Innovators Network

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. 

Finding Inspiration
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.

Sharing Ideas
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.
                     August 2015

Taylor Stuckert, Co-Founder, Energize Clinton County, Returns to Tohoku

August 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.

December 2015



Kenichi Bamba
Founder & President, Bridge for Fukushima

Kenichi Bamba is the President & Founder of Bridge for Fukushima, which provides hands-on support to NPOs and social entrepreneurs, promotes tourism to the affected area and the community revitalization of Minamisoma. In 2000, after working for a bank for six years, Mr. Bamba moved to The Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA), an international NGO and worked in Cambodia, Bangladesh and Zambia. He also worked as an in-house consultant in the Cambodia office of the Food and Agriculture Organization. A graduate of the London School of Economics, he worked on agricultural projects in Ethiopia and Kenya with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and started a consulting firm focused on BoP and project implementation in developing countries.

Flozell Daniels, Jr.
President & CEO, Foundation for Louisiana

As President & CEO of the Foundation for Louisiana, Flozell is responsible for leading the Foundation in its mission to invest in people and practices that work to reduce vulnerability and build stronger, more sustainable communities across Louisiana. Mr. Daniels’ 18 year policy leadership career includes prior appointments at Tulane University as Executive Director of State and Local Affairs, and Urban Policy Specialist & Deputy Director in the Division of Federal and State Programs, Office of the Mayor for the City of New Orleans.

Neil Gibbons
Board Chair, Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation

Neil Gibbons is an entrepreneur adept at building new products and entrepreneurial businesses and helping others build capacity and achieve growth in their businesses. He is the Board Chair for Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation, a New Orleans-based organization that supports social entrepreneurs in tackling systemic social or environmental challenges, assisting them to scale their business and achieve sustainability. During his tenure, Propeller scaled its operations, launched an incubator space, increased its annual budget by 20 times, and has supported over 40 entrepreneurial social ventures.
Toru Hiji
Deputy Representative, Next Cabinet Iwate

After working as a consultant for the construction industry for six years in Tokyo, Toru went to Otsuchi in the aftermath of the disaster to help draw up a recovery plan. He collaborated with local residents to come up with a town plan that would put the residents first and launched a local organization. He quit his job as a consultant and became the secretary general of the organization. Toru’s paternal grandmother is from Iwate.
Satoshi Ito
President, Sanriku Hitotsunagi Nature School

Satoshi Ito is President of the Sanriku Hitotsunagi Nature School, which works with the local community to contribute to the revitalization of the area through problem solving activities, and adjusts their work to match the changing needs of the community. Projects include turning volunteer tourism into actual tourism. Ito has been involved with the revitalization of Kamaishi for over 10 years in different capacities such as promoting green tourism and exchange programs for young people. The network he nurtured over time serves as a strong foundation for his activities.
Chiemi Kamada
Former Board Member, Fukushima Cooperative Reconstruction Center

Chiemi Kamada grew up in Minamisoma. After the disaster, she quit her job at an IT company to help launch a project to connect the survivors to the NPOs in Sendai. In November 2011, she launched a community group, “Peach Heart,” for women in Fukushima and returned there.  She is a former Board Member of the Fukushima Cooperative Reconstruction Center, an intermediary organization that helps Fukushima residents and the prefecture become self-reliant. In June 2014, she left her position and works as a community coordinator and is involved with various projects.
Hiroto Kikuchi
Secretary General & Board Member, Iwate NPO-NET Support

Hiroto Kikuchi is the Secretary General & Board Member of Iwate NPO-NET Support, which launched, in partnership with local government, the Kitakami Recovery Support Cooperative to integrate all recovery support work in Kitakami City, and serves as the secretariat. The group promotes collaboration among the civil sector,  supports regional revitalization, and organizes workshops for residents. After the disaster, Hiroto was involved in launching the Iwate Collaboration Recovery Center and many other Kitakami-based support organizations.


Yosuke Komatsu
Founder, Hope for Tomorrow

Before starting Hope for Tomorrow in April 2013, Yosuke Komatsu worked for the Onagawa Recovery Coordination Committee, the only civilian entity to create a recovery plan. To help local inn owners, Mr. Komatsu suggested the trailer house accommodation village El Faro and helped launch it.  Hope for Tomorrow supports business reconstruction for companies affected by 311, helps launch new businesses, follows up with these businesses until operations are stabilized, and organizes problem-solving projects. Additionally, Mr. Komatsu is a member of the planning committee to develop the train station and surrounding area, which will be completed in two years.
Kazuhide Oshida
Soma Haragama Morning Market Club

Kazuhide Oshida saw the need to establish new businesses that could help the area around Soma City recover.  He started the Soma Haragama Morning Market Club in May 2011, of which he is a Board Member. The market now employs 60 people. He opened Houtokuan, a restaurant, where locals can gather, and he started the Reconstruction Support Center Mirai, which helps plan and implements projects related to recovery and industry creation. In March 2013, Oshida also established the Re-smile Project, to help local residents smile by bringing performers to the affected area. He works closely with the local community, collaborating with business owners, NPOs, local government, and educational institutions to strengthen the alliances among stakeholders.
Allison Plyer
Executive Director, The Data Center

Allison Plyer is author of The New Orleans Index series, developed in collaboration with the Brookings Institution to analyze the state of the New Orleans post-Katrina recovery. She served as an editor for the Brookings Institution Press volume entitled “Resilience and Opportunity: Lessons from the U.S. Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita.” She is a recognized expert in post–Katrina demographics and New Orleans recovery trends. Allison joined The Data Center in 2001 with 8 years experience developing the management capacity of nonprofit organizations and 10 years in the for-profit sector as a marketing consultant to large and small companies.
Taylor Stuckert
Co-Founder, Energize Clinton County

Taylor Stuckert is the Co-Founder of Energize Clinton County (ECC), a non-profit organization founded to lead a community driven response to the economic crisis with support from the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC). ECC focuses primarily on 5 key areas: local businesses, young professionals, food, energy, and local visioning. The 5-part strategy was awarded the 2013 National Planning Achievement Award for Innovation in Economic Planning and Development by the American Planning Association.
Yuji Suzuki
Executive Managing Director & Secretary General, Sanaburi Foundation

Yuji Suzuki is the Executive Managing Director & Secretary General of the Sanaburi Foundation, which was established after 3.11 to address community issues and to serve as a local intermediary organization for recovery in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate Prefectures. The Foundation supports the business community with start-up funds for entrepreneurs, works to increase donor and civic engagement, makes grants or loans in response to locally assessed needs, and promotes and facilitates collaboration and partnerships among individuals, businesses, nonprofits and government. Prior to his current position, Yuji worked for the Japan Office of International Youth Foundation and helped corporation develop their CSR programs.

Ryo Tateishi

立石 亮
CSR & Environmental Affairs Department, Tohoku Recovery Team, Mitsubishi Corporation

Ryo Tateishi joined Mitsubishi Corporation after graduating Tokyo University with a Bachelor’s degree in law. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, while engaged in Mitsubishi’s shipping business, he continuously participated privately in volunteer activities in Ishinomaki. He was transferred to the CSR & Environmental Affairs Dept., Tohoku Recovery Team in 2012. At the Mitsubishi Corporation Disaster Relief Foundation, established by Mitsubishi Corporation, Ryo is in charge of investing in and financing small and  medium companies that work to rebuild their businesses and in entrepreneurs of start-up companies. With the goal to revive industry and create jobs, the Foundation works to contribute to sustainable recovery.

Co-Sponsoring Organizations

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



Year 1
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.


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