Summer Davos at Dalian: ‘D.Light’ and other flourishing Social Entrepreneurs


As at elsewhere, ‘Social Entrepreneurs’ is in the spotlight at Summer Davos also.  Japan as a high tech country tends to see the world just from her perspective making international contribution with philosophy or products that lack ‘knowledge or sensitivity to the local situation’ or having ‘too much focus on cutting -edge technology’ – both being the ‘weakness’ that Japanese must recognize.

The D-Lab of MIT which I have introduced to you in my blog is a good example of the project that started with consideration to these points.

At IdeasLab, the session on social entrepreneurs, many examples were introduced but I would say Ned Tozan of ‘D.Light’ (Ref.1) caught most attention.  In India and Africa, many places are without electricity so some people burn kerosene at night.  This is apparently dangerous, unhealthy, and costly for poor people.  What can we do about it?  Their work starts from this question.  Their enthusiasm was felt to all who listened.

Other examples included:  1) Activities to provide modest education and skill training to migrant workers for their possible career opportunity after their return to homeland. 2) Helping people with only small land to be financially independent 3) Helping young women forced in prostitution in Cambodia and other lands to become financially independent.

I asked Mr. Tozan ‘Did your project stem out from D-Lab (Ref.1) ?’ and his answer was ‘Yes’.  Recently I posted a column on D-Lab, a wonderful new course that started at MIT.  I was told that this activity spread through the alumni and heard about a successful example of a Stanford student.  I had a feeling that D.Light was it, and correctly so.  Just looking at the background of Sam Goldman (Ref.1), CEO and founder of D.Light, you will see how American youth are aware about the world affairs, have energy and vitality to do something about them.  I also admire from the bottom of my heart the innovative ways elite universities of America treat the students and their ambitions.

I think that more social entrepreneurs would emerge from Japan if more Japanese business people or youth see global issues through their own personal experience. Letting them pass time in ‘Hikikomori (Social Withdrawal)’ is ‘mottainai’.  I wonder whether young people in Japan find it difficult to draw a bright picture of future when they see people 20-30 years older and think to themselves that those kind of life are their only options.  But they are so wrong!

In order to open up Japan to the world, it is crucial to ‘let young people experience and see more of the outside world’ (Ref.1, 2, 3).  It is now almost my mantra, but once again, I confirmed its importance.  The world is big.  As Steve Jobs puts it, ‘Don’t Settle, Keep Looking’(Ref.1)