Highlights 2 Creating a Future for Local Communities
Many local communities face the problems of a declining birthrate, an aging society, and depopulation, and they are being challenged to achieve true regional revitalization that brings sustained and long-term vitality.
Working with the Tono City government and using the facilities of a local junior high school that had been closed down, Fuji Xerox jointly operates Tono Mirai Zukuri College in Tono City, Iwate Prefecture. This initiative has fostered various kinds of collaboration among local residents, government organizations, businesses, and schools in a way that rises above community, generational, and social lines and has provided the impetus for creating projects that lead to win-win-win outcomes for participants. Tono Mirai Zukuri College has also garnered many positive results in raising up the next generation of human resources equipped to support the future development of local communities.
This future-oriented "space" committed to local self-reliance and autonomy has won the praise of experts and is serving as a new model for community design.
|Percentage of people over 65 in Tono City |
Source: Tono City, Tono City statistics on population and households.
|(as of Aug. 31, 2014) 35.5%|
|Percentage of people over 65 in Japan |
Source: Cabinet Office, Fiscal 2015 Annual Report on the Aging Society.
|(as of Oct. 1, 2014) 26.0%|
|Annual no. of visitors to Tono Mirai Zukuri College||(fiscal 2014) 3,569|
|(projected in fiscal 2015) 5,000|
Sharing a Mission and a Journey with Tono City
Tono Mirai Zukuri College was established in April 2014. The origins of the project go back to the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 when Fuji Xerox employees were mobilized to aid devastated coastal communities in Iwate Prefecture's Kamaishi City and its surroundings. In the process, Fuji Xerox developed strong ties with Tono City that served as a backup logistic support center for the aid work. Tono used to be famous for its stunning natural beauty, history, and unique culture such as the kappa and zashiki-warashi which are featured in the world of The Legends of Tono. But this did not make Tono immune to the problems of depopulation as well as aging which exceeds the national average. With every visit, Fuji Xerox staff began earnestly asking themselves whether there was something they could do for this wonderful community.
Mayor Toshiaki Honda of Tono City explains, "We knew the community would continue to decline unless new human resources were developed. This was also true of companies in Tono. It was with this shared understanding of our situation that we turned our sights to thinking about what we could do." Our approach at Fuji Xerox was to raise up new human resources and contribute to society by improving communication. As Mayor Honda and community members were won over to this basic value that Fuji Xerox has steadily nurtured over the years, the Tono Mirai Zukuri project took shape as a joint effort.
The Tono Mirai Zukuri Camp was launched in the autumn of 2012 jointly with Tono City. The Fuji Xerox Communication Technology Laboratory contributed its expertise to promote the three basic concepts of dialogue, action, and continuity. Activities were started to identify the unique features of the community and to develop tours capitalizing on these attractions and create souvenirs using local products. A series of corporate training sessions were also organized.
In the following year, 260 new employees from Fuji Xerox participated in training programs at Tono. This gave birth to the key concept of "A Space for Learning through Interaction.
Discussions also started in 2013 for using the facilities of a local junior high school that had closed down. Following a series of dialogues with local residents, the decision was made to use the site of the former Tsuchibuchi Junior High School for the College.
Local High School Students Shine in Exchanges with University Students from around the World
The University of Tokyo Innovation Summer Program (TISP) is a program designed by "i.school," an organization responsible for innovation education at the University of Tokyo. A total of 60 university students selected from the University of Tokyo, Harvard, Oxford, and other institutions throughout the world came to Tono Mirai Zukuri College in August 2014. There, the TISP participants held a three-day educational opportunity for Tono High School students which was designed to give them a transformative experience.
Shy at first, the high school students gradually started to change as they shared the homes of local residents with the university students and took part in innovation education workshops and fieldwork introducing the attractions of the local community. By the end of the program, the high school students were confident enough to perform skits in English on ideas for bringing innovation to their communities based on the strengths and attractions they realized existed around them. This transformation left a deep impression on Hideyuki Horii who is responsible for the management of i.school and is professor at the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Tokyo's School of Engineering. "The high school students had a special light in their eyes, and I felt the experience would have a strong and lasting impact on their lives. The program was also a valuable learning experience for the university students because teaching the high school students gave them a chance to examine what it takes to generate innovation."
Working with the Community to Foster Businesses
Akiko Hanabusa, an employee of the Toyo SC Trading Co., Ltd., was struggling with the question of how to create a new business when she participated in "Joint Future Creation Program," a program hosted by Fuji Xerox in 2014. Staff members from universities and consulting companies as well as local residents gathered to help eight participants from seven businesses from Tokyo, the Tohoku area, and Tono visualize a future Tono in which their businesses could grow and prosper.
"All obstacles to brainstorming were set aside as we engaged in a free exchange of ideas on business models. Local residents offered downto- earth comments that made a big difference. They really empowered us to refine our ideas. I continued to go back and forth between Tokyo and Tono, always finding encouragement in the advice and assistance of these supporters. I felt a gradual transformation taking place within me as I moved from a fuzzy sense of expectation to confidence."
Ms. Hanabusa decided to pursue possibilities with Tono's Italian sister city of Salerno. The model that she ultimately developed featured the export of wasabi, a local Tono specialty, to Salerno combined with ideas for new dishes conveying the traditional food culture of Tono and Japan. Her ideas have gelled into a concrete action plan and are well on the way to being implemented.
Platform for Generating Collective Wisdom
Tono City and the College have taken on the task of training human resources for the future with the involvement of the local communities. "We envision the College functioning as a platform for identifying local challenges and finding solutions," says Kunishi Higuchi, office manager of the Innovative Revitalization Group at Fuji Xerox. The platform provides a program, space, and people and then business representatives and students from inside and outside the region as well as local residents and local government employees come together to engage in frank and direct discussions. Fieldwork is woven into the program to provide participants with firsthand experience with traditions and other assets that have been carefully preserved in Tono, including farmhouse inns, local folklore, horse loggingNote, and the rich natural environment of the area. In this way, the platform promotes collaboration with the local community and gradually weaves individual contributions to the discussion into an integrated body of collective wisdom.
- Note Using horses to transport logs
Community-Centered Design Guides Local Communities
"I am on the same wavelength as the local residents of Tono," explains Manami Sasaki, a member of the College staff and graduate of Tsuchibuchi Junior High School.
"Participating in the activities of the College made me want to contribute to the community. I invited my friends who stayed in the community after graduation to the College and we got busy planning events so that people could learn more about our community. I am outgoing now; it is hard to imagine I ever had been introverted."
It was very moving to hear a participant in the Tono-Kyoto research program of cultural capital say cheerfully, "I want to keep improving Tono so I can live here to the age of 100 and say I've had a happy life. Old farmhouses in this area have been designated Important Cultural Assets. My idea is to make them into guesthouses where visitors can experience true farmhouse hospitality."
NPO Tono Natural Life Network is an organization that serves as a contact point for the area's farmhouse inns and other pr i vate homes providing accommodations to visitors. Akiko Asanuma, the coordinator of the organization, explains. "During their stay, visitors have a chance to have deep conversations with the families that have opened their homes to them. These conversations can have great meaning for both sides. Many local residents have come to the point where they realize that they themselves have to act to reinvigorate the community. The College's success depends on whether it can translate this realization into a sustained wave of action."
About 4,000 people visited the College during 2014, and stays at private homes accounted for approximately 40 percent of the total of 1,800 overnight stays. The hopes of local residents are manifested in the close interaction fostered by families opening their homes to visitors.
Office Manager Higuchi of the Innovative Revitalization Group says, "Attracting new businesses or drawing tour buses to the region are common methods in revitalization. But our approach is all about identifying the real problems and challenges by communicating with residents from various angles. Having understood the true problems, we proceed to implement solutions. This is the basic concept in 'communitycentered design.' The idea is to continuously link all stakeholders with the community and to constantly work toward enhancing the area's appeal."
This results in tangible value for society in the form of new businesses, new human resources, and changes in the community.
A Space for Creating Shared Value (CSV)
Coming into its second year of operation in 2015, the College is currently conducting a variety of programs. These include training programs for businesses and organizations, research and publication of materials on folklore and folk culture, support for sextiary industrialization, and promotion of green tourism. From the perspective of supporting disaster-affected areas, the College also hosts research workshops on local governments' backup logistical support in times of disaster. "Designing activities not only for normal times but for emergency situations as well is a very meaningful approach to CSR," says Professor Horii.
In its second year of operation, the Joint Future Creation Program has developed greater depth with the participation of additional local governments and third-sector organizations. Participants are drawing on the free exchange of ideas to visualize their own futures. The TISP exchange program with university students from throughout the world has been followed up with a new program for hosting exchanges among Japanese universities. Combined with the College's function of promoting collaboration, these activities are breathing new life into the community by giving new meaning to the culture, history, natural environment, and human resources that the community has carefully nurtured and preserved as its foremost assets. This process has also been instrumental in developing the capacity to identify new challenges and to formulate new programs.
Japan's local communities face a diverse range of problems and challenges. With this in mind, the College provides a space rooted in the community where stakeholders can connect with each other in an ongoing fashion. Though this is a time consuming process, the College dedicates itself to digging deep to discover the true source of problems and to working with the community to formulate solutions. This committed approach has won the high praise of experts.
A dialogue has already started with Minamiashigara City in Kanagawa Prefecture, and collaborative projects are now moving forward with other local governments. The College itself continues to grow from day to day and is now preparing to expand into areas such as research and verification of the creation of new employment in the community. Four years after the earthquake, the activities born in Tono are now well established and ready to make a real contribution to regional revitalization throughout Japan.
Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University
We live in an age where this type of corporate activity is gaining greater importance as a form of Socially Responsible Investment. Contemporary society has come to encompass such a diversity of individual needs that understanding the true requirements of a communi t y demands the development of close communication with the community and the ability to bring together the information and knowledge that exist inside and outside the community. The key to success lies in using this process to arrive at collective wisdom that can lead to true solutions. Private companies generally focus on the pursuit of short-term profit and do not rise to this dimension. However, with its commitment to identifying real needs through its nonprofit activities of dialogue with the community, Fuji Xerox is clearly an exception. Fuji Xerox is a private business that takes the community needs that it has uncovered and responds to them in ways that contribute to the resolution of wider social problems. Moreover, it has incorporated all this into its business activities.
Tono Mirai Zukuri College has the essential dynamism and vigor for taking the results obtained from its collective wisdom and offering it just as it is to the rest of the world. My hope is that the College will continue to develop as a center of knowledge capable of transmitting to the world what it has learned on the local level. As a space dedicated to creating new value, the College has done an excellent job in establishing a viable and proven model for "walking together with the community." I hope it will spread this model to other parts of Japan and around the world.
Mayor of Tono Mayor
Local governments are strongly urged to raise human resources to cope with the challenges of a declining birthrate, an aging society, and depopulation. We need people who are creative. We need new ideas and people who can translate these into actionable programs. Finally, we need people who are ready to work up a sweat. Such human resources are indispensable to solving the diverse range of local problems and raising up self-reliant communities. Tono Mirai Zukuri College functions as a space for human resource development for private businesses and skill building for students. Local residents are drawn into the circle through various programs for training and study. In this way, the College has created an ideal space for sharing knowledge and information brought to the table by each group of participants. The intellectual stimulation and cross-pollination of ideas that follows serve as a powerful tool for achieving results. It is my belief that this framework can also be used in devising relief and recovery programs for times of disaster.
Looking to the future, I hope the College will serve as a training and education site for municipalities throughout Iwate Prefecture. This would certainly encourage us in Tono City to engage in a friendly competition with other municipalities to revitalize our communities.