The seventh annual Building the TOMODACHI Generation: Morgan Stanley Ambassadors Program began on February 29 when 12 students from universities across Japan flew from Tokyo to Washington, DC to participate in a two-week seminar. Nine U.S. participants joined the Japanese participants during the program, which focused on developing an in-depth understanding of civil society and cross-sector partnerships, as well as their ability to address social issues in the United States and Japan. The Japanese and American students worked alongside one another to develop an initiative to address an ongoing social challenge in Japan.
The first week of the program consisted of five days of lectures, panel discussions, site visits and interactive sessions with experienced professionals from government institutions, distinguished nonprofits and corporate foundations. The students gained a strong understanding of the concept of civil society and how various organizations operate within and across their respective sectors. Site visits to institutions across sectors, including The World Bank, National Public Radio (NPR), KABOOM!, and the U.S. House of Representatives helped participants develop a vivid understanding of what civil society partnerships looks like in practice, and not just theory.
Following these sessions, Japanese and American participants split into three teams of seven (comprising four Japanese students and three American students) and put their knowledge into practice through a project development competition. Each team was tasked with developing an innovative initiative that would leverage resources across sectors in order to address an ongoing social challenge within Japanese society. Alongside their project development work in the second week, Japanese participants spent their days enhancing their global skills through workshops on leadership, strengths and values, networking, public speaking and leadership.
In reflecting on her personal experience during the global skills training, Reika Mihara of Sophia University said, “All the lectures and activities in the program provided me with a lot of new information and opportunities to think about myself and my future career.”
The program concluded on the morning of March 13, when each project team presented their proposals to a panel of judges. 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 in at-risk students.
The program took place during a particularly difficult period as both Japan and the United States struggled to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite some aspects of the program being postponed or cancelled, participants kept a positive attitude throughout and were able to finish off strong before returning to Japan on March 14.