TOMODACHI is an innovative, cross-cultural learning experience focused on developing cross-sector partnerships to tackle social challenges and master global leadership skills to work collaboratively across borders.
Thirty-four students from Japan and the United States gathered at The Washington Center on Feb. 15 to kick off the 2016 Building the TOMODACHI Generation program. 19 of the students arrived on Feb, 13 from nine universities in Japan to join 15 U.S. students who are participating in TWC’s spring academic internship program. Together they will experience a unique and intensive two-week seminar.
Leaders from the three partner organizations that support the program attended the event and shared their insights and goals for this year’s BTG session.
Irene Hirano Inouye, president of the U.S-Japan Council, which sponsors TOMODACHI, told students the goal of the TOMODACHI program is to strengthen people-to-people relationships between the two countries by investing in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders. "You are now a part of the TOMODACHI Generation," said Inouye. USJI Operating Advisor Yoshiaki Abe echoed Ms. Hirano Inouye’s sentiments, encouraging students to take advantage of the unique learning model in which they will participate.
TOMODACHI focuses on the continuing social, demographic and economic consequences of 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated a large part of the Tohoku region in Japan. Each year, students in this program take a deep dive into learning about the roles government, the private sector and NGOs play – separately and together – in addressing such challenges.
Students attend panels and workshops lead by experts who have been engaged directly in solving social problems – whether natural disasters or manmade occurrences and are divided into bi-cultural teams.
Each team is charged with developing a robust, cross-sector project to address lingering challenges in one of five cities in the Tohoku region – challenges that represent the problems faced by many cities and communities all over the world. Students also participate in a leadership retreat in rural Maryland where team members learn to work together to overcome obstacles, solve problems collaboratively and depend on each other for success.
During the second week of the program, students get to hone key global skills such as leadership, innovation and critical thinking. These skills will contribute to their team projects, which will be presented on Feb. 26, the final day of the program. The top two winning teams will travel to the regions for which their projects were designed, volunteer in the community and meet with local leaders and citizens.
The 2016 BTG program is generously supported through the USJC’s TOMODACHI initiative by Toyota Motor Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, Hitachi, Ltd. and Morgan Stanley.