Building the TOMODACHI Generation Program Transforms Lives

Building the TOMODACHI Generation Program Transforms Lives

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Maha Neouchy
March 06, 2014

As a result of the special collaboration between the U.S.-Japan Council, U.S.-Japan Research Institute and The Washington Center (TWC), the lives of 16 Japanese university students and 12 U.S. students were forever changed by the inaugural Building the TOMODACHI Generation program.


The two-week leadership program, which took place from February 15 to March 3, 2014, was centered around building leadership by focusing on development strategies for cross-sector partnerships to strengthen civil society as a tool for addressing social changes. The creation of the "Building the TOMODACHI Generation" is a result of the crisis and natural disaster that greatly impacted the Tohoku region in 2011. It is funded by the U.S.-Japan Council's TOMODACHI Initiative, which invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as entrepreneurship and leadership programs.


Sixteen Japanese students from the U.S.-Japan Research Institute's eight member universities traveled to the nation's capital to attend a number of site visits, leadership trainings and special workshops—all aimed at teaching them about civil society and its potential to address social issues. They were also given the opportunity to work with 12 American students, currently enrolled in TWC's spring 2014 academic internship program, as a way to enhance teamwork and cross-cultural skills. The Japanese and American students were grouped into four teams (four Japanese and three Americans per team) in order to collaborate on a special civil society project. The goal of these team projects was to strengthen key global skills including cross-cultural understanding, leadership, public speaking, social responsibility, innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking and communication skills.


The students presented their projects during the U.S.-Japan Research Institute’s USJI Week on February 28th. The two winning project teams will travel to the Tohuku region of Japan later this year to continue their partnership with a service project coordinated by Waseda University. One of the winners, Courtney Indart, shared her biggest takeaways from the team project collaboration: "I realized the necessity of cross-sector partnerships when creating my project to fill the void of market and government failure." Another one of Indart's highlights after completing the program included her "new network of 27 friends!"


During the program, each Japanese student was given the opportunity to interact with a number of high-profile speakers as well as professionals working in the fields of international development, disaster mitigation and business, among others. It kicked off with a welcome and introductions from three leaders in each of the partner organizations: Michael Smith, president of The Washington Center, Yoshiaki Abe, operating advisor at the U.S.-Japan Research Institute, and Irene Hirano, president of the U.S.-Japan Council.


Other major speakers included:


In addition to high-profile speakers, the students also participated in a number of workshops, trainings and a networking reception that helped enhance their cross-cultural skills and guide them on a path to advancing civil society efforts globally. Highlights included:


  • A weekend-long leadership retreat with ropes course, teambuilding activities and project development from Saturday, February 22th to Monday, February 24th
  • Global skills, leadership and networking workshops on Tuesday, February 25th and Wednesday, February 26th
  • Networking Reception at the Old Ambassador's Residence hosted by the Embassy of Japan on Thursday, February 27th

Towards the end of the program, the students came together to think about what it means to be members of the TOMODACHI generation and their commitment by developing a TOMODACHI pledge that states: “As members of the TOMODACHI generation, we pledge to strengthen our bonds and create cross-sector partnerships through leadership to construct a resilient civil society.”


The program wrapped up in Tokyo, Japan, where the 16 Japanese students celebrated their hard work and leadership-building experience during a reception at the Tokyo American Center hosted by the U.S. Embassy on Monday, March 3rd.


The Washington Center would like to thank the Toyota Motor Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, Hitachi Ltd., and Morgan Stanley for their outstanding support of this program as well as all the speakers, project coaches and project judges that contributed to the success of the program.

[View photos of the "Building the TOMODACHI Generation" Networking Reception]

[View photos of the reception at the Tokyo American Center]

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