ELP Steering Committee Convenes in Chicago

The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) steering committee held its annual planning retreat in Chicago from April 28 through 30, 2023. The Steering Committee met for two days to discuss the challenges and goals ranging from short-term to long-term as well as immediate action items of the committee.

USJC President Suzanne Basalla joined the retreat during the second day. As a result of Ms. Basalla’s participation, the Steering Committee was able to gain valuable insight on how the steering committee and ultimately the ELP alumni could contribute to the USJC and its purpose. This year’s Steering Committee prioritized institutional memory, scalability, and tangible results bearing in mind that the number of ELP alumni is now greater than 100.

To address institutional memory, the Steering Committee approved a charter that provides a framework and procedures for governance of the committee itself. Additionally, they reorganized years of documents to improve members’ access to the work created by past steering committees and created a more structured and centralized document filing system.

The Steering Committee discussed the challenges that come with a growing constituency, such as communication and maintaining strong relationships across 13 years of cohorts to address scalability. They are addressing scalability through strategic recruitment, enhanced communication channels, and programming offered to alumni.

The Steering Committee is committed to delivering tangible outcomes. To measure progress, they will track metrics such as participation, retention and qualitative impact testimonials. The Steering Committee is also developing ELP-branded goods to both fundraise and promote a sense of community. 

The retreat coincided with the Kanpai Chicago event that brought together the Steering Committee, the JALD 2013 cohort and Midwest regional members. Kanpai Chicago featured a reception at Consul General TAJIMA Hiroshi’s residence with City Pop music and a spread of Japanese cuisine and nihonshu. The next day, the group toured the Art Institute of Chicago and learned about Japan’s initial promotion of Japanese culture to the United States and international community at the 1896 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. The tour was followed by a dinner in Fulton Market at Gaijin, which included a whiskey tasting by Suntory, and more festivities at Konbini & Kampai, a liquor shop owned by Naomi Hattori (Choose Chicago, ELP ‘19) and her husband.

Overall, the retreat was a success. The steering committee deepened their understanding of the organization’s challenges and laid the groundwork for innovative solutions. Everyone left feeling excited about the future and confident in the ELP’s contributions to the Council and the broader U.S.-Japan relationship. Special thanks to  Eric Hattori (Piko Street Kitchen, ELP ‘18), who delivered delicious bento boxes to the retreat on Day 1!