29 November 2012

My participation at the Global Entrepreneurship Week

Global Entrepreneurship Week is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life and this year I had the chance to be part of it.
During one week each November, GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators, which is very in line with my mission.
The initiative started in 2008, launched by former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Carl Schramm, the President and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Since then, it has grown to 115 countries—with nearly 24,000 partner organizations planning more than 37,000 activities that directly engage more than 7 million people, which is pretty impressive.
On the 15th of November, I participated together with representatives from IKEA, PwC and PlaNet Finance as speakers and shared our activities with the theme of entrepreneurship in Tohoku, the region affected by the tsunami in March 2011. My intention was to demonstrate the inspiring resilience of Japanese people and the great spirit of Japanese NPOs who didn’t wait to move forward to improve their life.
On the 21st of November, together with the StGallen Symposium, 6 members of the Global Shapers in Tokyo and I had the opportunity to share our work to an audience highly interested in the subject of entrepreneurship.  Akira Tsuchiya the Japanese representative of the World Economic Forum introduced the Global Shapers Community, with great effect on the audience thanks to a very inspirational video.

Following the opening of Akira Tsuchiya, Daichi Konuma Founder of Crossfields, Takuro Arimura Founder of Spanisimo, Taejun Shin Founder of Living in Peace brilliantly presented their activities.
The whole event was concluded with a reception at the Swiss embassy, where a final discussion between Yoko Ishikura, Professor for global business strategy and competitiveness at the Graduate School of Media Design at Keio University. Kiyoshi Kurokawa Chairman, Health Policy Institute and myself discussed the differences between the StGallen Symposium and the Global Shapers Community.
In total, close to 500 people attended the Global Entrepreneurship Week and I am very much looking forward to inspiring more people next year.

15 November 2012

Interview of Steven Leeper from the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation

Today I am interviewing Steven Leeper that I met during the Aspen Forum 2012. I admire his activism and his efforts in peace building for more than 14 years now. He would like to raise awareness of the nuclear weapons crisis and the global movement to eliminate them. Let's learn a bit more about him and his activities in the following interview.

  • Tell us a bit about your background. 
I was on my way to becoming a family therapist (psychology) when I suddenly became a management consultant in 1981. I was a management consultant when I came to Hiroshima in 1984 and worked in the automotive industry for 12 years. I suddenly became a peace activist/translator in 1998, co-founding the Global Peacemakers Association. In 2001 I started working for Mayors for Peace, becoming full time in 2003, then chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation in 2007. I was not interested in peace or politics when I got to Hiroshima, but was trained to care about such things by the people I met in this city.
  • Tell us what pushed you to pursue your current career. 
In 1998 several things happened. My main consulting customer died so I had to choose between finding a new customer or doing something new. My two boys graduated from college so I didn’t need so much money, and I was feeling free to make a change. India and Pakistan became nuclear-armed nations, stimulating great anxiety and considerable new action in Hiroshima. Two activists came from India and Pakistan asking us to go to their countries to tell people what nuclear weapons really are. By that time, I understood that unless we eliminate nuclear weapons, or at least keep from using them, my children and grandchildren are in deep trouble. Moreover, none of our other problems (economic, environmental, political) can be solved without abandoning the current culture of war for a sustainable culture of peace. 
  • What do you enjoy the most about your current activities?
I enjoy getting in front of audiences and telling them about Hiroshima and its message, then working with the individuals who ask us to help them carry out peace activities in their community. We have done videoconferences around the world, in many countries I have never visited physically. I genuinely enjoy these encounters and watching people come to understand the deep implications of war and peace. 
  • What are the current challenges that you are facing and how could the people reading this interview help you? 
The greatest challenge remains the lack of public awareness of the nuclear weapons crisis and the global movement to eliminate them. People can help by studying the topic, talking about it and bringing it into public consciousness, but what we really need right now more than anything is an introduction to a high-profile celebrity spokesperson willing to take our issue on and help us raise it to a higher level of public prominence. If we had a powerful and committed celebrity, we could raise a lot of money and create a far more effective campaign. We need someone who can and will do for us what Princess Diana did for the landmine ban campaign. 
  • How familiar are you with the concept of gamification?
I first hear the word gamification from you. I was deeply impressed by your presentation and immediately saw the benefits and effectiveness of such an approach. Since then, I have been thinking about how to bring the concept into our campaign.

  • If you are, do you think it could useful to your organization?
Yes, we could easily create a list of activities that someone could do for our cause and our organization that would earn karma points, and we could offer nice rewards for climbing to higher levels. It would take a while to work the system out, but with 5443 city members, we could do an attractive one, I am sure. We could, for example, at a certain level of karma points, issue a special Mayors for Peace passport entitling the bearer to certain privileges in Mayors for Peace cities. 
  • Are you familiar with Corporate Social Responsibility?
Yes, before coming to Japan I did some fundraising for other causes and CSR was always part of the conversation. 
  • What would be your advice to companies, who struggle to engage their employees to their CSR activities? (Volunteering, donation to NGOs, etc..) 
Young employees should be given a surprising amount of money and authority and a real chance to develop their own CSR activities for the company, and the upper management should be as lenient and cooperative as possible in trying what the young ones come up with. Making young employees responsible for CSR will benefit the employees and the company in many ways.
  • How do you feel about companies using CSR activities for their marketing.
There is really no choice in the US, where profit is legally the only allowable imperative. The company has to prove that its CSR is good for the bottom line or the shareholders can sue. I don’t like this situation, but given this reality, marketing is an important part of the system. On the other hand, the future will belong to companies that understand and take seriously their responsibility to the local community, humanity and the Earth as a whole. An exclusive focus on profit is already obsolete and will increasingly be seen as grotesque and unacceptable.
  • Are you using any social networks and why do you think it could be beneficial for corporations to start using them?
I am on facebook but my organization so far refuses. I consider this a big mistake, but we are a city bureaucracy before we are a campaigning organization. If I could do it my way, I would put a big chunk of our budget into social networking and making sure we are an Internet phenomenon, which I believe we could be if we let our youngest staff members work on it. We are still too controlled by guys in their 50s or 60s who have no idea what the young folks are doing.
You are brilliant. You provide a platform that helps all sides of the equation get something out of the relationship, and gamification makes it understandable and fun. Ikifu.org could possibly help us overcome the inertia and get deeper into social networking.
  • If you could use crowdfunding for one of your dream, what would it be for? 
I would like to use crowdfunding to generate the initial investment funds for a series of peace concerts, which would be designed to be self-sustaining. That is, each concert would have to make enough to support the next in another time or place.   Bureaucracies do not gamble with tax money. We cannot really invest in something that might or might not be a financial success. We need to get our initial funding from private sources.

11 November 2012

Interview with Paul Hastings from the JICUF

Today I am interviewing Paul Hastings that I met during the Aspen Forum 2012. He is the current Vice President of the Japan International Christian University Foundation (JICUF), currently living in New York but has spent 11 years in Japan when he was only 4 .He is passionate about international educational exchange and he feels that the best part of his job is the knowledge that their programs can sometimes change lives. Let's learn a bit more about him and his activities in the following interview.

    • Tell us a bit about your background. 
    At the age of four I moved with my family to Japan, where I subsequently spent eleven formative years. I attended a Japanese elementary school until third grade and then studied at Canadian Academy in Kobe and the American School in Japan in Tokyo, where I graduated in 2000. I returned to the United States after high school and enrolled at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, graduating with a degree in Comparative Religion in 2004. I worked as a community organizer (like President Obama) in Maryland/Washington DC for one year before travelling to northeastern India to work on a grassroots educational project in the town of Kalimpong in the Darjeeling Province of West Bengal. Then, in 2006 I moved to New York City and began working for the Japan ICU Foundation (JICUF). In April 2012 I was offered the position of Vice President at the JICUF. In 2012 I also graduated with my MA in Comparative International Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
    • Tell us what pushed you to pursue your current career. 
    I am passionate about international educational exchange. For me, living and studying in Japan as a child, in Sri Lanka and small town Maine during college, and in India after college have all been incredibly formative. I have had the privilege of witnessing a diversity of human experience, from rural to urban, poor to wealthy, avant-garde to traditional. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such rich life experiences, and I want to do all I can to provide others with similar opportunities.
    • What do you enjoy the most about your current activities?
    The JICUF seeks to offer life-changing experiences to people who participate in our programs. For example, we provide needs-based scholarships to students from economically less privileged regions of the world to attend ICU. These scholarships are often life-changing for the recipients. The 2012 Aspen Cultural Diplomacy Forum, which we co-sponsored and co-organized, is another example. We brought together 100 people from 22 countries on the ICU campus to discuss various ways to achieve peace and reconciliation through the use of creative and artistic resources. There are so many aspects of my work that I enjoy, but the best part of my job is the knowledge that our programs can sometimes change lives.
    • What are the current challenges that you are facing and how could the people reading this interview help you? 
    Like any organization, we experience numerous challenges. One challenge we face is the difficulty of working with colleagues at ICU. The JICUF is a small and agile organization with five full-time employees, but ICU is a university with hundreds of faculty, staff and thousands of students and alumni. Aligning priorities and getting everyone on board to implement programs can be a difficult task. Online productivity and team-building software such as Basecamp has helped us, but we continuously look for better ways to work internally, with colleagues at ICU and with external partner organizations.
    • How familiar are you with the concept of gamification?
    Yes, I am familiar with the concept. I used Foursquare for a while, but got tired of checking in. I sometimes "check in" on Facebook.
    • If you are, do you think it could useful to your organization?
     I'm not sure how gamification could help us at the JICUF, but I could imagine it being rather popular at ICU.
    • Are you familiar with Corporate Social Responsibility?
    Yes, I am fairly familiar with CSR. My wife used to work for Innovest, which was acquired by MSCI, an investment research company that according to its website "provides in-depth research, ratings and analysis of the environmental, social and governance-related business practices of thousands of companies worldwide."
    • What would be your advice to companies, who struggle to engage their employees to their CSR activities? (Volunteering, donation to NGOs, etc..) 
    CSR needs to be embedded into the culture of any company/organization. Of course, there will be some employees that more actively take part in volunteer efforts, fundraising and other CSR activities than others. Leadership in the CSR arena needs to come from the very top of any organization. There is nothing better than leading by example.
    • How do you feel about companies using CSR activities for their marketing.
    I think it's fine as long as its not just window dressing without substance behind it.
    • Are you using any social networks and why do you think it could be beneficial for corporations to start using them?

    We have an active Facebook page and Twitter account. Social media is integrated throughout our website.

     It is wonderful to see the growth of the NPO sector in Japan, and ikifu.org is an essential component of this growth. I am looking forward to exploring ways in which ICU and the JICUF can partner with ikifu.org.
    • If you could use crowdfunding for one of your dream, what would it be for? 
    Music is my hobby and passion, and I would probably use crowd funding to help produce my debut album.

    Nhat Vuong on the Huffington Post ImpactX.

    Yesterday, we had the great honour to be published on the Huffington Post ImpactX page.

    The ImpactX page is dedicated to showcasing ways in which technology is creating positive change around the world. Launched in partnership with Cisco, this program will feature stories, editorials and blog posts that show us how technological innovation can drive social impact.

    05 November 2012

    Nhat Vuong “interview” – Katherine Marshall, November 3, 2012

    Today, I am interviewing Katherine Marshall, that I had the chance to meet during the last Aspen Forum 2012 event occuring in Tokyo last month. She has a very long career in many influential institutions including the World Bank and I am very fortunate that she kindly accepted to answer a couple of questions for my readers.

    ·  Tell us a bit about your background.

    I was born in Boston (my mother’s home), but my family moved often, in the United States and then to Germany and to Africa. My father was an idealist and a lawyer, convinced that the world should be a better place, and he was part of international support to Africa in the early, heady years right after independence.  I went to secondary school in England, then university in the US, but with the taste of an international world very much part of my life and dreams.
    At present I am formally “retired” from a long career at the World Bank, and am based at Georgetown University, where I teach and do research in an academic framework. I also lead the World Faiths Development Dialogue, a small but ambitious and path-breaking NGO that works to bring the vast worlds of faith much more squarely into development thinking and practice. I also serve on several boards of wonderful organizations. These include the Niwano Peace Prize and the Opus Prize, as well as the World Bank Community Connections Fund.

    ·  Tell us what pushed you to pursue your current career.

    Committed to working in international development, I had no firm idea when I was a student of how to pursue that path. But after some time consulting for foundations and USAID I landed in the World Bank, working first on urban development, then agriculture. I pursued a 35 year career in the institution, with many years as a director and mentor of young professionals, mostly working on Africa but also Latin America and East Asia.
    Then, in a sharp change of course, the President at the time, James D. Wolfensohn, asked me in 1999 to work with him on a new and bold venture, to engage with the worlds of religion on development issues. I have focused ever since on this fascinating and complex challenge, which highlights new, hitherto largely unseen practical and ethical dimensions of development and human rights.

    ·  What do you enjoy the most about your current activities?

    The hope of contributing new insights about fighting poverty and advancing equity is inspiring. Working with young people is also at the forefront of what I truly enjoy. And I enjoy writing and communicating about what I see as the most important challenges facing our world: ending poverty and making the goals of equity and opportunity something real and tangible.

    ·  What are the current challenges that you are facing and how could the people reading this interview help you?

    I navigate constantly between very large ideals and challenges, like world inequality, climate change, and the goal of justice and human development, and concrete goals, for example how to chart a path towards decent sanitation for women so they have some security and respect in their lives and how to remove obstacles that keep girls out of school. The inequality of the world and continuing misery and lack of opportunity for so many millions of people is a scandal, because we know better and have demonstrated that current realities can change. I hope, first, that people reading this will want to be part of the great effort to right inequalities and advance a broad notion of human rights, and second that they will appreciate the complexities of the task and be willing to engage in a serious way. That means money but above all caring and attention. In today’s connected world both are possible, and are indeed our responsibility.

    ·  How familiar are you with the concept of gamification?

    It is not part of my repertoire!

    ·  If you are, do you think it could useful to your organization?

    A glance suggests many likely applications.

    ·  Are you familiar with Corporate Social Responsibility?

    Indeed, I have followed and engaged with many dimensions of CSR over the past two decades.

    ·  What would be your advice to companies, who struggle to engage their employees to their CSR activities? (Volunteering, donation to NGOs, etc..)

    I am aware that CSR will mean different things for different companies. The ideal, and there are inspirational examples, is that a company follows a true triple bottom line path, that involves the pursuit of social, environmental, and financial objectives, in a genuine balance. The wisest company leaders look to their impact on society as well as their shareholders, their lived behavior as well as their and creative products and business methods and ethics. What this translates to in reality varies. For some, financial contributions to worthy efforts are the most practical approach. Encouraging voluntary work by employees in communities is another sensible and feasible path. Encouraging innovation is desirable. Often working to build on business priorities and experience (for example where water is an input focusing on water and sanitation) can lead to exciting initiatives. Making sure that the company furthers basic ethical practices, including respecting human rights and working to fight corruption in all its forms, should be central and transparent.
    I see a ladder of possibilities and priorities, that range from the most basic elemental company charity as community responsibility, as a minimalist approach, to an ideal of business leadership in charting new paths at both community and global level. There are rungs in between. But any company that cares only about profits will lose out in the 21st century world.

    ·  How do you feel about companies using CSR activities for their marketing.

    Some cynical companies sour the reputation of CSR by exhibiting self-interest and over-hyping what they do. That is unfortunate.

    ·  Are you using any social networks and why do you think it could be beneficial for corporations to start using them?

    Social networks are an exciting new facet of life and I try to understand their potential. They offer a remarkable avenue to live actively in our globalizing world. Corporations do use social networks in fascinating ways, some at the forefront of creativity. I’m a believer and active user.

    ·  What do you think about ikifu.org?

    Websites and initiatives like ikifu.org offer wonderful potential to engage people in good causes as well as to raise funds for important priorities and projects. It is, however, important that there be a real appreciation of how these sexy projects fit into best practice and national and international priorities. The challenge of strategic coordination is an enormous one, probably the single most demanding for the international development world. We all need to keep that in mind as we pursue our passions and ideas.

    ·  If you could use crowdfunding for one of your dream, what would it be for?

    My focus would be on children and my ideal would be to tackle the issues of awful coordination among widely disparate efforts that all aim to advance, from an international perspective, giving children a real chance of better health and education. My particular goal now is to review in depth the extraordinary experience of a host of faith-inspired programs that help the most vulnerable children: orphans, trafficking victims, street children, disabled children, and those who are abused. If we know more about these efforts we can both support them and help them to work far better as partners, of each other and of secular efforts. My organization, WFDD, has a bold program to map the landscape, consult with the actors, and come up with a new framework that can make this happen. My question to you: can crowdfunding help achieve this dream?
    We could do so much more as a world community if we could harmonize efforts and instill a deep sense of urgency in the broad and noble but sometimes vague global goals for children’s welfare. That won’t happen if we can’t bridge the gulf between personal desires and funding of good things (for example by charity donations) and the policy and political will that are needed for them to make a real difference. Let’s do it together!

    Thank you very much for your time Katherine! To answer your question. I also aim for a world where we shouldn't have to do any crowdfunding to support important causes. Supporting each other to have a better life should be the common thing to do. However I think that such change might take years to happen, so this is my pragmatic answer to such challenges.