After Completing a Week of Training in Los Angeles, Ten Female Leaders from the Tohoku Region Return to Japan and Bring Their Learnings Back to Local Communities
The TOMODACHI Tohoku Grassroots Leadership Academy took place in Los Angeles, California, from February 4 to 11. Ten participants were chosen from across the Tohoku region, which was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Through the program, the participants learned how to leverage their experiences and abilities, and to nurture innovation from Los Angeles-based entrepreneurs, NPO leaders, directors in corporations, and grassroots community leaders. During the trip, the participants visited the city hall, a local television station, a university, and the Red Cross, where they shared their experiences and learnings of the earthquake disaster from their own perspectives as young women.
As part of the program, Mr. David Boone, President of APTIM and Board Member of the U.S.-Japan Council, ran a workshop on leadership. The participants learned about leadership and building resilience to face difficulties based on the experiences of the Navy and management teams at large companies. Mr. Boone described that anyone can be a leader, and that leadership is not just about raising our voice or leading a group; it’s also about our own approach, commitment, and taking on responsibilities in our own lives. Based on this learning, the participants had a chance to reflect on their lives and what to build upon. They also learned the importance of building relationships by developing key communications skills and getting support from others.
During their visit, the participants also attended a panel discussion led by venture capitalist Ms. Tracy Gray; met with several famous young leaders; held talks with female leaders of immigrant communities in low-income areas (also known as “Promoters”); and exchanged opinions with Occidental College students. They also interviewed leaders of the community about issues in Hollywood, and cultivated personal exchanges in small groups at a dinner hosted by US-Japan Council South California branch.
Ms. Mizuho Sugano, a participant who runs an organic foods company in Nihonmatsu-city, Fukushima prefecture, reflected that “this program was a turning point in my life because I saw the strong passion of all the speakers, participants, and implementers. I also learned about myself, about how to communicate effectively and what it takes to continue my business.”
Ms. Megumi Itabashi, a participant who supports young mothers’ activities in Rikuzentakada city in Iwate prefecture, remarked that she realized that leaders can empower everyone in the community to build confidence, which in turn makes them more powerful and more resilient. She added that this is a learning she aims to bring back to her community.
On the afternoon of the last day, the participants shared their learnings and reviewed the program, which will be shared with various communities through debriefing sessions in Tohoku prefecture through April.