Earthquake Recovery in Japan: Entrepreneurs to the Rescue
Monday, October 22, 2012
“Disaster relief” usually brings to mind images of tents, food and water convoys, and emergency medicine. But since 2011′s earthquake, tsunami, and reactor meltdown in the Tohoku region of Japan, a Tokyo-based social entrepreneurship group called ETIC has added a whole new dimension: an entrepreneurial recovery effort.
Through its fellowship for young business leaders, called the “Disaster Recovery Leadership Development Project,” the group is enlisting 200 fellows from some of the biggest corporations in Japan to move to the recovering region for 3 to 12 months and help run temporary housing units, put companies back together, and rebuild the transportation system.
“It’s like Americorps,” said Koumei Ishikawa, ETIC’s Research Division Manager and a former business consultant. “In Japan, a lot of young businesspeople feel that their work is not vital. Social enterprise has hope.”
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the east coast of Tohoku in March 2011, killed more than 12,000 people, sent tsunami waves six miles inland, and damaged or completely flattened more than a million buildings. Combined with the tsunami and the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, it was the most economically damaging disaster in world history, costing Japan an estimated $235 billion, according to the World Bank.