Eco-business / Social Venture

February 22, 2017


Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum: Supporting Social Innovators

Keywords: Eco-business / Social Venture 

Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2016 website
Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2016 website

The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2016 was held from September 28 through 30, in Tokyo. There is a growing recognition that local governments, companies, non-profit organization, research institutions and other stakeholders need to work together across sectoral boundaries to solve social problems, which are becoming increasingly serious and complex. This article introduces the 2016 Forum, which aimed to discuss Japan's future and promote action.

In his message to the forum, Yohei Sasagawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, wrote:

"Today, Japan is facing a major turning point in its social structure, with low birthrates, an aging population, and accompanying depopulation. Japan is experiencing these issues ahead of most of the rest of the world, and it is increasingly difficult for governments alone to solve them.

Now is the time we need to tackle the issues with innovative ideas. We need a forum to envision a new future for Japan and explore the path towards it. This is why we organized this forum.

On the days of the forum, there will be enthusiastic discussions on the stage about challenging the various issues. Active participation from the audience will make this even more meaningful. And the forum will aim not only to discuss the issues but to turn the ideas into reality.

Each of us is responsible for considering solutions and taking action. Using this forum as an opportunity, we encourage everyone here to help one another and work at creating a community where people support people. We welcome your enthusiastic involvement in the initiative, and your desire to change society."

(From the program of the Social Innovation Forum 2016)

Ahead of the forum, the Nippon Foundation invited project submissions from social innovators who are capable of organizing teams based on new ideas and clear visions working beyond individual social sectors, and promoting activities to address social problems without fear of failure.

There were 225 entries from around the country, from which eleven people managing ten projects were selected as social innovators. Each of the selected project teams receives a grant of up to 10 million yen (about U.S.$99,000) to implement its proposal.

A total of about 2,200 people participated in the forum over the course of three days. On the first day, social innovators introduced their ideas and approaches to solve social problems. On the second day, they presented their ideas at individual booths. And on the third day, they made final presentations at the main venue. With consideration given to votes by the general participants, three groups of "Exceptional Social Innovators" were chosen after the final presentation, and they will receive financial support up to 100 million yen (about U.S.$990,000) over three years.

Grand Prix Award:
Yu Iwamoto, Co-leader of Attractive School Platform

Excellence Award:
Takanori Kawauchi / Aki Ko, Co-leaders of Collective for Children
Atsushi Hayashi, Representative of Next Commons Lab

Seminars were held on the second day, with thirty programs under the following five themes. About a hundred people took the stage in total.

  1. Vision: Compass for a new society
    Discussions on values that should be emphasized and the social vision Japan should aim for in the coming era
  2. Entrepreneurship: Leaders to transform society
    A focus on entrepreneurs who can activate social change, and their future visions as well as their determination to realize their visions
  3. Collective Impact: New dimensions for collective knowledge
    Cooperation among different sectors is necessary to address social issues. Discussions on the way to operate and work together in each sector
  4. Solution: The frontlines of social innovation
    The present situation of specific social issues, and leading solutions and approaches
  5. Ecosystem: A country that fosters innovation
    The latest trends and necessary measures to raising funds, human resources and information to address social issues

There are plans for the forum to accept new entries in 2017 and beyond.