Annual NPO Forum

On Nov 23 and 24, I joined the annual NPO forum coordinated by the Japan NPO forum. The three key themes were:
民間 focused on inclusion of the public

変革 looking at social change
連携 addressing organizational collaboration

Tajima from the PSC also joined on Friday and we met up for lunch.

On Thursday, I joined the intro session and part one was a good napping time, so no need to report anything. The Second part was an introduction to the three key themes around which on Friday there were 3 separate 9:30- 4:30 workshops.

Katsuji Imata, Co-Director of CSO Network and former director of the white band campaign in Japan, coordinated the 連携 workshop and gave a good intro. He talked about how we often overwhelm people who want to come in with some interest in volunteering. We give them too much info and ask more than they can give – in effect killing off their interest. Kat also addresses the White band Campaign and the bashing they experienced. I liked his point about the white being a small way anyone could contribute – people do not have to commit their lives to get involved. Based on my own experience – the call to committing ones life to an issue and organization is one of the elements that stops the proliferation of nonprofit support in Japan.

On Friday I joined the 変革 workshop and the speakers were excellent. Kazutaka Sakaguchi the Secretary General of Shaplaneer, did a create job getting three different speakers who had passion, creative ideas and positive energy from which all of us could learn.

About the speakers briefly:

Yasuyuki Shimizu founder and leader of Life Link -
He worked with NHK, and did a program on suicide a few years ago. Two years ago he quite his job and started life link. As he talked about his work in the community reaching out to people, working with the media and government I was moved by how his strategy fit the classic model of advocacy. I still have not written to him but I think his work needs support from people with interest and skills.

Shoji Sano – founder and CEO of the Big Issue –
He discussed how they started up and how the workers, homeless and/or no longer homeless gain a new sense of well being by having a job and engaging with people in their communities. He has a long-term plan for getting people off the street, into doya (flop houses?) and intro apartments. He also wants to start a foundation to fund projects in the future. His smile and energy were infectious!
By my group did not like the fact that the big issue is not incorporated as an NPO. One person said in directly that this type of socially responsible business might make nonprofits meaningless. (Ugh!)

Takashi Fukui is a graphic designer and art director at an advertising firm.
He has done some signature artwork for large NGOs in Japan – such as designing the color in newspaper add for green peace Japan for people to bring to one of the first anti-Iraq invasion peace parades. He was also the creator of the world vision t-shirt poster campaign. I really appreciated how he used his talents – thought in a different field – for the nonprofit NGO sector. (My group complained how he did not do this work for free and that he was not an NPO person. Ugh again.)

I loved all the speakers and liked how Sakaguchi got people from three different fields, doing very different work, as nonprofits, socially responsible business leader and artist supporting NGO work to present in a way illustrating how important it is to be creative in order to affect social change. It reminded me how we need people with new ideas, diverse skills and has to use multi-level approaches to deal with social issues. I came away from the day mostly energized.

However, the group work was a waste of time. The problem was with the participants – the people in my groups were too damn old in their way of thinking. They were not really interested in change and wasted most of the group work time complaining.

With the first speaker – they objected to my idea about how Shimizu's approach was advocacy. With the second two they were threatened by the fact that they were not “npo people.” I did not feel they were actually open to changing society. Looking back I realize that some people are worried that their government funding and positions may be threatened by new ideas, new ways to creating organizations to deal with social problems… another growing pain in the development in Japanese nonprofits.

I was also disappointed by how few people there were – less than 200 people. Last year in Niigata there were maybe 700+… not sure why they wanted this small number, but I also felt the audience was too old. More young energy and new ideas would have helped make the event more motivating.


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