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LUCSUS Blog: 'Explorations of social entrepreneurship in Japan' by Barry Ness

What causes social entrepreneurship to thrive in some places while not in others? What are some of the important factors in place to foster social entrepreneurship in rural areas?
Japan

These are this a few of the questions explored by a group of international students in Gojome and Kazuno towns in the wintery, mountainous paradise of Akita, Japan, a region faced with a declining population due to urban migration and an aging population.

The students particpated in a  was arranged by the University of Tokyo’s Graduate Program for Sustainability Science, Global Leadership Initiative (GPSS-GLI). Two participants from the LUMES Program, Leonard D’Crus (UK) and Brynn Szukala (USA), joined other participants from Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Chile along with a teaching team from the University of Tokyo, United Nations University Tokyo and Lund University (Barry Ness) for a week-plus of intense fieldwork training activities. The students worked significantly on semi-structured interviews with a mix of actors working to promote social entrepreneurship in each of the towns.

Furthermore, students worked two long days with analyzing the data from the interviews. The students presented their findings for a diverse audience on Tuesday.  A key student finding, among others, was on the important role that “intermediaries” play in fostering collaboration between government officials, the public, local businesses and entrepreneurs working in the region.

It wasn’t all work for students, however. There was some time to do some other activities. On Saturday, Lund participants cooked a saffron fish soup for members of the Gojome community followed by a presentation on activities at Stpln in Malmö. The field exercise activities are part of a decade-long collaboration between sustainability education programs at LUCSUS and the University of Tokyo.

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