International Grant Program 2012
Comments by Selection Committee Chair
Selection Committee Chair Dr. Koichi Miyoshi
Outline of 2012 Asian Neighbors Program (Special Purpose Grant)
Since its establishment in 1974, the Toyota Foundation has offered international grant programs to support a wide range of research and other activities, primarily in Asia. From 2009, the foundation has run the Asian Neighbors Program, which supports practical activities for dealing with problems in Asian countries. During this time, Asia has frequently been called the driving center of global economic growth. In consequence, the relationship between Japan and other Asian countries has changed from top-down “support” from “developed” Japan to “developing” Asian countries, to a horizontal pattern in which Japan and other Asian countries confront similar issues together, such as poverty.
The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 and its aftermath made people recognize the importance of ties and raised serious questions about Japan’s involvement in international development.
In light of these changes in Asia and Japan, the foundation secretariat has suspended its support for individual activities and projects, and stepped forward to conduct an one-year limited special purpose grant under the Asian Neighbors Program named “Prospect for the Future.” This will be based on the accumulated experience and knowledge of each practitioner.
The aim of the special purpose grant was to provide an opportunity for people who have been working on practical activities in Asian countries to gather, look back on their actions, and to compile a report on prospects and recommendations for the future in Asia and Japan, therefore presenting a new relationship between Japan and its Asian neighbors, and reflecting the needs of each. Three areas of discussion were set for the experience sharing workshop and the report “Prospect for the Future.” These were: “Dealing with changing livelihoods,” “Strengthening social mechanisms to support individuals’ lives,” and “Exploring multicultural societies.”
Overview of Applications
There were 106 applications for the special purpose grant, a 56.7% decrease from the 245 applications received in 2011. One noteworthy feature of applications received in 2012 was that an equal number of applications was received from Japanese and non-Japanese applicants (53 each). In 2011, there were 162 non-Japanese and 88 Japan applicants. This may have been a result of the characteristics of the special purpose grant, which aimed to bring together and utilize the longstanding experience and insights based on efforts in Asian countries, rather than supporting practical projects.
The subject area “Dealing with changing livelihoods” attracted the largest number of applications (58), followed by “Exploring multicultural societies” (26) and “Strengthening social mechanisms to support individuals’ lives” (22).
Selection Process Results
The selection committee conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the applications, with a particular focus on (1) consistency with the aim of the special purpose grant and the project’s feasibility, (2) issues to be addressed in the project, (3) the potential results of the project. We gave high evaluations to projects that will critically validate their own activities, and that have the potential to provide valuable and path-breaking recommendations for Asia and Japan. Following the evaluations, the committee selected 19 projects to receive the special purpose grant (please see the complete list of projects for details). The selection rate was 17.9%, an increase over the 9% rate in 2011.
The number of successful applications in each subject area was as follows. Eleven projects were selected for “Dealing with changing livelihoods,” five for “Exploring multicultural societies,” and three for “Strengthening social mechanisms to support individuals’ lives,” reflecting the number of applications. Five projects were from non-Japanese applicants.
All projects selected by the committee will involve an experience exchange based on grantees’ practical activities. It is hoped that the projects will succeed in presenting knowledge and recommendation from Asian and/or Japanese perspectives by conceptualizing the stories from their activities. However, the committee felt that overall, the “Prospect for the Future” part of the application was less coherently put together than the experience sharing part. We expect each project to discuss what contributions it has made in terms of making valuable and pioneering recommendations for the future of Asia and Japan. This will involve the processes of analyzing and conceptualizing the project’s practical activities and compiling a “Prospect for the Future” report, to be disseminated widely.
This year’s special purpose grant provides an ideal opportunity to review our mindset, which tends to divide the world into “developed” and “developing” countries. Both in urban and rural areas, there are more common points between Japan and other Asian countries. It is important to realize that the issues affecting people in Asian countries are an issue in Japan as well, and vice versa.
The three subject areas of the special purpose grant, namely “Dealing with changing livelihoods,” “Strengthening social mechanisms to support individuals’ lives,” and “Exploring multicultural societies” cover many of the common challenges Japan and other Asian countries face. Whether it is in Japan or in other countries, what is needed is a space for serious discussion of issues such as economic disparities, revival of rural communities, ageing society, multicultural society, and the environment. I strongly hope that this year’s special purpose grant “Prospect for the Future” will help to create such spaces for sharing common issues between Asia and Japan and learning from each other.