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...
Jan 20, 2015

Big Advancement, but with New Uncertainties

Elevated land where arcade will move temporarily
Elevated land where arcade will move temporarily

A big advancement in reconstructing the Isatomae Fukko Shopping Arcade (IFSA) will take place this coming April. The land lifting of three meters for a temporary location of the arcade has been completed, and IFSA is informed that a move will take place in April this year. Presently, processed is a legal procedure of leasing the land from the Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation Japan (SME Japan) to the Minami-sanriku-cho Government. When all legal documentation is completed, the SME Japan will build a new temporary shop arcade, and start dismantling the present one to be reused as a part of the full arcade, scheduled to be completed in December 2017. Still three more years are in need before the complete reconstruction. This arrangement, however, makes it possible for shops to continue operating their businesses without closing shops. News that they will be moving very soon to a new temporary location and that they do not have to close their shops are big relief for them. It is a big celebration to reach a little bit closer to the end of the reconstruction tunnel.

This means that the IFSA will not use the temporary shop tent which the DSIA helped to establish in 2011. Now, the tent is officially donated to the IFSA by a local NGO which operated the tent, and then the IFSA donated it to the owner of the land which was leased to the IFSA for free. This very much ended the involvement of the DSIA over the issue of the tent. However, it does not mean that DSIA’s support roles to the IFSA will end. A new stage even for the DSIA’s support started.

So far, so good. But this advancement came with new headaches and uncertainties. All discussions that the IFSA made for establishing their own Arcade Corporation, independent from Shizukawa, was turned down by the Central Government. They made a rule that only one development corporation will be established in each township or city. This decision made some of IFSA’s past discussions meaningless, though some plans are still effective to be implemented. The corporation will be established in June this year. But new information generated an enormous headache for some present shop owners at the IFSA. They were informed to pay 1,500 yen per one square meter for their shops. But they are now informed to make an initial investment by 500,000 yen for shops using below 50 square meters and 10,000 yen for every additional one square meter. Most likely, an additional capital investment will be required sometime at the end of this year. For some shop owners, this amount itself may be too high, needless to say about an additional payment at the end of this year. To make the situation worse, they are also informed to pay for a guarantee fee for construction, which is worth about a 10 month-rental-fee based on a shop size. Some of shop owners started thinking about withdrawing from the shop construction plan.

Additional concern came from their research on diverse success cases of town rebuilding, all over Japan. What they found was that there has never been any shop area where people do not live. The disaster-stricken Tohoku area is the first to be experimented in that way, since a residential area has to be built on the mountain side. This means that residents in Isatomae may not come to shop for their daily needs at the IFSA, since diverse shops are already operating in several locations, much closer to their residential area. The key success factor identified in the cases is restaurants and food they sell inside a new arcade. Thus, food-related business may prosper, but shops dealing with daily living goods may not have any good prospect, despite heavy investment they have to make. Some owners even studied what are employment opportunities if they move to Sendai, the closest big city. They are finding that anybody above age 50 may find a job only in a construction-related business, which is physically severe with very low payment, making not possible to keep a family living in Sendai. Some shop owners are seeing quite a gloomy prospect in the future.

One solution now they are approaching is to talk to diverse organizations, including the Minami-sanriku-cho government, to invest a small amount, so that the IFSA can ease the amount of needed investment to be made by shop owners.  They are hoping to succeed in achieving the solution. Another solution is to continuously attract tourists, so that shops can rely less on residents whose population is declining. This means that they need to continue developing events and are even thinking about developing a system of selling local products through a direct order system.

DSIA happened to be contacted by a labor union of one company which is interested in developing programs to support the disaster-stricken Tohoku area. The IFSA is really pleased to hear this news, and provided diverse ideas to inform to the labor union, hoping the union will choose one of the proposals they made during the DSIA’s present visit. As the stage of reconstruction advances, the DSIA is also shifting to new ways of supporting Tohoku redevelopment.

The shop tent finally donated to the land owner
The shop tent finally donated to the land owner

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Jan 20, 2015

Struggling to Find Solutions amid Busy Schedules

A fun place for children and mothers
A fun place for children and mothers

Kirarin Kids (KK), as usual, works very hard and innovatively.  KK has been doing very well in offering many programs and attracting local mothers and children, as I have reported previously, They continue to 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, cooking lectures, traditional food cooking, etc. Now, they decided to offer more programs on No Body’s Perfect, lectures on children’s nourishment, counselling on life with a small fee charged, a puppet show, a party with Santa Clause, Christmas gardening, etc. Especially notable is their increase of  (4) Kirarin Papa sessions, offering lessons how fathers can read books for children, father (grandfather)-children brown-noodle making, and showing a movie titled “Jin Jin.” One Sunday a month, they will have a key and big event for improving father-children relations. Now, their schedule tables are filled much more than before. Because of such activities, their clients are increasing. Especially, mothers and children who just moved to Rikuzen Takata are finding KK a valuable place for them to enter into the community. There were also some signs of newly coming foreign workers, but they found their-affiliated religious organizations more comfortable to belong.

With regard to a KK’s future location after the present temporary government-provided facility is dismantled, nothing has been yet settled. But a Tokyo-based NPO is offering opportunities to develop some kind of future tie-ups with organizations showing an interest in building a children’s facility in Rikuzen Takata, while the City Government also seems to be developing some programs to improve the image of the city by providing more children support. However, nothing is certain. Especially, nobody knows how the latter programs will be, until an election of a Mayor will be completed the next month.

KK’s active and innovative approach toward all types of problems and uncertainties seems to be generating some potential solutions, while nothing is certain at this moment. Since competition among childcare NPOs in Rikuzen Takata is becoming severe, there is also a possibility that nothing may work out at the end. 

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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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