DisastersEntrepreneurial approach to Japan’s disaster recovery
The 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit off the east coast of Japan in March 2011 killed more than 12,000 people, sent tsunami waves six miles inland, and damaged or completely flattened more than a million buildings; combined with the tsunami and the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, it was the most economically damaging disaster in world history, costing Japan an estimated $235 billion, according to the World Bank; a Japanese organizations tries a new approach to disaster recovery: entrepreneurship
The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami, and reactor meltdown spread havoc and destruction on the east coast of Japan, and more than a year later some areas are still recovering. A major contribution to the recovery has been the Tokyo-based Entrepreneur group called ETIC. Unlike more traditional recovery efforts, the group emphasizes an entrepreneurial approach to recovery.
ETIC was created in 1993 with the entrepreneur internship program. The program has placed 2,000 interns at startup companies and social enterprises in Japan.
Triplepundit reports that ETIC has created the Disaster Recovery Leadership Development Project. The biggest corporations in Japan have combined to send about 200 fellows to the recovery region for from three months to one year in order to help run temporary housing units, rebuild transportation systems,and help companies affected by the disaster recover and start-up again.
Koumei Ishikawa, ETIC’s research division manager,is proud that successful businesses and their owners have made an effort to help. “It’s like Americorps,” Ishikawa told Triplepundit. “In Japan, a lot of young businesspeople feel that their work is not vital. Social enterprise has hope.”
So far the program has seventy-four fellows in the area and they are currently working with thirty local organizations. Most of the fellows are young, injecting a boost of energy and drive to the project.
About 30 percent of the fellows are natives of Tōhokureturning to rebuild their hometowns;35 percent of the fellows are working in operations management or business development,and 16 percent are concentrating on marketing and product development. These are not traditional disaster relief efforts, but they have proved significant to the project.
“We were quite over-capacity as we had to manage 50 volunteers in five areas, from logistics arrangement to responding to the needs from schools and municipalities,” one project leader told Triplepundit. “But the fellows never complained and they focused on the project. I appreciate them a lot!”
The project is moving smoothly, but it also has to move quickly as most of the affected residents are living on short-term government assistance, and the economy is not strong enough to reemploy everyone who lost his or her jobs due to the disaster. ETIC is trying to promote the use of today’s technology with some of the industries that have been in the affected areas for hundreds of years.
“The fishing industry in Tōhoku is very old-fashioned, so we have started a program on how to apply IT (to the industry) in junior and high school there,” ETIC founder and CEO Haruo Miyagi said.
One of the major things they have done is make the industry more sustainable and safe by fostering aquaculture, Miyagi said, which has also made the fishermen more independent and reduced reliance on subsidies.
Last month, Miyagi and Ishikawa received a $400,000 grant from Give2Asia, an international charity that concentrates on health, education and disaster relief.
The 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit off the east coast of Tōhoku in March 2011 killed more than 12,000 people, sent tsunami waves six miles inland, and damaged or completely flattened more than a million buildings. Combined with the tsunami and the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, it was the most economically damaging disaster in world history, costing Japan an estimated $235 billion, according to the World Bank.