Thursday, February 17, 2011
Social Entrepreneurs And Youth in Japan: Agents Against A Return To Isolation
When Ashoka, a leading American nonprofit that supports social entrepreneurs, opened an office in Japan recently, founder Bill Drayton noted at the press conference that Japan was the first country in over 80 countries where Ashoka is active, “where someone from that country came to us first.” [Full video here.]
That someone was Nana Watanabe, the author of two Japanese bestselling books (in Japanese only) on social entrepreneurship, Changemakers: Social Entrepreneurs are Changing the World (2005) and Changemakers II: Working as a Social Entrepreneur (2007).
Active with the Japan Society’s Innovators Network, Nana’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of social entrepreneurs and serving as a Leadership Group Member to Ashoka in Japan comes as no surprise to us. This past summer, Nana and her colleagues organized the first Youth Venture project in Japan, where approximately 80 youth, ages 12-20, from all over Japan, including those whose families are originally from Mongolia, China and Korea, gathered and presented their ideas [PDF download] for positive change in Japan.
The Ashoka Japan office is headed by Kashiwa Maki, a former Bridgestone executive and the founder of a social business in Southern California that worked with Japanese children with disabilities and their families.
Given the current national concern that young Japanese are more and more inward looking, studying abroad in smaller numbers, and less interested in working overseas for their employers, could Ashoka’s efforts in Japan contribute to reversing this trend among young Japanese? Will it help them think differently about how they approach their work and careers? Can it influence the way they relate to the outside world and how they might contribute to its betterment?
These questions and more will be address at Japan Society’s upcoming March 23 panel, Is Japan Returning to Isolation?, with Peggy Blumenthal, Senior Counselor, Institute of International Education (IIE); Robert Dujarric, Director, Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University Japan; George Packard, President, The United States-Japan Foundation; and Masaaki Tanaka, EO for the Americas, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd; Director, Japan Society. We hope to see you!