U.S.-Japan Leaders Exchange:
Three-Year Training & Networking Program for Leaders in
Tohoku’s Recovery and Reconstruction
Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima, Japan; Louisiana, Ohio and New York, USA
In 2013, Japan Society and ETIC started the U.S.-Japan Leaders Exchange: Three-Year Training & Networking Program for Leaders in Tohoku’s Recovery and Reconstruction. We have a shared interest in developing and nurturing the next generation of local leaders who are working hard to revive their respective communities in Tohoku after the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Through the exchange of ideas, learning from the experience of others, and seeing their work first hand, leaders will be inspired in ways that help to strengthen the organizations they lead and participants will be taken to the next level as leaders so they can serve as hubs in their respective communities. This project is also intended to serve as a catalyst for collaboration among the leaders. As part of their participation, the leaders share the knowledge and insights they gain over the course of the project with others in their communities.
In January 2014 eight leaders from Tohoku visited New Orleans, LA, Wilmington, OH and New York, NY. In October 2014, four Americans were invited to Tohoku and Tokyo. And four Japanese undertook a follow up visit to New Orleans in March 2015.
Engaging a Younger Generation in Economic Recovery
Every leader from Tohoku is concerned about economic recovery. Without a healthy economy, people won’t have jobs, and without jobs, people will have no choice but to move to where they can find opportunity. Our leaders from Japan knew that New Orleans had become known as a place for entrepreneurs after Hurricane Katrina, and that a younger generation has been moving to New Orleans to start businesses. How did that happen? Organizations like The Idea Village existed before Hurricane Katrina, and new organizations like Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation were established after. What these two organizations have in common are strong leaders with a clear vision of what they want to achieve and an ability to look at the challenges facing New Orleans --- failing schools, extreme poverty, lack of medical services, poor health, need for affordable housing -- and see them as opportunities for entrepreneurs.
They didn’t do it alone. We learned about partnerships with funders, corporations, accounting and law firms, universities, board members, policy makers and others who help build and nurture an ecosystem that eventually became an exciting and supportive place for entrepreneurs. One of the participants, Kenichi Bamba, organized his first pitch contest for young social entrepreneurs in Fukushima. We plan to dig more deeply in these topics in the final year of the project.
Just as the participants from Japan represent a younger generation of Japanese who have dedicated their lives to the recovery of Tohoku, we met the two young founders of Energize Clinton County (ECC) in Wilmington, OH who have brought a similar drive and passion to their own community. An immediate connection was made between the Japanese and Americans, and this idea of a younger generation making a difference and having real impact in their communities is something participants want to develop and nurture in their own communities.
Two days of discussions on what ECC did, how it did it, how it overcame challenges, and the work that remains to be done was inspiring, insightful and provided the beginning of a conversation that began in Year 1 of the project, continued through Year 2 and will continue into the future.
A Eureka Moment
What was our unexpected, unanticipated, but impactful learning experience? Data.
It’s not that we aren’t aware that Big Data is everywhere. But it hadn’t occurred to the participants how it could be applied so directly to their work. Not only does data let you know where you stand at a given time, it lets you know where you are having success, where you are failing, what you might not have seen, and when there is something new to consider. It helps you measure progress, and when you can measure progress, it can help you raise the funds you need to do your work.
We heard about how many different organizations use the information provided by The Data Center in New Orleans but we hadn’t arranged to meet with anyone at The Data Center. We did the next best thing, and got The Data Center involved in the second year. Two of the leaders, Yosuke Komatsu and Yuji Suzuki, from Japan have since started data projects in their respective organizations, with several of the other leaders following their progress as they are convinced these projects will have implications for their own communities.
American participants engaged social entrepreneurs, leaders of non-profit organizations, business leaders, fishermen, farmers, and local officials in Iwaki, Kamaishi, Kitakami, Minamisoma, Morioka, Onagawa, Otsuchi, Sendai, Soma, Tokyo and Yuriage.
A day long program in Sendai allowed us to share our insights, knowledge and experience with a wider audience of almost 200 people.
The program started with started with a keynote speech by Flozell Daniels, Jr. on how New Orleans became known as a place for start-ups, and was followed by four workshops looking at the role of community foundations; how to engage the corporate sector in support of nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurship; the role and use of data in recovery; and engaging the local community and training a younger generation in recovery.
In Tokyo, we brought together corporations, foundations and organizations that support the recovery of Tohoku to learn about the recovery in New Orleans as an model of the phases communities go through in recovery and what leaders might want to consider in Tohoku.
The 5th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake is Fast Approaching
We also learned how those working on recovery in New Orleans used the milestone fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to bring people together to look at what they had accomplished, and to look ahead at what remained to be done and to come together for a shared vision for the future. Our friends from New Orleans looked at their participation in this project as a way for them to reflect on their own work as they shared their experience with the Japanese as they were approaching their tenth anniversary. Four participants traveled to New Orleans in March 2015 for further discussions.
We are currently discussing what we might do to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 3.11.
Taylor Stuckert, Co-Founder, Energize Clinton County, Returns to TohokuAugust 2015
Taylor Stuckert, Co-founder, Energize Clinton County (EEC) and Executive Director, Clinton County Regional Planning Commission (OH), returned to Tohoku for follow up visits with leaders in communities in Tohoku. He traveled to Soma and Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture, Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, Ofunato and Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture. In each place, the goal was to use Taylor’s experience as a cofounder of Energize Clinton County to engage a younger generation of up and coming leaders in discussions about recovery in Tohoku.
Young People Working to Revitalize Fukushima
Taylor’s first stops were in Fukushima Prefecture: Soma and Minamisoma. One of the big challenges facing both communities is the revitalization of the local economies through the creation of new businesses. In Soma, he met with individuals working on new ideas and business plans related to the revitalization of Soma, including owners of small businesses and a Soma City Council member. This was an opportunity for them to discuss their plans, get feedback from the other participants as well as Taylor, and brainstorm.
In Minamisoma, Taylor met with a group of 20 university students in Odaka, a village within Minamisoma that was evacuated due to radiation concerns. All the students are working on recovery projects as part of their two-week workshop to think about the future of Fukushima. This was an opportunity for them to engage a leader from the U.S., share ideas, and develop their recovery projects. They shared the challenge of dependence on a single large employer – TEPCO in Odaka and DHL in Wilmington – and Taylor was able share EEC’s experience and lessons learned. The students were impressed with the accomplishments of EEC in Wilmington, and touched by Taylor’s encouraging remarks.
The Role of Entrepreneurship in Recovery
In Kesennuma, ETIC organized a program entitled “Strategies for Heightening the Resilience of the Region: Strategies for Local Business Recovery from Economic Disaster.” Taylor was the keynote speaker. The event was attended by about 70 people from local organizations – ETIC fellows, NPO leaders, business leaders, the Chamber of Commerce Industry Youth Division, Japan Junior Chamber, and students — who are interested in how entrepreneurs can help in the recovery process and how they can create new value and create new types of opportunity. Using Wilmington, OH as a case study as presented by Taylor, participants discussed how they might accelerate project development in Kesennuma and nurture new local leadership. It was the largest event Taylor participated in, and was also an opportunity to show how the business community can come together. Participants were particularly interested in learning how ECC quantified the economic outcomes of their projects as they were looking for ways to measure their own success.
The Need for Collaboration in Iwate
When Taylor visited Ofunato, the town was in the midst of planning the rebuilding of the city center, which was destroyed by the tsunami. Eager to bring businesses back to Ofunato, the local government organizes seminars for business owners who are planning to open their offices/stores in the city center. Although willing to engage in new ideas, no concrete action had been taken. Stakeholders realized they needed to come together to create a plan to attract customers and visitors to Ofunato. Taylor’s visit to Ofunato was used as a catalyst to discuss how the civil sector, such as the Chamber of Commerce and NPOs, can play a role. The discussions focused on how Energize Clinton County communicated with the local chamber of commerce, business owners and the local government to move projects forward. In addition to discussing strategies for engaging and collaborating with stakeholders, Taylor shared some of the growing pains and obstacles he and his organization experienced and how they worked to resolve those challenges.
In Kamaishi, Taylor spoke to a group of young leaders who meet as the Kamaishi Maru Maru. Maru Maru was started to provide opportunities for young leaders to come together, share their experiences, and support and learn from each other. The goal is for the participants to implement their own project to help Kamaishi recover. Taylor was the featured guest speaker at the Kamaishi Maru Maru Conference, at which participants presented midterm reports on their work. As part of his participation, Taylor made a presentation about his work in Wilmington, with emphasis on the fellowship project Energize Clinton County started to engage college students. He also provided feedback to those reporting on their projects. The Mayor is the chair of the Conference Organizing Committee, so Taylor also met with mayor prior to the start of the conference.
Machia Oshikiri (押切 真千亜), Disaster Recovery Leadership Project Secretariat and Coordinator, ETIC.
Koji Yamauchi (山内 幸治), Managing Director, ETIC.
Betty Borden, Director, Innovators Network, Japan Society
Fumiko Miyamoto, Senior Program Officer, Japan Society
The U.S.-Japan Leaders Exchange: Three-Year Training & Networking Program for Leaders in Tohoku’s Recovery and Reconstruction is made possible by and The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, Mitsubishi Corporation, and the P.K. Ranney Foundation.
Years 2 & 3
The U.S.-Japan Leaders Exchange: Three-Year Training & Networking Program for Leaders in Tohoku’s Recovery and Reconstruction is made possible by and The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, Mitsubishi Corporation, and the Major League Baseball Players Trust. International transportation supported by United Airlines.