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HOME  >  International Grant Program  >  2015  >  Comments by Selection Committee Chair

International Grant Program 2015

Comments by Selection Committee Chair

Dr. Akira Suehiro

Fiscal 2015 Program—“Cultivating Empathy Through Learning from Our Neighbors: Practitioners’ Exchange on Common Issues in Asia”

Since its establishment in 1974, the Toyota Foundation has been carrying out international grant programs, with a focus on countries in Southeast Asia. In fiscal 2009, the Foundation also introduced the Asian Neighbors Program as a way to support practical projects that are addressing concrete issues facing Asian countries and the region as a whole.

In recent years, Asian countries have experienced steady economic development that has raised the standard of living of citizens, but this has been accompanied by the emergence of the same sort of problems that Japan has been facing, such as the graying of the population and falling birth rate, expanding economic inequality, frequent natural disasters, and a broadening of risks. As a result of focusing on these issues, the Asian Neighbors Program was changed in fiscal 2013 to the International Grant Program—a new program that focuses on the target countries of Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as Japan. As a pilot program, it concentrates on common issues facing these four countries and Japan, while seeking to propose future-oriented policies in response to those issues.

The International Grant Program in fiscal 2015 inherits the fundamental understanding and framework outlined above but differs from the program carried out up to the end of fiscal 2014 in terms of the following five points.

First, in order to draw a clear distinction from the research-driven programs of previous years, the description was amended by adding that the program will involve “transnational on-site visits and exchanges between regional practitioners in two or more countries.” The reference to “two or more countries” underscores the program’s emphasis on “Learning from Our Neighbors,” as referred to in the program’s title.

Second, the program areas were narrowed to “Aging Society: Key players for sustainable aging communities” and “Multicultural Society: International migration and diversified communities.” This is a reduction of one compared to the previous three program areas—Aging Society, Multicultural Society, and Consensus-building on Local Environmental Issues in fiscal 2013 (and Renewable Energy Practices for Sustainable Community Development replacing the third program area in fiscal 2014). The program areas were reduced as the result of showcasing the significance of mutual exchanges and policy recommendations.

Third, the number of countries targeted by the program was expanded from 4 Southeast Asian Countries and Japan to a total of 18 countries or areas, including 7 East Asian countries or areas (including Japan as well as Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) and 11 Southeast Asian countries or areas (including East Timor). This change was based on the experiences of a two-year pilot program, which suggested that it would be beneficial to expand on-site visits and exchanges to include participants in China, South Korea, Taiwan, and other parts of East Asia.

Fourth, from the perspective of supporting practically oriented projects, a new emphasis was placed on creating tangible results with a visual impact and policy recommendations based on mutual exchanges, rather than simply calling for participants to review the current situations related to the program themes (Aging Society and Multicultural Society).

Fifth, grant recipients were requested to submit a Change Record document, based on the recognition that project quality could be improved by recording changes in the awareness and actions of project members and related persons over the course of project implementation during the grant period, and that this at the same time could be useful to the future activities of project participants and the Toyota Foundation. This new approach was based on a hint received from a project implemented in fiscal 2013.

Overview of Applications

For fiscal 2015, we received a total of 68 project proposals (compared to 73 in fiscal 2014). In terms of country of origin, 28 proposals were received from Japanese persons and 40 from those living outside Japan (as compared to 25 Japanese and 48 overseas proposals in fiscal 2014). The slight decline in the number of applications probably was a result of the elimination of Renewable Energy Practices for Sustainable Community Development from the program areas and the relative difficulty of meeting the new requirement that projects involve mutual exchanges with regional practitioners. As for the breakdown regarding project areas in fiscal 2015, there were 33 proposals for projects related to Aging Society and 35 related to Multicultural Society.

Forum Grants

In tandem with soliciting of new project proposals for fiscal 2015, a framework was set up for promoting forums related to the program areas of fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014 (Aging Society, Multicultural Society, and Consensus-building on Local Environmental Issues/Renewable Energy Practices for Sustainable Community Development). The forums involve organizing research meetings on initiatives in Japan and other parts of Asia related to topics in those program areas, and require, as a tangible result, gathering and globally conveying results from Foundation-supported projects in fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014 based on visiting the project sites and compiling information on the various viewpoints.

For this project framework, three projects were examined by the Selection Committee after consultations between the Toyota Foundation Secretariat and grant recipients.

Selection Results

The Selection Committee considered project proposals in accordance with four criteria: (1) whether and to what extent the project fits the thematic focus; (2) the level of awareness regarding mutual exchanges on the practical level and the expansion of those exchanges; (3) implementation structure of the project and the stability of the members; and (4) impact and the way the results including policy recommendations are conveyed. In addition, the selection process prioritized the content of project proposals, rather than seeking an equal balance between the two project areas (Aging Society or Multicultural Society) or between the regions (East Asia or Southeast Asia).

As a result of the selection process, 8 projects dealing with the topic Aging Society and 4 dealing with Multicultural Society were chosen. All 12 of these projects addressed issues in Japan, while 7 of them also dealt with South Korea, 3 with Thailand, 2 with the Philippines and Vietnam, and 1 with Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Taiwan. As for the country of origin of project representatives, 7 of the 12 projects are administered by Japanese, 2 by South Koreans, and 1 each by a Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese. 

In addition, the program officers (POs) of the Toyota Foundation made a vigorous effort to unearth potential projects and to request that project candidates provide additional materials, and here I would like to sincerely convey my appreciation for their efforts.  

Examples of Selected Projects

Out of the 12 overall projects selected for fiscal 2015, here I would like to introduce one project for each of the two project areas, while also briefly introducing the Forum Grant projects.

1. Aging Society

Hiroki Koyama
Placemaking of Spiritually Rich Death for Home Based End of Life Care: Various Japanese and Thailand Home Based Care Practitioners Exchange Knowledge and Experience About End of Life Care at Nishinomiya, Amagasaki City, and Ubon Rat District Khon Kaen Province (5 million yen)

This unique project involves exchanges between the cities of Nishinomiya and Amagasaki in the Kansai region of Japan and the Ubon Rat District of Khon Kaen Province in the heart of northern Thailand. The project’s aim is to consider ways to make death more dignified by rethinking each country’s view of death and the trend toward treating death solely from a medical point of view. Despite its weighty subject matter, the project’s exchanges will have great significance if mutual understanding between the two sides proceeds well. The project participants include a diverse array of individuals with solid credentials, including, on the Japanese side, NPO staff, local physicians and nurses, and persons connected with social welfare administration; and, on the Thai side, hospital officials from local municipalities and NPO staff. This is also a project proposal that was highly evaluated for not only aiming to emphasize the aspect of “exchanges between regional practitioners,” but also for planning to actively convey information through presenting results to such organizations as the Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology and the Japanese Nursing Association, as well as through video recording project activities and the use of social media. 

Since the project aims to visually record scenes from nursing care, the issue of appropriately handling personal information will be a vital task. Members of the Selection Committee expressed some apprehension regarding this point, but the project representative responded to this concern by noting that his university and the Japanese hospital involved, as well as the local municipalities on the Thai side, intend to each gain approval from their respective ethics committees and other relevant organizations.

2. Multicultural Society

Kwang-il Yoon
See the Future of Multicultural Society with the Next Migrant Generation (5 million yen)

In addressing the issues of multicultural society and immigration in Asia, one important issue that cannot be overlooked concerns the steps that need to be taken by the country from which people are emigrating and by the country to which they have immigrated in order to benefit future-generation immigrants. This project aims to actively address this issue, for which effective policies have not been adopted to date. The areas targeted by the project?Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan?are expected to face this future-generation immigration issue in the near future as their populations continue to decline and grow older, leading to conspicuous labor shortages.

In terms of crafting effective policies, it will be extremely important to foster interaction between those who have been involved in addressing immigration issues up to now. On the Japanese side, the project will be carried out by Aichi Shukutoku University and the Resource Center for Multicultural Community Tokai (Nagoya RCMC Tokai); while, on the Korean side, the two main players will be Sookmyung Women’s University and its Institute for Multicultural Studies (Sookmyung IMS). The results of the project will be distributed through the video and booklet that the project members will produce, as well as through workshops held in Japan and South Korea and other methods.

3. Forum Grants

Aging Society
Sung-won Kim
Livelihood Security for the Elderly in an Aging Society: Focusing on Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam (7 million yen)
Multicultural Society
Kyoko Kusakabe
Integration of Migrants and Social Policy Issues: Reflections from Japan, Korea and Thailand Towards the Creation of an Inclusive Society (7 million yen)
Environment and Renewable Energy
Takuo Nakayama
“Local Energy Governance” in an Aging Society: Toward Sustainable Community Using Renewable Energy (9 million yen)

The Aging Society Forum is an initiative to compare the systems designed in four different countries for the life security of elderly people. We look forward to great synergistic effects between Sung-won Kim’s new forum project and the Joint Research Between Japan and Korea for the Development of a Community Safety Net Program and a Regional Comprehensive Care System that Responds to Poverty and Disparity Issues: Moving the Community from Confrontation to Empathy (Sadahisa Noguchi) from South Korea and Interlocal Partnership for Creating a Cross-Generational Care Community (Masato Kawamori) from Thailand. From that perspective we have recommended the creation of a loose network between the projects.

The Multicultural Forum, meanwhile, is a project that aims, from the viewpoint of gender, to address the issue of social reproduction among immigrants in Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. The participants on the Thailand side from Mahidol University, Chiang Mai University, the Raks Thai Foundation, and the Mekong Migration Network have already achieved results in the past through collaboration with NPOs based in the Kansai region of Japan. We look forward to the project members drawing on this experience in order to hold effective workshops.

The Environment and Renewable Energy Forum prioritizes the issue of energy autonomy in an era of aging populations and involves a number of hands-on initiatives in Japan and areas of Southeast Asia. The project team centers on young researchers at Kyoto University specializing in research issues related to renewable energy use and the “green economy” in developing and emerging nations, as well as mid-career researchers. The members intend to draw comparisons between the situation in Japan and the situations in South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. The project proposal drew praise for the representative’s intention to socially implement an analysis of regional added-value creation. As the project team has a higher proportion of researchers, the Toyota Foundation has requested that members cooperate with regional practitioners involved in the issue at hand.


As can be seen in the outlines of the projects above, one important factor considered in the selection process was whether a proposed project would lead to meaningful exchanges of experiences and knowledge between the various stakeholders. Another key criterion was how the project members would seek to convey and showcase the results of on-site observations and exchanges to third parties and others. I would like to conclude by noting that these two important selection criteria are the result of the Toyota Foundation seeking to set the International Grant Program apart from the government funding of scholarly oriented scientific research by seeking to promote practical, future-oriented projects.

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