Bill Drayton on Social Entrepreneurship in Japan + Recruiting for Ashoka's Japan Representative

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Source: Ashoka

Ashoka CEO Bill Drayton in Asahi Newspaper, Japan

Ashoka CEO Bill Drayton recently visited Japan as part of the development of Ashoka Japan. Initially Youth Venture will be launched in Japan, followed by other Ashoka programs as it makes sense to do so. You can read Ashoka advisor Nana Watanabe's account of Bill's trip here.

Now we are searching for the right person to help launch Ashoka in Japan! See the bottom of this blog post for the ad (in Japanese).

To give an idea of our thinking and belief that social entrepreneurship is vital to Japan's development here's the transcript of an interview Bill conducted with the Asahi Newspaper during his trip:

Q: You are proposing changing society through social entrepreneurship. How is this different from traditional civil movements or CSR activities?

A: The most powerful thing in this world is an excellent idea. Social entrepreneurship is about these ideas achieving power to make changes in reality when it is in the hands of a successful entrepreneur. If we find someone who is starving and who needs something to eat, the traditional charity is to give them fish to eat. Social entrepreneurs teach them how to catch fish, and further, they change the fishing industry.

Q: Give me some examples.

A: For instance, in India, there is no productivity in agriculture because there is no irrigation. The Indian government is lacking the tax money to spend, while corporations don’t go near this field because there is no profit. Social entrepreneurs who know how to work in these poor villages can connect the two, and create a system for the corporations to construct irrigation at lower costs.

Q: Why do you think people are focusing on social entrepreneurship now?

A: The industrial revolution split the world into two: the social sector with education and public service, and the business sector, which was efficient and profitable. Because of this split, the social sector has lagged behind drastically. Then, through social entrepreneurship, by introducing business strategy, the social sector is now quickly catching up. We have started to see the bridge between the two.

Q: In the United States and Europe, there is a donation culture. However, this does not exist in Japan. Therefore we cannot raise money as readily. The young people who find jobs in the citizen sector are very very poor.

A: Recently, when we focused on the growth of wages in the social sector, the saw that the growth rate is much higher than the business sector. Of course, the original salary was lower than the business sector, so it is still behind. I have seen many top students at Harvard Business School pursue the social sector instead of large corporations. We need to change the giving culture in Japan. During my stay in Japan, I have heard from many people that they desperately need a system for donations to be tax deductable. Japan needs a system to let people to choose where to put their money. If this happens, the youth who choose to work for the citizen sector will be able to make a living.

Q: I hear you are starting an office soon Japan. Why are you thinking about Japan now?

A: Social entrepreneurship is very behind in East Asia compared to other regions. There are global corporations in Japan, and many young people overseas respect their culture—Japan is an influential country. If something happens in Japan, the change will accelerate. We are also planning to spread our activities to China.

Q: Japan has a proverb that the nail that sticks up gets stuck down. Do you really think that it is possible in such a culture that you can create an “Everyone a Changemaker World?”

A: Interestingly enough, everybody told me that Japanese are lacking in creativity and initiative. I understand this as a national consensus that change is needed. Without creativity, Japan could never have established the country they have now. Collaboration, which is considered a Japanese strength, is not the enemy of creativity, but the partner of creativity. On the contrary, many American people think they are not good at collaboration because they are too individualistic. This is also wrong. One can never achieve anything without collaboration.

Q: What is your plan in Japan?

A: The traditional education in the world was always to teach knowledge and rules. However, in this rapidly changing world, as soon as you learn the rules, they change. In order to respond to this rapid change, what is needed is the ability to implement the changing ideas to reality. To do that, one needs empathy and teamwork. If you start this education now, in ten years, Japanese corporations can have creative and innovative workers. If you don’t, you will be behind in the global competition.

Q: I hear your father was an explorer, and your mother was a cellist. Raised in such a fortunate environment, what created your interest in working with the poor?

A: As you say, the people exposed to poverty are unfortunate. However, if you leave the situation it is in, it will spread to everyone. No matter what environment you were raised in, it is part of your life. Where I grew up in New York, many races lived together. If you take the subway one block, it will take you to a totally different culture. Growing up in New York contributed to the vision I have now. At the same time, the changes we are facing in the world are changes every country has in common. Japan is not an exception. If you really want to, you can change. Japan is standing at its entrance.

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