Ippan Shadan Hojin DSIA

The Durable Social Innovation Alliance (DSIA) stimulates sustainable Japanese-style social innovations through entre- and intra-preneurial activities, which are enhanced by alliances among diverse partners including companies, governments and NPOs. DSIA's goal is to create new social values and knowledge, but still path-dependently based on Japanese traditional and corporate culture, technology, socio-economic behavior and past experiences. The DSIA contributes to developing human resources who will tackle social issues, as "opportunities of changes" (Drucker), with a strong mind of social innovation and entrepreneurship. By doing so, we hope to re-generate and re-activ...
Oct 21, 2014

Where Are We Moving 2.5 Years Later?

Noisy children at play
Noisy children at play

Worries and struggles for a childcare NPO, “Kirarin Kids (KK),” in Rikuzentakata City continue. But it seems that a time bomb started ticking, simply because they have only 2.5 more years to remain at the present location. They are under pressure to look for a new location despite their remarkable success these days.

They have been doing very well in offering many programs and attracting local mothers and children well, as I have reported previously, They now have seven major programs: (1) Kirarin Kids; (2) Kirarin Egg and Baby; (3) Kirarin Mama; (4) Kirarin Papa; (5) Kirarin Café; (6) Kirarin Miniature Farming; and (7) Kirarin Refresh. Besides, KK also provides highly valuable additional services, such as the Children’s Health Saloon in cooperation with the Hands, Play Cars brought by the UNICEF and the Toy Maker Association, a Children’s Summer Festival in cooperation with the Happy Mothers Committee of Sizuoka Prefecture, Mandara picture creation, health and cooking lectures, traditional food cooking, grief care counseling, a parents-children picnic, personal computer classes, etc. Programs became much more diverse, and outside organizations now offer more help than before. An especially significant achievement for the KK is to organize meetings with the Mayer of the City. Now, they had the second meeting to discuss diverse issues needed to empower mothers in the City. The Mayor is very eager to hear their voices, and the KK is now becoming one of the key organizations for women’s empowerment. KK is also functioning to bring childrearing lessons, called “Nobody Is Perfect,” which was originated in Canada and is brought to the KK in cooperation with the Niiza Childcare Network. Mothers have been quite happy with these programs, and reputations spread now even to mothers who came from outside of the city. The KK is now becoming a mediator of linking new comers to the city and local communities. It is very much a new function that the KK is adding. They are making significant contributions to ease the worries of new comers linking them to local communities. In this sense, small toddlers are becoming key actors to link everybody together in the community.

KK has been working very hard, and is obtaining recognitions for their contributions to childcare and the community. But since they have to move out of the present place, they started worrying about diverse issues. Are they going to establish their own facility by purchasing a piece of land and building a building? Naturally, they do not have enough money at all. Before such a bold attempt, it is quite important to know whether child population will start increasing in the near future. So far, it is reported that 10 percent of the population has moved out. Another possibility is to move into a large shopping complex, where children gather. This situation allows them to attract their clients. But then, they may lose their basic philosophy of nurturing good mother-children relations and creating a base for contributing to community developments, which KK has been achieving fairly well so far in the present independent location. Another possibility with the lowest cost is to move into a community center by borrowing a public space. But this option makes it rather difficult to organize programs continuously as they do now. Another option is to collaborate with other key organizations, trying to contribute to community developments. If this is the option which KK wants, it has to start discussing diverse issues with them now. What are they going to do with a piece of land and a building? Are they willing to jointly organize a project? How can they secure necessary funds to satisfy their needs? Will this option work for them financially? When can they start discussing with whom, if this is the option? So far, nobody has made any significant initiative. Preparing for a new stage of post-disaster ordinary operation, they are facing diverse restrictions and limitations in their options. They now start worrying and struggling without much action, while a time bomb started ticking.   

Mothers are busy playing with children.
Mothers are busy playing with children.

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Oct 21, 2014

Ups and Downs, But Highly Appreciative of Help

Past young bike-freaks gathered to help Isatomae
Past young bike-freaks gathered to help Isatomae

People at the Isatomae Redevelopment Archade (Fukko Shotengai, FS) still feel a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. They are working on diverse issues to rebuild their community. So far, they started seeing a small portion of land raised to half a level of the original plan, where the FS shops will move temporarily while the land level of the shop’s permanent location will be raised. Shops will move to the half-raised temporary place in 2015, precisely when not yet known. It was surprising for them, since the temporary place will be below the land level of main road and the permanent shop place when the rest of the land is raised to the level originally planned. But at least, the plan is advancing relative to the past. It was a good news.

Then another surprise came. The government passed a law that the present government-funded temporary shops have to be continuously used for the next five years. This law generated two serious concerns. One is that the present shops have to be closed and moved to the temporary location, meaning that they have to stop operating their business completely for two months. This law was passed, assuming that shops are moving from a present temporary location to a permanent one. The Isatomae’s situation is to move from the present temporary location to another temporary one and then finally to a permanent place. Does this mean that they have to move present temporary shops and facilities twice? Concern is that moving old shop buildings is as expensive as building new ones. They are now negotiating with the government whether they can build new shops in the permanent place while they use old shop materials in a newly moving temporary place. If moving old shops costs the same or more than building new ones, then it is better to build new ones. But does the law allow this to happen since all of two moves will take place within five years? Amid their worries, one good story is that they are going to use the temporary shop-tent which was built by donations from the Refugee International Japan, the Japan Forest Biomas Network, and the GlobalGiving mediated through the DSIA.  They may have to operate their business in the tent for two months when old shops will be dismantled and rebuild in the temporary place and to store their equipment and facilities for quite a long time. The FS is highly appreciative of the existence of the tent, which helps to make their transition much smoother.  This means that, thanks to your kind heart, understanding and donation, we are still helping them to rebuild their community.

The other problem could be much tougher than the first one. It could become quite a demotivating factor for people in the FS since they have been working to build their new shops with dream for almost two years. The FS very much decided to establish an Isatomae Redevelopment Company which will own new buildings and charge rents to tenants, rather than to establish an association. A company form enables the FS to borrow money from banks and even allow outside tenants to come in when vacancies in shops occur. This makes the company operation securer. However, despite their two-year discussions, the Minami-sanriku Township suddenly informed them that it will establish a company and provide them a building. The plan was informed suddenly as a surprise. Now, they have to engage in negotiation all over again despite a well-thought plan by the FS. This could be quite a tough negotiation and be demotivating.

Separate from these problems, the FS is organizing many events as usual. On October 20, they have a group of past young bike-freaks to bring in about 100 unusually decorated cars (see pictures). They wanted to show their willingness to contribute to society. The FS is also planning to have an exhibition of their soccer team flags in the Sendai Stadium when a soccer game will be held there, hoping to find willing partners to contribute to the FS. They are working very hard to get events organized and planned, so that they can bring in customers to the FS. But even on this point, they worry that the lack of clear planning when they can move to the temporary as well as the permanent places makes it quite difficult to plan and organize events, which are a very important source of bringing in customers.

When they start seeing the raised temporary place to move in, it gave them a sense that they start seeing a small light at the end of a long and dark tunnel, moving one step closer to their dream. But then, new problems, one of which may even make their two-year efforts meaningless, arose. They are engaging in negotiations, very much hoping that they can follow their original plan. Given this uncertainty now three years after the disaster, they look much more tired than before. But they are extremely appreciative of the tent-shop, established with the help of the DSIA, the GlobalGiving, the Refugee International Japan, and the Japan Forest Biomas Network. 

Past young bike-freaks to help Isatomae
Past young bike-freaks to help Isatomae
Donated tent to be used again by Isatomae shops
Donated tent to be used again by Isatomae shops

Links:

Jul 28, 2014

Noisy Playroom with Tough Continuous Struggles

Noisy Playroom
Noisy Playroom

Kirarin Kids’ (KK) playroom was unusually noisy with more children and parents than before (see an attached picture), because of the beginning of summer break. Since I was a little bit too busy, I was late to come to visit KK for about one week. This unavoidable difficulty turned out to be good. I usually come on Friday at the beginning of July, when KK usually does not carry any special event. This time, though without any special event, was different from other times, having many clients.

I came to recognize in their pamphlet that KK started organizing their activity structure. They now focus on eight major programs: (1) Kirarin Kids; (2) Kirarin Egg and Baby; (3) Kirarin Mama; (4) Kirarin Papa; (5) Kirarin Café; (6) Kirarin Miniature Farming; (7) Kirarin Refresh; and (8) other events. I shall explain briefly below:

(1)   This is the key program to provide diverse activities to children, such as playroom activities, birthday parties, diverse seasonal children’s activities, etc.

(2)   This is a session for mothers and babies, in which mothers learn how to conduct baby massages and even share experiences and worries related to babies among them. It is a highly important program, especially for new mothers. They also offer diverse measuring devices to keep the record of children’s growth.

(3)   They have yoga sessions and seminars for mothers. The latter is to discuss about how to care children among mothers. Often, volunteer experts come to visit KK to offer counselling.

(4)   This started as a special session to provide opportunities for families that lost mothers in the disaster. But now it is opened to all fathers to have opportunities to play with their children. This is not yet popular, but several fathers come to make use of this nice opportunity to play with their children whom they hardly have time to be with.

(5)   This is a session to prepare lunch or make cookies and cakes and enjoy eating together. They make sure to include the cooking of traditional local food. This program is becoming quite popular, since mothers find this a good opportunity to meet other mothers, while children actually engage in making food with mothers.

(6)   Now, KK rents a small plot of farm land nearby. Children lean the value of farming by not only making vegetables, but also experiencing the joy of cropping. They also use crops at the Kirarin Café.

(7)   This is a program to offer diverse activities to refresh mothers, such as making candles, learning about aroma and color therapies, etc.

(8)   In other activities, they have doctors come for providing health advises on childcare, collect Bell marks together to donate money to schools, have a City’s mobile children’s library coming to KK, a mobile toy library to come to KK, rent baby goods, bring specialists to provide special consulting related to children, offer lessons on baby food, and promote inter-generational and local mingling.

This is the first time I see their activities presented in this organized manner. This suggests that they need to clarify their positions due to severe competition among childcare organizations in Rikuzen Takata.  The number is increasing, especially day care centers for working mothers. By law, one child minder is necessary for every four children. Because of increased demand for daycare centers, now there is a serious shortage of child minders in Rikuzen Takata. In contrast to growing sector of daycare, KK differentiates to focus on improving child-mother relations and building warm family relations, inheriting a good part of traditional-community-based living and practices. This is the key attraction of KK, highly valuable to rebuild disaster-stricken communities and preserve local identities. But the reality seems to be going in favor of daycare centers and working mothers. KK’s fight is not only to obtain a pair of mothers and children, which is becoming increasingly difficult to find, but also to preserve some good aspect of local culture and tradition, which is also becoming less attractive to young mothers. KK is not losing a game, but is facing competition from increasing competition and changes in the society. But KK started having grandmothers and grandfathers, bring their grandchildren to KK, finding their services highly valuable. Grandparents remain highly important childcare providers in a rural community, while mothers are away working, but they tend to be highly hesitant to mingle with young mothers. Now, this trend is changing. Even grandparents started using KK for keeping their grandchildren happy. A few fathers are finding the KK Papa highly useful to play with their children. So, despite competition, KK is finding new types of clients.

As a way of attracting their clients and bringing people to interact more, KK usually plans one annual big event. The last year, they rented a bus and went to the New Zealand Village. Because KK is from a disaster-stricken area, it was given a free access to the Village, and even the cost of the bus was donated by a Tokyo-based NPO. Now, three years after the disaster, donation is really drying up, and having such an annual event is becoming increasingly difficult because of cost. Even though KK started charging a small amount of money in diverse events, this bus trip is too costly. For this Fall, they are planning to go to “Anpan Man Land (an amusement park based on a Japanese famous cartoon),” they are not certain yet whether they can reduce the cost of the operation by donations and offer the event.

Your future contribution is highly appreciated for several reasons: (1) to keep an organization trying to nurture warm child-mother relations in the midst of opposite trend of daycare center popularity taking place in Rikuzen Takata; and (2) to keep big events to promote such relations when donations are becoming less and less. Thank you very much for your kind and continuous support.   

Sand Conveyor for Lifting up Land Rikuzen Takata
Sand Conveyor for Lifting up Land Rikuzen Takata

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