Talking “KAMAM” – Local, Sustainable Economic Development

19 December 2013

A few years ago, Local Sustainable Economic Development (LSED), or “Kamam” as it has become known colloquially in Israel, was an academic concept that few had heard of. These days however, it seems that people can’t stop talking about it.

Last week more than 400 people took part in the Negev Local Sustainable Economic Development Euromed Congress, a three-day event organized by SHATIL, the Negev Development Authority, the Economy and Trade Ministry’s Agency for Small and Medium Businesses, and Mati – The Business Development Center in the Eastern Negev. The conference highlighted this new, democratic approach to regional development.

The event is part of SHATIL’s ongoing effort to recruit partners in business and government to the social change agenda.

“I was overwhelmed by the scope and diversity of individuals who participated in the conference,” said SHATIL Executive Director, Ronit Heyd. “It seems as if everyone is talking Kamam.”

Activists have added the term to their lexicon. Prominent local leaders, such as Yeruham Mayor Michael Biton and Bnei Shimon Regional Council Head Sigal Moran, are actively incorporating its principals in their plans and programs.

In addition to providing policy makers, business entrepreneurs, and local organizations an opportunity to meet and participate in sessions — such as business initiatives for Bedouin women and Negev based tourism — the congress also included an academic workshop at Ben Gurion University and forums aimed at facilitating increased cooperation on issues relating to local economic development.

The conference marks the midway point of Project Wealth: Promoting Local Sustainable Economic Development, an ambitious multi-year initiative supported by the European Neighborhood Partnership Instrument (ENPI) and implemented by SHATIL in partnership with organizations from Portugal, Italy, and Bethlehem. The project addresses harmful global social, economic, and environmental trends, which weaken local and regional economies.

SHATIL’s international partners took part in the conference to learn from the experience gained by local initiatives in the Negev and to present innovative ideas of their own.

One such model discussed at the conference, which had been implemented in Italy is the Puglia Film Commission. Leadership from the Puglia Film Commission walked the participants through the model that encourages regional economic development by promoting local creative industries. Israel’s director for development in the Negev and Galilee took copious notes and asked many questions. It is a model with clear potential for the Negev region.

“We brought together the various actors who implement Kamam principles in their day-to-day work and highlighted the fact that there is a wide movement, practicing these principals,” says Dr. Gili Baruch, director of SHATIL’s LSED Program. “Throughout the world, people are recognizing Kamam’s added benefit as an effective tool that generates social change while narrowing economic and social gaps between center and periphery and among local communities in the periphery itself.”

SHATIL will leverage the collaborations fostered during the event to make a wider impact and encourage additional actors to adopt Kamam as a viable alternative to traditional development models.