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April 06, 2012

[SSJ: 7349] Kansai Modern Japan Group April Meeting: Toivonen on Social entrepreneurship in Japan

From: Scott North
Date: 2012/04/06

Dear Friends,

The Kansai Modern Japan Group is pleased to host a talk by Tuukka Toivonen, Junior Research Fellow Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, entitled,

"Making Sense of Social Entrepreneurship in Japan:
Crafting a new sector, or reworking the wider economy?"

This presentation brings attention to the puzzling emergence of ‘social entrepreneurship’ (SE) as well as the interrelated field of ‘social innovation’ (SI) in the Japanese context. These phenomena first appeared around the mid-2000s, following the adaptation, by Japanese actors, of certain discursive constructs from the UK and the US. Compared to these western societies, social entrepreneurship surfaced in Japan after a ‘delay’ of about 20 years. Toivonen argues that, ironically enough, this concept -- that usually refers to solving social problems through the application of various business methods -- could only make sense after the prior establishment of neoliberal thought and governance practices in Japan. Nevertheless, real social entrepreneurs (those who identify with this
field) are a diverse group that cannot be reduced to willing or inadvertent promoters of neoliberal social governance.

Based on a half year’s worth of preliminary fieldwork and in light of the extensive international SE/SI literature, this talk poses one main question: Should social entrepreneurship be viewed simply as the surfacing of another occupational field (or a variant of civil society action), or could its true significance lie in the way that it attempts to rework the mainstream economy itself? The presence of institutional promoters of SE (such as ETIC and Ashoka in Tokyo and EDGE in Osaka) lend some support to the first interpretation. Yet fieldwork findings reveal a rapidly developing battery of alternative economic practices that are now increasingly prompting far larger economic actors -- such as established companies and sections of the government -- to re-consider their own business and governance models. What many SEs are demonstrating is that profits can, and often should, be shared with stakeholders (instead of shareholders) even in the case of luxury goods; that self-governance can work better than top-down governance in providing services such as childcare; that ‘doing good’ and seeing the results is far more motivating for many young people than membership in hierarchical large corporations.

Whether these alternatives will be ‘scaled up’ or not depends on the flow of strategic interactions in the coming years, but SEs already possess the means and methods -- from social prototyping and crowdsourcing to the innovative use of social media -- for recalibrating the Japanese national economy, with important international implications.

*This talk explains the scholarly background to the presentation the author will deliver at the Osaka TEDx on April 28, 2012. The TEDx talk will conversely emphasize the stories of individual SEs who may be referred to as ‘quiet mavericks’ due to their subtle leadership approach.

Date: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Time: 6:30-8:00PM
Venue: Takatsuki Shimin Kaikan, Room 403.

The Takatsuki Shimin Kaikan is located a short walk from Hankyu Takatsuki Station, 20 minutes by express train from either Hankyu Umeda or Shijyou Kawaramachi.
It takes 12 minutes to get there on foot from JR Takatsuki Station.

Scott North

Approved by ssjmod at April 6, 2012 11:01 AM