The Social Economic Academy (SEA) is a non-profit organization that combines education, training and activism to advance social justice and equality in Israel. SEA’s goals are to disseminate knowledge and knowhow about social and economic issues to different groups; foster and train leadership from within these groups; and increase public support for progressive ideas and policies in Israel.
SEA was established in 2004 as a response to the dominance of neoliberal policies over Israel’s economy, which has considerably increased inequality, undermining Israelis’ ability to enjoy gainful employment, exposing them to market vulnerability and giving them unequal opportunities. SEA’s founders believed that a lack of public debate about this policies and their alternatives allowed them to be presented as an indisputable fact. As a result, an increasingly large portion of Israelis feel that public policy does not work to their benefit, but don’t believe they have the ability to understand or change it. SEA was established to mend this situation. With the help of leading academics and organizers, it has created an educational and training framework for gaining high-quality knowledge and knowhow, becoming a hotbed for a slew of social initiatives and organizations all geared at progressive change.
SEA is led by the belief that only a combination of ideas promoting social justice, actions geared towards change and leaders working to create change from within key public institutions can lead Israel to real progressive change. Therefore, all of SEA’s programs work to educate and train groups and leaders poised to act in strategic social and economic fields: from young economists entering the the public sector, to labor leaders fighting to change the labor market and promote solidarity between groups and local activists working at the community level to change local government.
Among SEA’s graduates are Israeli knesset members, city council members, labor leaders who lead unions and prominent activists leading influential organizations. Over the years, more than 70,000 people from all walks of Israeli life have studied under the SEA.
Alongside education and training programs, SEA holds public events. In July 2010, SEA conducted a first of its kind conference on wealth concentration in Israel, in cooperation with The Marker- Israel’s leading economic newspaper. Since 2007, SEA holds an annual film festival at the Haifa Cinematheque focusing on workers’ rights. In September 2012, SEA published a book titled ‘Harmful Employment’ which details the state of the Israeli labor market. During the 2011 social protests, SEA took its work to the streets and offered workshops throughout the protest encampments set up across the nation. SEA was also instrumental in the work of the Spivak-Yonah experts committee which served as the protest movement’s clearest articulation of an alternative public policy. In May 2016, SEA organized its first annual conference, drawing a crowd of 500. In the conference, SEA presented the results of study it conducted about the changes in the economic world-view of the Israeli public. SEA experts are regular commentators in Israeli media.
SEA’s activities are supported by the Berl Katznelson Foundation, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Yad Hanadiv (The Rothschild Foundation), the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the New Israel Fund and income from programs funded by local government, workers’ unions, community organizations, pre-army academies and other groups studying with the SEA. Some 15 percent of SEA’s income is self-generated, with 80 percent the training and lectures are provided on a voluntary basis.