The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2019Young people pursuing dreams

One of the sessions at The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2019, held in Tokyo from November 29 to December 1, was titled Yume Jitsugen Taikai (Rally to Achieve Dreams). The program was organized by “i stand,” a group of students at Hiro Gakuen Senior High School in Tokyo who are working to bring about social change with an emphasis on individual initiative. The session featured a keynote address by Takeshi Okada, former manager of the Japan national soccer team, a panel discussion with four junior and senior high school students who are involved in social activities, and a presentation by members of i stand.

Narumi Takashi and Natsumi Yamada of i stand welcome the attendees

Mr. Okada opened his remarks referencing the results of the nine-country Awareness Survey of Society and Country announced at a separate session earlier in the day. He noted that in Japan today, convenience and comfort can lead to complacency, and stressed that young people need to have dreams and a desire to pursue challenges. He emphasized that to bring about change, a person first needs to change himself or herself. Speaking of his own experience as a soccer player and coach, he pointed out the importance of “wanting to win,” rather than simply “not wanting to lose.” Acknowledging the difficulty of achieving change, he encouraged young people to set short-term, achievable goals, and then to build upon that experience to pursue larger goals going forward. He also pointed out that leaders do not study “leadership,” but are individuals who have a vision and can instill in others the desire to pursue that vision.

Takeshi Okada encourages young people to pursue challenges

The panel discussion, moderated by journalist Kenichi Shimomura, featured Maho Tsuda and Ami Hirai, third-year students at Takamatsu Junior High School Attached to the Faculty of Education, Kagawa University; Keito Kubota, a second-year student at Keio Senior High School; and i stand member Haruka Ikeda. The discussion began with brief introductions by the panelists of their respective activities. Ms. Tsuda and Ms. Hirai have launched “Project O” to promote Oshima Island, a small island in the Seto Inland Sea where the Ooshima Seishoen Sanatorium for persons affected by leprosy is located. Mr. Kubota started the organization “BE Frontier” that holds events to bring together high school students from different schools and different backgrounds. Ms. Ikeda and i stand are working to empower high school students to address issues on their own initiative.

Maho Tsuda and Ami Hirai introduce Project O

When asked about the hurdles they face, Ms. Tsuda and Ms. Hirai explained that adults have outdated misunderstandings related to leprosy, and that they are targeting people their own age to prevent these misunderstandings from being passed down. Mr. Kubota noted that most of his classmates are not interested in getting involved because they don’t want to stand out, while Ms. Ikeda, as one of the session’s organizers, had been worried that the event would be poorly attended, and is working to raise i stand’s profile.

On the subject of social media, BE Frontier has a website and uses Facebook. Ms. Ikeda said that i stand uses social media like Twitter, but this tends to reach only people who are already interested in their issues and activities, and the challenge is to reach a wider audience.

BE Frontier’s Keito Kubota

To get more students involved, Ms. Ikeda noted that terms like “social change” sound overwhelming to young people, and that i stand is focusing on things that high school students can do that adults might not. She pointed out that adults tend to lump all young people together as a uniform group, and sometimes make incorrect assumptions regarding the issues that are important to young people. Ms. Tsuda and Ms. Hirai added that instead of just saying you are involved in an activity, it is important first to make people aware of the underlying issue and discuss the issue to spark their interest. They also noted the importance of talking to young people “in their own language,” and that teachers and other adults have a supporting role to play.

Harumi Ikeda of i stand

Mr. Kubota explained that BE Frontier started out primarily as a social organization, and subsequently became involved in social issues. He also observed that there tend to be two types of high school students – those with a general interest in many things and those with a deep interest in one particular subject. BE Frontier is working to involve both types of students, and Ms. Ikeda commented that teams that can incorporate both types of people are the strongest.

The session concluded with a presentation by members of i stand. The name of the organization was chosen to emphasize the importance of individual initiative, and that if one waits for others to do something nothing will change. The presentation used graphics to highlight some of the everyday issues people tend to take for granted, like plastic waste from product wrapping and rest room accessibility, and that young people can help to address these issues if they are willing to take the initiative.

Presentation by members of i stand

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Public Relations Team
The Nippon Foundation

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