Creating Community Networks to Support ChildrenOutstanding Social Innovator prize recipients working with NGOs in Kansai region

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Collective for Children representatives Takanori Kawauchi (left) and Aki Ko (right)

Collective for Children (“CFC”) is an Osaka-based organization being set up to work with NGOs in the Kansai region, with the aim of creating community networks that can provide ongoing support for children throughout their childhood. CFC was one of the two organizations recognized as an “Outstanding Social Innovator” at The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2016 held in September (with a third organization also recognized as an Exceptional Social Innovator). The prize comes with a stipend of up to one hundred million yen annually for up to three years.

CFC’s proposal was submitted by the project’s representatives, Takanori Kawauchi, representative director of Me-rise, an NGO working to support persons with disabilities, and Aki Ko, representative director of NOBEL, an NGO that supports working women by providing childcare for sick children. Preparations at CFC are moving forward rapidly, with the aim of beginning operations from April.

Networking with other NGOs

When we visited CFC in early February, we met in a conference room in central Osaka where a group of young people had gathered. These were entrepreneurs and representatives of NGOs from the Kansai region who had come to see CFC’s presentation and discuss ways they could work together to address the issue of child poverty. The session began with an introduction by Mr. Kawauchi, saying, “Our project received The Nippon Foundation’s Outstanding Social Innovator Prize, and we would like to work together with all of you in Kansai.”

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Aki Ko gives an overview of CFC

Next, Ms. Ko gave an overview of CFC, noting that if left unaddressed, child poverty in Japan has a social cost of roughly 40 trillion yen, and that she and Mr. Kawauchi submitted their proposal to the Social Innovation Forum from a desire to do something about this problem. After winning the prize, they discussed a number of paths to take, and decided to focus on the creation of a safety net for children from newborns to 20 years of age. Given that this is more than they would be able to do on their own, they extended an invitation to other groups working in the region to work together. Ms. Ko added that they began by talking with government officials about how best to start the project, and decided that for the time being they would work with selected local governments in the Kansai region and focus on a geographic area with roughly 200 – 300 elementary school students.

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Representatives of other organizations introduce their activities

For the rest of the meeting, representatives of each of the other 12 organizations in attendance introduced themselves and their organizations’ activities, and discussed how they could work with CFC. These groups are involved in areas including support for persons with disabilities, medical care, employment, childcare, support for mothers and fathers, classroom learning and truancy, and support for children’s studies.

Discussion with CFC’s representatives

After the meeting, we discussed Mr. Kawauchi’s and Ms. Ko’s participation in the Social Innovation Forum and their plans for CFC going forward.

The Nippon Foundation (TNF): What made you decide to submit an entry to the Social Innovation Forum?

Kawauchi: I am involved with a community of social entrepreneurs in Kansai called “edge,” and we were invited by The Nippon Foundation to submit an entry to the Social Innovation Forum. Given the difficulties that organizations have providing support to address the issue of child poverty, I realized these issues could not be resolved by one organization alone, so we submitted the entry using a network approach.

Ko: When I heard about the submission from Kawauchi-san, I didn’t even need to discuss it, I immediately said “Let’s do it.”

Kawauchi: We both agreed that we were serious about wanting to win the prize. We decided that one organization alone could not produce what The Nippon Foundation was looking for, so we made a network-based proposal that would also involve other NGOs.

TNF: Had you already been thinking about child poverty?

Kawauchi: Me-rise works mostly in the area of supporting persons with disabilities, and in the course of working on support for children with developmental disabilities, I came across the issue of child poverty. After talking with people at other NGOs, I began to realize that poverty is a fundamental underlying issue.

Ko: When we at NOBEL visit the homes of sick children to care for them, we sometimes see that they do not have enough food or their clothes are dirty, or that conditions in some places are unsanitary. I thought that without resolving the issue of poverty, none of these things would change.

TNF: Your project is still at an early stage compared with the two other Social Innovator prize winners.

Kawauchi: Yes, those projects are already up and running, but for CFC, submitting the entry for the Social Innovation Forum was the starting point. We plan to use resources that are already in place, but coordinating with local governments and communities will take some time.

Ko: Discussions have gained momentum since we received the prize. The fact that we now have regular contact with government officials is important. I’m confident that we are on the right track.

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