In the wake of the Great Tohoku Earthquake of 2011, the founding team with extensive experience in supporting social entrepreneurs gathered from Japan, the United States, and Southeast Asia. We started World in Asia, which is our original name, to support entrepreneurs rebuilding and addressing social issues in the affected areas.
Over the first three years, we helped 13 social entrepreneurs in Tohoku build partnerships with various stakeholders and provided management support. We applied the venture philanthropy approach to provide multi-year comprehensive support, including serving on these organizations’ boards when necessary.
We also started bridging Japan with overseas networks and knowledge on social innovation. For example, we helped a Japanese social enterprise expand into Asia through identifying their local partners, strategic consulting, research, and interpretation support.
Mio Yamamoto took over the Executive Director position in 2013 due to the health condition of Testuo Kato, our first Executive Director. In addition, we changed the organization’s name to World in Tohoku (WIT) to clarify our focus on Tohoku. In the meantime, we spun off the Asia-related work as WIA Lab, which Tetsuo then led.
To facilitate cross-boundary collaborations to support Tohoku social entrepreneurs, WIT started various programs. Our flagship program was the Learning Journey/Cross-Border Learning Journey, where social entrepreneurs and US-Japan business persons convene to discuss challenges and opportunities for these entrepreneurs. More than 290 participants met over the course of eleven Journeys.
WIT started an Accelerator Program (former Partner Program) to promote mentorship and identify potential board members or advisors for social entrepreneurs. 26 Accelerators, business persons from the US and Japan, utilized their experience and wisdom to help Tohoku social entrepreneurs. Many relationships emerged out of this program continue to thrive today, including board members, skill-based volunteers, and business partnerships.
Our holistic support and relationship with the social entrepreneurs allowed us to identify several key organizational capabilities that could be leveraged for their growth. We turned some of them into new capacity-building projects and granted some funding. These projects include organizational development and systems coaching, nonprofit board and governance workshop, social impact assessment, branding and marketing, and English discussion class on social innovation. The first two projects have expanded and continued to this day.
We continued supporting the international expansion of social entrepreneurs. (e.g. Urushi Rocks’ events in New York)
WIT expanded the geographical coverage to work with social entrepreneurs beyond Tohoku to include other regions of Japan.
We identified the decision-making mechanism and the board and management as critical factors for nonprofit growth and impact. In addition, our sense of urgency toward nonprofit governance, which had turned into a mere formality. Thus WIT started a series of nonprofit board and governance programs, including publishing a book Nonprofit Governance, conducting board training for more than 250 nonprofit leaders, and providing consulting services. In 2021, we launched Board Fellow Program with an inaugural theme of “Advancing well-being and work-life-parenting balance for mothers”
Started training for corporate employees on cross-boundary and distributed leadership at Recruit Management School. More than 300 people from various industries such as retail, manufacturing, and finance have learned the much needed leadership.
We fostered youth leadership to address social issues as an implementer of the TOMODACHI Initiative. We supported more than 150 high school and college students and young professionals from all over Japan to work on local social issues.
WIT designed and hosted Creation Journey, the next step of Learning Journey. Eleven business and nonprofit leaders visited the Bay Area to meet with leading practitioners in the fields of technology and sustainability, economy beyond capitalism.
WIT helped Japanese nonprofits raise funding overseas and increase their global recognition. (e.g. WheeLog! won World Summit Award, MIT SOLVE, and Dubai Expo 2021, and Nobel was selected by Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls). World in You nominates innovators from Japan in digital social innovation to the World Summit Award as a Country Expert.
We have worked with many partners in the social, business, and public sectors to utilize our networks and knowledge on social innovation. Our past work includes coordinating and communication support for overseas visits and researching global case studies and knowledge with the Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting, the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of the Japanese government, a leading IT Company, Cross Fields, KinoPharma Inc., and the Japan Association of New Public.
WIT is now World in You to return to our foundation philosophy and mission.