The Social Innovation Forum: JAPAN is an investment in rebuilding
Japan through energizing civil society, empowering emerging leaders, and
forging global partnerships of mutual support between
American and Japanese civil society.
The iLEAP Social Innovation Forum: Japan (SIFJ) was created to serve the post-March 11th rebuilding efforts in Japan and to amplify the local impact and global voice of those Japanese leading social change efforts in the wake of the triple disaster. The SIFJ is grounded in three anchor points: one, as a capacity building and global leadership training for Japanese social leaders and entrepreneurs, two, as a platform for Americans to learn from and build practical partnerships of mutual support with Japanese civil society institutions and social businesses and, three, to seed and cultivate new global collaborations within civil society in the Asia-Pacific region in order to best solve key global issues.
From 2011-2014 the SIFJ will train over seventy key Japanese social leaders and entrepreneurs in the skills necessary to resource their initiatives, grow global partnerships with American collaborators, cultivate the next generation of young Japanese social entrepreneurs, and ultimately strengthen and transform the civil society sector in Japan. The SIFJ will also connect these Japanese and their American partners with social leaders and entrepreneurs from the Asia-Pacific region through integrated symposia and gatherings in Year Three (2013-2014) of the project.
The March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami has left an unfathomable wake of destruction in Japan on the physical, cultural, and socio-political landscape. The sense of what is “normal” has been shattered, and with each passing day the enormity of the relief and rebuilding effort grows larger as it becomes more and more clear that the course of Japanese society has been profoundly altered.
The horrific events have shined a light on some of the great strengths within the Japanese social fabric--particularly around resilience and collectivism-- and these have been widely recognized and admired around the world. At the same, some of the lingering challenges have also been brought to light; particularly around the formal civil society/citizen sector and its limited capacity to mobilize resources, act strategically, and connect with global partners. Stories abound of energized American and other foreign supporters wanting to donate significant resources to Japanese civil society organizations, but not knowing how, other than to “just” give to the Red Cross or Mercy Corps. Yet, we hear many stories about motivated Japanese working on the relief and rebuilding effort and struggling with limited or no resources. There is a “blockage” preventing overseas supporters from connecting to the many civil society organizations doing important work throughout Japan.
If Japan is to successfully emerge from this tragedy, a strong and vibrant civil society led by empowered and creative leaders is essential. It is from this sector where social innovation can flourish, incubating and leading change around critical issues in Japan such as renewable energy, aging and the elderly, and rebuilding the Tohoku region. We believe that civil society is a key leverage point for high-impact and sustainable change in post-March 11th Japan.
We also believe that strong US-Japan partnerships will be a critical element in the rebuilding and recovery effort. While the two countries have a long history of collaboration, the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake has demonstrated that the partnerships between and among civil society institutions is poorly defined and weak. A strong international partnership between these two civil society sectors is another key leverage point for high-impact and sustainable change.
For these reasons, iLEAP and it’s partners in Japan created the Social Innovation Forum: JAPAN to explore and develop these key leverage points. In Spring 2011, the Social Innovation Forum: JAPAN was started with the generous support of the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. The focus of the SIFJ is, “to advance practical applications and policy measures for a strong civil society in which people live in vibrant communities of mutual support” and it was created with the belief that in both countries we need new ways of working across sectors that balance social, economic, and ecological returns. The challenges of the 21st century cannot be resolved by government alone or by simply injecting money and goods into the economy. Equally important, we need a new generation of effective, adaptive leaders who have the practical skills, necessary resources, and global partnerships to build the networks and coalitions necessary to catalyze and sustain these efforts. The aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami have underscored these points in an unmistakable manner.