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HOME  >  About Us  >  Message from the President

About Us

Message from the President

Message from the President

John Donne, a renowned English poet in the 17th century, once wrote the following line: “No man is an island, entire of itself.”  This poetry expresses the idea that we cannot live in isolation.  We are born to live our lives in groups such as family, community, and, social organization.   These groups are built upon human ties made by sensing each other’s bodily presence and feeling the warmth of each other’s skin.  To contain COVID-19, however, the ties and exchanges were restricted.  Indeed, this is the constraint placed upon the most basic level of human activities.  Consequently, the long-established customs and world-views of people from around the globe look shaky. 

The ongoing change is by no means the rapid social transformation exemplified by the French Revolution and the Meiji Restoration in which the ruling elites drastically transform the state apparatus, the legal system, and, the social institutions in a short period.  The change would, nonetheless, trigger the quiet metamorphosis of laws, institutions, and, societal values over a certain duration of time.  It is needless to mention that we ought to rack our brains many times to solve the hard challenges posed by COVID-19.  Yet, we are also required to analyze with utmost carefulness and to grasp with precision the dynamics of mid to long-term processes of the social change, thereby designing a future of our society, toward which we shall move.   Also, it is necessary to turn the design into reality by proactively taking a range of key measures. 

While our “real world” ties are curved, the video conferencing tool like Zoom has been playing a vital role.  Without this digital technology, organizational management and communication of every kind, teaching in educational institutions, and, inter-state diplomacy could not work upon the outbreak of COVID-19.  Indeed the tool is not a mere alternative to face-to-face interactions.  It has the latent potential to overcome the hurdle of spatial distance, which was insurmountable thus far.  With this technology, we can communicate instantly in a casual manner regardless of the distance, whether domestic or international.  The time, cost, and, physical energy once required to transport are no longer needed.  We can anticipate the digitized interactions, not bound by the distance, will prevail from now onward.

Taking all the above into consideration, in fy 2021, the Toyota Foundation will focus upon, in all of our programs, projects aiming to pursue and propose the novel forms and frameworks of “tie” and “exchange”.  Because we find it important to support this aspect not only to overcome the domestic and international challenges exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic but to make cutting-edge industrial technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, big data, accessible and available in every corner of our society.

Also, we will consciously make use of the refined digital technology, including the video conferencing tool, throughout our programs.  The Grant Program for Community Activities in Japan is to attach importance to problem-solving by making effective use of the emerging information technology, not just depending on non-digitized, conventional knowledge and methods.  The International Grant Program has newly configured an “Online Exchange” unit to boost mutual learning among practitioners across national boundaries amid restriction on the international movement of people.

We have fully reorganized two of our grant programs.  The Research Grant Program is to uphold a new theme, “ Inter-linkages and Innovation for Future Societies.”  Under this banner, we will hold an open call for proposals regarding respective research projects.  Also, this program will help nurture junior scholars who are expected to envision a future society and play an active role there, partnering up with Institute for Future Initiatives(IFI), the University of Tokyo.  The scholars under the Toyota Foundation’s patronage are, attached to IFI, to devote themselves for five years to address the question of societal change over a long duration, starting from its depth.

The Grant Program for Community Activities in Japan is to support the initiatives to invent social services and to develop the human resources across the entire Japanese society, not just making small grants to neighborhood-based activities, which is our current modus operandi.  This reprogramming aims to cause a wave of sweeping movement with multiplier and ripple effects nationwide.

In fy 2021, while the end of COVID-19 is still nowhere in sight, the Toyota Foundation keeps on advancing with high aspiration.   The poetical message touched upon in the first paragraph, “No man is an island, entire of itself,” is true for the Toyota Foundation, too.  Without the ties with a variety of institutions and individuals, in particular those with a genuine interest,  it would be hardly possible to carry out good grant-making activities.  We would greatly appreciate your further guidance and encouragement.

April, 2021
Dr. HANEDA Masashi
The Toyota Foundation (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation)

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