2020 marks the seventh annual Building the TOMODACHI Generation Morgan Stanley Ambassadors Program. Here’s the full program recap.
The seventh annual Building the TOMODACHI Generation Morgan Stanley Ambassadors Program began on Saturday, February 29, 2020. 12 students from universities across Japan flew to Washington, D.C. to participate in the two-week seminar that focuses on developing an in-depth understanding of civil society, cross-sector partnerships, and their ability to address social issues in the U.S. and Japan. Nine U.S. participants from The Washington Center’s Spring 2020 Academic Internship Program joined the Japanese participants during the program and worked alongside one another to develop an initiative to address an ongoing social challenge in Japan.
The first week of the program consisted of lectures, panel discussions, site visits, and interactive sessions with experienced professionals from government institutions, distinguished nonprofits, and corporate foundations. Students were able to develop a strong understanding of the concept of civil society and how various organizations operate both within and across their respective sectors. Site visits to institutions across sectors, including The World Bank, National Public Radio, KABOOM!, and the U.S. House of Representatives, helped participants develop a vivid understanding of what civil society partnerships look like in practice, and not just theory.
During the second week, Japanese and U.S. participants split into three teams of seven (four Japanese, three U.S.) and put the knowledge acquired in week 1 into practice through a project development competition. Each team was tasked to develop an innovative initiative that would leverage resources across sectors in order to address an ongoing social challenge within Japanese society. The project development process began with a retreat to an outdoor adventure center where participants engaged in a variety of challenges to build teamwork and communication skills before rolling up their sleeves for two full days of brainstorming, research, and creativity. With only a week to develop a feasible and innovative project proposal, teams were required to think creatively, work efficiently, and utilize their cross-cultural communication skills to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers. While technically in its seventh year, 2020 was the first year of a new era of the program where the scope of the projects was widened to issues beyond those unique to the Tohoku region.
While technically in its seventh year, 2020 was the first year of a new era of the program where the scope of the projects was widened to issues beyond those unique to the Tohoku region.
A secondary goal of the program is to empower participants to take the skills and knowledge they gain from the experience to help put themselves in a position of influence in the future to affect change in their communities. In addition to the project development work in the second week, Japanese participants spent their days attending workshops on leadership, strengths and values, networking, public speaking, and servant leadership.
The program concluded on the morning of Friday, March 13, when each project team presented their project proposals to a panel of judges: Ms. Cheyenne Cheng, Japanese American Citizens League; Dr. Kelly Eaton, The Washington Center; and Dr. Mya Fisher, U.S.-Japan Council. After deliberating on the strengths of the various projects, the panel of judges declared the winning project to be Project IMPACT of Team Asteroids, an initiative designed to stem the rising tide of “futoko”, or absentee students, in schools in Miyagi prefecture through a skills-development curriculum that builds confidence for at-risk students.
The other projects included Side by Side from Team Mizu, an initiative that would enhance gender equality within the Japanese workforce through training sessions with young professionals, as well as a scoring system that would rate companies on how friendly their policies were towards working mothers. Finally, the third project was Let’s Talk About Sex from the United Amigos Coalition, a program that increases sexual education among Japanese youth through professional development training with public elementary and middle school teachers.
The program took place during a particularly difficult period as both Japan and the United States struggled to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. However, despite some challenges, participants kept a positive attitude throughout and finished the program strongly before returning to Japan on March 14.
Generously funded by Morgan Stanley, this program was implemented in partnership with the U.S-Japan Council and The Washington Center.
For more information on next year’s program, refer to the program home page.
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