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Supporting Ashoka

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Partnering with Ashoka to Globally Support the Activities of Social Entrepreneurs

Partnering with Ashoka, the World's Largest Social Entrepreneurship Organization

"Social business" is gaining attention across the globe as sustainable business aiming to change the world by solving serious problems in areas like human rights, education, health, and the environment. In Japan, there are growing expectations for the potential of social business in dealing with problems like the falling birthrate and aging population, and addressing issues related to energy and natural disasters.

Within that context, Mizuho found itself in agreement with the activities of Ashoka, the world's largest organization supporting social entrepreneurs – people who come up with innovative ideas for solving serious social problems and apply them in businesses. Mizuho entered into a "Strategic Support Agreement" with Ashoka in January 2011, and is now supporting the activities of Ashoka Japan," Ashoka's first presence in Asia.

The First Ashoka Fellows in East Asia

"Everyone a Changemaker" – That is how Ashoka describes the society it is striving to create. Ashoka is promoting the progress of innovation for the public good in Japan through avenues like its "Ashoka Fellows" program and "Youth Venture."

The "Ashoka Fellows" program recognizes and supports as "Ashoka Fellows" social entrepreneurs who work to solve social problems by establishing original, new approaches to make fundamental changes. Ashoka provides Ashoka Fellows with support for living expenses, access to legal, marketing, and other expert services, and opportunities to network with other social entrepreneurs, all to get society at large to embrace the aspirations and activities of social entrepreneurs.

The nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows who have been elected from 80 countries over the 32 years since Ashoka's founding have given rise to changes that have affected government policies and had broad, far–reaching impacts on the world. Among the more well–known people to have been elected an Ashoka Fellow is Jimmy Wales, the founder of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia created from user–contributed content.

In March 2012, Ashoka Japan elected two Japanese to be the very first Ashoka Fellows in East Asia.

Two Japanese Ashoka Fellows and Their Activities

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Announcement of Ashoka fellows

Realizing the Innovation of Care Welfare System and the Reduction of Employment Discrimination

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Ms. Masue Katayama

Senior Management Director of Social Welfare Corporation SHINKOUFUKUSHIKAI

In 1986, Ms. Katayama hit on the novel idea of establishing an elderly care facility in a former company dormitory. Focused on creating elderly care facilities where residents can live comfortably at low cost, Ms. Katayama has greatly reduced burdens on the elderly and their families and created an industry standard in the process. Furthermore, she is working to reduce social injustice by employing as care workers foreigners, the disabled, and others who have suffered discrimination in Japan. As of 2012, Shikofukushikai is employing a staff of 670 at 31 elderly care projects and 6 childcare projects.

Promoting Greater Social Participation and Better Lives for the Hearing Impaired by Establishing the World's First Online Sign Language Dictionary

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Mr. Junto Ohki

Co–founder and President of ShuR Group

Wondering whether it would not be possible to create a world in which those with hearing disabilities and those without can truly be equal, Mr. Ohki, while still a university student, established the ShuR Group in 2008 and created "SLinto," the world's first online sign language dictionary. He went on to develop a specialized keyboard that enables simple searches for words and signs, and is capable of translating Japanese sign language into sign languages used in other countries. SLinto and this specialized keyboard, which can be used with the sign languages employed in 126 countries and translate any of these languages into any other, have greatly improved the social participation and lives of the hearing impaired.

The "Youth Venture" Program for Nurturing Future Innovators

Having been established in 1996 and now operating in 17 countries, "Youth Venture" is a program that seeks to foster the development of the "changemaker" spirit and skills in young people ages 12 to 20. It does this by providing them with opportunities and environments for developing ideas for new approaches and creating projects to solve societal failings they have identified.

Prior to its founding, Ashoka Japan conducted an experimental program in the spring and summer of 2010. This program became an official activity in May 2011 and the first presentations and evaluations took place in October 2011. The presentations, examples of which included one on exposing to the world the reality of discarded plastic bottles and another on creating a meeting space connecting different geographic locations, companies, and students, were evaluated by analysts from various professional backgrounds. The three teams whose presentations were approved are presently working to turn their ideas into reality.

In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the "Tohoku Youth Venture Five–Year Project" was born to help young people in Tohoku turn their desires to do something into tangible projects. A gathering to launch "Tohoku Youth Venture" was held in Sendai City in January 2012. Ideas, like one for reviving agriculture by using the experiences of people who had volunteered in disaster–stricken areas, emerged from young people living in the local area. From the end of July and through August, 20 of these young people presented plans for implementing their ideas for revitalizing the Tohoku Region in Kesennuma, a city in Miyagi Prefecture, and Tokyo.

Ashoka Japan has been impressed by the drive of young people who personally experienced the disasters of 2011 and will continue to help them implement their ideas.

Considering Ways to be Involved with Social Business as a Financial Institution

Mizuho has long supported organizations promoting activities and projects that are of high value to the public and contribute to the development of local communities. Moving forward, we will apply the experience and knowledge we have thus gained to support Ashoka Japan and, thereby, the activities of social entrepreneurs using business approaches to solve social problems. At the same time, we will build new expertise and know–how regarding social business and consider ways to be involved with it.

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