The institute is an expression of scientific collaboration between the kibbutz movement and the university of Haifa.
The goals and major activities are in four areas:
- Research: Current research topics are: changes in the kibbutz structure, outcomes of changes in the kibbutz, leadership, regional development, democracy in a crisis period, reasons for leaving the kibbutz. A yearly survey of institutional changes in the kibbutz community and a yearly opinion survey of a representative sample of kibbutz members are conducted since 1990 by the institute.
- Teaching and dissemination of kibbutz knowledge; The institute directs it efforts at diversified audiences: The broad scientific community, the kibbutz membership, kibbutz policy makers and university students. Publications, symposiums, conferences and seminars are adapted to the different audiences. Students and researchers from aboard visit the institute and use its data basis and research facilities.
- Bibliography for kibbutz related publications; The institute developed a comprehensive computerized bibliography of all scientific publication related to the kibbutz. The bibliography contains some 5,000 items, about half in Hebrew and the rest mostly in English. It is constantly updated. The institute is also the Center for the Study of Industrial Democracy and Self-Management. Staff.
- Applied research services to kibbutz communities and organizations.
Research is both basic and applied, and deal with the internal functioning of the kibbutz and the relationship with the Israel society.
The institute participated in a series of international comparative studies dealing with workers' participation in decision making in industrial organizations, social support of the aged, the political activity of women etc.
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About the kibbutz
The first kibbutz was founded in 1910 and since then more and more kibbutzim were established, first in Palestine under Turkish rule, followed by British control and then in Israel.
Today a total of 270 kibbutzim (plural of “kibbutz”) are found with a population of about 140,000, less than 2 percent of the total population of Israel. The size of kibbutzim varies from small kibbutzim with less than 100 members to larger ones with about 800 members and a total population of more than 1,200 inhabitants.
The main values upon which the kibbutz were originally based are: (1) equality among members, creating an environment in which members receive their needs from the community and in which each contributes to it according to their ability; (2) common ownership, involving common ownership of the means of production and consumption; (3) mutual responsibility; (4) direct democracy in local governance and the practice of rotation of all officeholders; (5) Self-labor (i.e., without hired labor), deriving from the socialist ideal not to exploit hired labor. Kibbutz members had to supply all the demands of running a community with their own labor; in practice, kibbutz members receive equal budgets and special additions for individual needs, members own and operate kibbutz assets in common, working together in kibbutz-owned economic ventures, eating their meals in central dining halls, raising their children in communal centers for children that serve also as dormitories, and living in kibbutz-owned housing. The commune and the settlement are one entity: the geographical-municipal entity and the social community, the kibbutz, are congruent. Variations among kibbutzim (e.g., some of the first established kibbutzim had familial sleeping arrangements) are found.
The kibbutz has never been static and has always been in a state of change. The economy of the kibbutzim was originally based on agriculture; today kibbutzim rely mostly on industry and many members (an average of 30 percent) work outside the kibbutz. The communal sleeping arrangement of children has been abolished and children stay in the homes of their parents. The method of distributing goods to members has slowly changed. Thus in the 1970s, when the economic situation of the kibbutzim was thriving, the “all-inclusive budget” replaced the small “personal budget.” Later, in many kibbutzim during the 1980s, a lump sum of money was given to members. But the most fundamental changes took place at the end of the 1980s, following an economic crisis that produced demographic and ideological crises. Changes took a new direction, leading to a deep transformation in most of the kibbutzim. The new type of kibbutz, called “renewed kibbutz,” is based on differential salaries, private ownership of kibbutz assets, and private ownership of housing.