SPI Blog Global Initiatives

Lessons from a global team

By Ella Bokobza, Strategy and Partnerships Director, SPI Israel

We are fortunate to live in a globalized way, where the actions of one can directly impact another, even if they are geographically separated. Though the pandemic took, and continues to take, so much from us, it has also given us a new opportunity for global collaboration. We are able to connect and share knowledge, despite our physical distance. That is the spirit of SPI’s expansion to Israel.

You may be asking, why Israel?

Setting aside the fact that I may be a bit bias as an Israeli resident myself, there is no better country to test and evaluate innovative ideas than Israel. The combination of Israel’s reputation as the “Start-Up Nation” and the willingness of the Israeli social service system to test new programs and policies create an optimal environment. Israel is an ideal sample country because of its diverse population, size, and availability of public unique identification across all administrative records.

Even better? We have colleague in the U.S. to amplify our work and build on each team’s growing body of research and knowledge.

In June, I joined the SPI team as the strategy and partnership director, Israel. I joined an incredible team of researchers on the ground in Israel already, including our director, Michal Grinstein-Weiss. Since 2020, our work has grown exponentially, in big part thanks to the Socioeconomic Impacts of COVID-19 survey in 2020. Though technology makes our work with the U.S. team possible—despite the 8-hour time difference—nothing beats in-person interactions. Over the summer, I hopped on a (very long) flight and had the opportunity to meet my U.S. colleagues.

In the week I was in St. Louis, I was able to better collaborate with my teammates, learn more about the work SPI is doing in St. Louis, and learn even more about the university. I share meals with colleagues, met with professors in other departments to discuss collaboration opportunities, met with project partners, and even had a chance to tour the city.

During this time, and as we continue to lean into a more global society, I learned some important lessons I want to share:  

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses, and know how to talk about them
  • There is cultural gap. Don’t avoid it – just observe, learn and ask questions
  • Take a  few days for yourself to land, physically and emotionally
  • Maximize your time abroad
  • Build strong foundations for partnerships so you can continue remotely
  • Create inclusive environment for ALL team members  (make sure to pay attention to differences in weekends and holidays abroad, and plan accordingly)
  • Understand different communications styles (WhatsApp vs Teams vs emails)

I’ve really enjoyed partnering with my U.S. colleague on research and policy impact, though sharing my culture, and learning more about theirs, has been one of the best experiences. I truly believe we can accomplish more by stepping outside of our own culture and seek to understand and learn from each other. This is what makes SPI’s global approach to its work so impactful. I look forward to hosting WashU colleagues in Israel next time.