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...
Apr 21, 2015

Two Good News, But Also Very Sad News

Isatomae Fukko Shopping Arcade
Isatomae Fukko Shopping Arcade

One good news is that the Isatomae Fukko Shopping Arcade (IFSA) now has a clear schedule of moves to a temporary place (in August 2015) and also to the final place (December 2016). Now, people there started seeing the long-waited end of a tunnel..

The other good news is that a support by a labor union of a company mediated by the DSIA may come to be soon finalized. Three people from the labor union came to discuss with the Head of the IFSA, and proposed to sell some of seasonable commodities to about 6,000 full- and part-time union members. For special events organized by the IFSA, union members can voluntary come to not only help their events, but also participate in events. The labor union also offered to purchase a winner’s cup and medals for a football competition among eight grade school teams in the area. They even offered to give discount tickets to all participants to purchase their food sold by dispatched kitchen cars from the company. They are now trying to work out the details.

One very sad news is that the Head of the IFSA was refused to move into the final Arcade to be started in December 2016. He was the one the DSIA negotiated for establishing a temporary shop tent in 2011, has been the key representative of local organizations to receive GlobalGiving donations, and is now trying to organize a system of support to be provided by the labor union mediated by the DSIA. He is the present head of the IFSA, has organized many events to bring tourists, and has been negotiating with the city government for reconstruction. He has been truly devoting to the development of the Isatomae Community.  

Why did this happen? In the next month, a new company, which manages shopping arcades in both Sizugawa and Isatomae, will be established. Since the preparatory committee of the company is trying to prevent the future bankruptcy of the company, they developed very strict standards. Their goal is to prepare for the company’s sustainability of the next twenty years. This sounds a very good idea. But the committee asked consultants from Tokyo to evaluate the businesses of all members, and decided that members not having a prospect of survival for the next ten years will not be allowed to move into arcades, even if they have money and wish to join. Since the IFSA Head is operating a clothing and sport goods shop, consultants informed him of future market prediction, which will clearly decline due to shrinking children population. Their prediction turned out to be that he may do well for the next five years, especially due to the reconstruction of the area, but after that, it may become fairly difficult to continue his business. To me, what is taking place now is quite wrong. One reason is because nobody can decide to exit from one’s business other than those who operate businesses themselves. The other reason is that he has been diversifying into a few other businesses just recently which is not yet becoming big. But in many rural areas, it is very common to operate several small businesses to generate some decent revenues. Since I lived in a remote area in Niigata, I saw some companies expanding their businesses frequently through diversification. In a sense, he can dynamically cope with changes in the market as he faces environmental changes. Tokyo consultants treat the situation of each member very statically, and do not see evolutionary potentials. I personally feel that such decision should be left to the initiatives of individual members whether one is to take a risk or not and that the market will come to pressure individuals to make their decisions.

In order to keep the stability of this arcade company, this company is to invite a Tokyo-based convenience store. I am in favor of bringing it to the arcade, as long as they work to help local economy develop rather than simply sucking up the business opportunities of the local. How can it be done? This is clearly another difficult area, since it is far less costly to bring everything from what has been mass produced in other areas. A less populated area will not succeed in generating its economic dynamics without the base of community support and movements. People in Isatomae may end up facing much tougher situations than before if the community disintegrates. Some people criticize some types of consultants for their motives to make money from government subsidies with little interest in helping community development, though how to develop a less-populated area is a difficult issue and a central issue discussed presently in Japan.

The temporary shop tent still used as a storage
The temporary shop tent still used as a storage

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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

Links:

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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