World in Asia (WiA)

World in Asia (WiA)—Building a Platform for Social Entrepreneurship to Promote Recovery
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Grant: ¥6,000,000 (approx. US$76,850; 2-year grant)

Even prior to the devastating earthquake that struck on March 11, 2011, the Tohoku region was facing serious challenges. The population was increasingly comprised of elderly residents as the younger generations moved away in search of jobs, causing a serious decline in the regional economy and the disintegration of communities. When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, it further intensified those trends. In order to promote long-term economic recovery in the region, therefore, one must not only rebuild the economic infrastructure that was there prior to the disaster, but also address these fundamental, underlying issues in order to create jobs and rebuild communities.

In order to help address these issues, the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund made a two-year grant of ¥6 million to World in Asia (WiA), a Tokyo-based NGO that was launched just six months after the 3/11 earthquake to promote social entrepreneurship in the Tohoku region. The grant was made possible thanks to funding from the Hitachi Foundation and other donors to the JCIE fund.

WiA works with social entrepreneurs—irrespective of nationality, race, or sector—and builds on the wisdom of many countries to resolve deep-rooted problems worldwide. By connecting inspired and committed individuals, WiA is hoping to develop models that can help Tohoku achieve long-term recovery and development. WiA provides hands-on support to social entrepreneurs, offering strategic and organizational development, fundraising support, impact assessment, and resource matching. The JCIE funding has helped WiA strengthen and stabilize its own organizational foundation so that it can play a long-term role in contributing to the recovery efforts in the region and beyond.

Additionally, WiA has launched a web-based platform called StoneSoup and a Facebook page for providing updates on the projects and building a community. Through this platform, visitors can show their support by giving donations and by sharing the story, providing ideas, or sending encouragement. WiA already had an international network and it is thus hoping to connect global resources with the efforts in Tohoku, and to offer a model of social entrepreneurship that might be replicated in other countries as well. By scaling projects up beyond just one region or one country, WiA hopes that models and solutions that start in Japan might someday change the world. In 2014, WiA reorganized its activities and launched a new organization, World in Tohoku (WiT) to focus on its work in this region.