into having a lifelong connection with Israel.
Enable change. Empower others. Execute.