Social Ventures – Shikoku

My body did protest a bit at the 5:30am alarm after five hours of sleep.  But there was a Shinkansen “bullet train” to catch at 6:30 in Tokyo in order to arrive on the island of Shikoku a little after noon.  Shikoku is one of found main islands of Japan, in the Inland Sea, just across the waters from Kobe and Osaka.  I’m glad I made it out of bed!

I spent a delightful six hours with 70 people from all around Shikoku who had come to this second gathering of Social Ventures Shikoku, launched by Yagi-sensei from Kangawa University.  Although he  came to Shikoku only four years ago from Tokyo, the island and its people have captured his heart.

The workshop began with some jazz and some singing and moved into a bit of speaking by Yagi-sensei and Bob.  I did what I usually do and matched my words to his, finding the parts of his story about being in this work of social innovation which match mine, and then letting it flow.  The participants weren’t responding like to do in Tokyo or Osaka.  I couldn’t really tell how different things were landing.  A few faces were alive and responsive – but it was a quiet group.  We moved into a “fishbowl” format where we invited others to join us in the center of the room.  There was a hesitancy to join and when there, mostly questions and not much dialogue.  It felt as if we had not pulled people together in the room.

I think, perhaps, we had pulled them together.  But the quiet reserve which is a posture of respect in Japan is even more present here.  By the end of the day I knew people were engaged and appreciative if the space.

We used World Café to connect people’s stories in the room.  Then we used a version of ProAction Café to see who had work and questions they wanted to go deeper with.  An interesting list of offerings emerged:

  • How can we work with nature?
  • How can communities facilitate more marriages?
  • What can we do to encourage people to have more babies?
  • How can we have more positive education using art and English?
  • How can we each share the gifts we are born with?
  • Let’s create a “True-Calling-Network!”
  • How can we use what we have and do more with forestry and agriculture?
  • How can I change the way I farm?
  • How can we energize this prefecture with new opportunities?
  • How can the hospital and the community become more connected to each other?

Practical.  Focused.  Down to earth. Like the people in Shikoku.

We used a version of ProAction Café where nine “callers” stepped forward to offer these ideas.  Then we had two rounds of  world café, with the callers staying at the same table as hosts.  Participants divided themselves equally between the tables and helped the hosts think through their ideas.

In the second round, I was with a 63 year old man who has stepped up to making his family farm work. He’s spent his life as a general contractor around Japan.  Along the way he has practiced zazen and learned tea ceremony. He sees it has the last major challenge of his life.  His father died recently and now he wants to make the farm really work.  He’s looking at Community Supported Agriculture, which he believes is historically rooted in Japan long before it arose in the west.  He wants to make community by making a farm that works for all.  A really wonderful man!

People just working with each other to make things work.  No big egos.  Just people getting on with getting on with their lives…

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