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SECOND HARVEST JAPAN ~ Delivering "Wasted" Food to Those Who Need It ~

Ms. Rie Watanabe of the Communications and Public Relations Group, she is shown here at JANIC’s offices in Nishi-Waseda, Shinjuku.

Ms. Rie Watanabe of the Communications and Public Relations Group, she is shown here at JANIC’s offices in Nishi-Waseda, Shinjuku.

November’s Close Up introduces the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), a specified non-profit corporation. In boasting as full members approximately 100 Japanese non-government organizations (NGOs) involved in the field of international cooperation, JANIC is a leading networking NGO. It not only supports international cooperation NGO activities and forges links among them; rather, JANIC seeks to create a society that allows individual NGOs to more easily realize their abilities by forging links among such entities and business, citizens, government and local authorities (in other words networking). On this occasion, we spoke to Ms. Rie Watanabe of the JANIC Communications and Public Relations Group about the numerous activities the organization undertakes as an “NGO that supports NGOs”.

Q.Please give me an outline of JANIC.

A. JANIC was established in 1987 by a number of leaders of Japanese NGOs involved in the field of international cooperation. It was established due to the awareness that, for NGOs conducting individual projects on the support frontlines throughout the world, it was important to share information such as individual activities and issues confronted by each organization, etc.
JANIC’s membership system is comprised of two classes, full members and cooperating members. Full membership, which is limited to international cooperation NGOs that meet certain standards, might more strongly be stated as those players in international cooperation who, as network members, can be called upon to act together. On the other hand, anyone sympathetic to JANIC’s activities can join as a cooperating member, irrespective of whether they are NGOs, companies, local authorities or individuals. In addition to getting access to information on a variety of NGOs and topics that deal with international cooperation, members can participate in our “General Meeting”, “Membership Gatherings”, various training programs, conferences and events. Members can also deepen their exchanges with other NGOs. Here at JANIC, in addition to such networking among NGOs, we also conduct networking between NGOs and other sectors.

“NGO Support Donation” website

“NGO Support Donation” website: Donations can be combined and made to a number of NGOs active in sectors of interest.
The NGOs listed are full JANIC members.
http://www.janic.org/bokin/
©JANIC

Q.What does networking with other sectors mean?

A.There is the “Network for NGO-Business Partnership” for tie-ups with business, and a network called the “Forum for NGO-Trade Unions in International Cooperation”. Additionally, in partnership with the Council for Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), we operate a framework called the “Citizens' International Plaza”, the purpose of which is to link with local authorities in order to promote internationalization at the regional level. In that our role is to provide opportunities to meet rather than simply matching together NGOs and business, or NGOs and local authorities, JANIC has participants gather together through our creation of networks. These participants then take away the contacts and the knowledge obtained, incorporate it in various activities, utilize it in their own cooperative examples, and conduct joint projects such as events and campaigns, etc.
We also have regular consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and these consultations represent an opportunity for discussions between government and NGOs. I suppose such occasions could also be considered a form of network.

Q.So conveying to more people information about NGO activities is another important role for JANIC?

A. Concerning the Communications and Public Relations Group to which I am assigned, our purpose is to publicize widely to the general public on the topics of NGOs and international cooperation. Generally, our activities are built on three major pillars. Firstly, there is the dissemination of NGO information across the Internet. In addition to using our website to disseminate information about JANIC itself, there’s the “NGO Directory” that allows for database searches of more than 300 NGOs. We also provide message boards, etc., through which various organizations can list information regarding events and staff recruitment, etc. There is also our Facebook presence. Secondly, we publish an information magazine on international cooperation called “Synergy”. This features a large range of topics related to recent NGO developments and international cooperation. Thirdly, there is our holding of events. In addition to “Global Festa”, Japan's largest international cooperation event conducted along with MOFA and JICA each autumn, we also hold “NGO Employment Guidance” for people interested in working for NGOs involved in the field of international cooperation.

The JANIC website is packed with information on NGO activities.©JANIC

The JANIC website is packed with information on NGO activities.
©JANIC

“Synergy” is an information magazine published three times annually. It is also the member’s magazine delivered to JANIC members.©JANIC

“Synergy” is an information magazine published three times annually.
It is also the member’s magazine delivered to JANIC members.
©JANIC

Q.Please tell me a little more about your events.

A. NGO Employment Guidance is targeted both at people considering NGOs as an initial employment destination and people considering NGO employment as a career change. We see a large number of women in their 20s participating, and the breakdown is split approximately 50/50 between students and people already in the workforce. At these sessions, we discuss the realities of working in the NGO sector; what the work actually entails, the benefits, and the time spent working in Japan as opposed to being posted overseas, etc. By contrast, Global Festa aims to allow the general public to appreciate the work of NGOs and international cooperation. About 250 organizations involved in international cooperation have booths at Global Festa, and attendees can enjoy displays, shopping opportunities and cuisine, etc., from around the world. It is an event that people from across a wide age range who are interested in international cooperation can participate in easily.

NGO Employment Guidance: There are also many participants who aim to work for an NGO in the future having built up skills and experience.©JANIC

NGO Employment Guidance: There are also many participants who aim to work for an NGO in the future having built up skills and experience.
©JANIC

Global Festa: An event that anyone can easily enjoy. This year was exciting in that it celebrated the 60th anniversary of international cooperation.©JANIC

Global Festa: An event that anyone can easily enjoy.
This year was exciting in that it celebrated the 60th anniversary of international cooperation.
©JANIC

Q.As somebody responsible for communications, do you feel the situation of Japanese NGOs involved in international cooperation has changed?

A. Regarding the issues that confront NGOs, I don't feel they've changed that much from what they've always been. What is the best way to communicate? What sort of organizational structures should be created? How should donations be collected? I would argue that such concerns will probably always be the same.
Concerning moving forward with the resolution of social issues, what is required is obtaining both the participation and cooperation of large numbers of people. To achieve this; firstly we need to educate people about the issues that confront the world, and what NGOs are doing in response. Accordingly, for the purpose of improving NGO communications and making them more widely understood, in the summer of this year the people responsible for communications within JANIC member organizations established a working group, and approximately 40 organizations are participating in it.

Q.So what about this Communications Working Group, please tell me what measures are being promoted.

NGO Communications Working Group: Attended by people responsible for communication activities. ©JANIC

NGO Communications Working Group: Attended by people responsible for communication activities. ©JANIC

A. We've established the "NGO Awareness Improvement Project", and it will commence full-on activities from this financial year. This project intends to do three things. Firstly, it seeks to raise the communication skills of each individual NGO staff member. In that people from advertising agencies have also been included in the project, seminars are being held on topics such as how to establish communications strategies and how to write press releases. Secondly, the project seeks to accurately grasp conditions through research. Until now, we have conducted research on the state of NGO communications, and on how NGOs and international cooperation are understood within Japanese society. When we increase NGO awareness levels, accurate figures will be taken, and based on the evidence obtained, we intend to recognize a starting point from which to proceed. Thirdly and finally, the project seeks to develop new dissemination platforms for the purpose of achieving fuller understanding of NGOs and international cooperation. Not just for communications but for JANIC as well, this project can be viewed as something of great focus in the future.

Q.Please offer some advice to people who have an interest in the topics of international cooperation and NGOs, but who nevertheless feel that there are some high hurdles to participation.

Ms. Watanabe; “By taking the first step you get to know people, and this will lead to the next chance”.

Ms. Watanabe; “By taking the first step you get to know people, and this will lead to the next chance”.

A.The easiest thing to do is to go along and participate in events. I would particularly recommend events like Global Festa, because participants can contribute to international cooperation through eating, through shopping and learning. Furthermore, it would be good to go along to festivals that introduce the cuisines and cultures of different countries because NGOs also have booths at such events; and if there is an NGO that somebody is particularly interested in, then it would be good to participate in the organization’s briefing sessions or volunteer activities. If people are interested in doing something related to international cooperation, my attitude is that more than anything, what is most important is doing something. Once you do something, you discover a sense of personal motivation when you realize that you want to be able to do more, and this makes the individual seek out the information that allows them to proceed to the next step. Personally speaking, I was the same. I “wanted to be involved in international cooperation, and I wanted to work at an NGO”, but even though I had such feelings, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. That’s how I started out and I’ve ended up here at JANIC. Rather than thinking about things too hard, I believe it’s good enough to just act.