February 2019

Our monthly online newsletter,"L'ESPACE".
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MIS (Multilateral Interaction with Students)

- Students from Japan and Southeast Asia Seeding the Future Together -

In Close Up this month, we introduce MIS (Multilateral Interaction with Students). MIS is a non-profit organization principally operated by students of the University of Tokyo. The goal of its activities is to produce leaders of the next generation with the passion to actively contribute to society. By developing projects to tackle local social problems and work towards solutions in collaboration with students of the various countries of Southeast Asia, the organization hopes MIS members as well as students of local groups, grow to become leaders of the next generation who can lead the world. On this occasion we spoke with Representative Mr. Takafumi Fukazawa, and public relations officer Mr. Yutaka Nishimiya, to detail some MIS activities.

Mr. Fukazasa (right), representative and Mr. Nishimiya (left), public relations officer.
Both are in the 2nd year of Human Science II
at the College of Art and Science of the University of Tokyo.

Please tell us what led to the establishment of MIS.

Mr. Fukazawa

The establishment of MIS was triggered while two students of the University of Tokyo with prior awareness of poverty and disparity issues were on a trip to Cambodia. During the trip personnel working for NPOs and NGOs in the country commented to the two students, “our activities are temporary measures resulting from problems”, and they speculated if it was possible to realize activities which would address the causes before the problems emerged, and so made the decision to establish the organization. MIS was founded in 2011 and became a juridical NPO entity in 2013. MIS, with the motto “Seed the future, Lead the world”, undertakes activities with the goal to produce leaders of the next generation who enthusiastically contribute to society. A distinctive aspect of our students’ activities is that we undertake projects giving full consideration to local conditions in collaboration with local student groups we call “partners”. Currently we have teams in charge of Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. And all teams, except Japan’s, carry out projects to resolve social problems by visiting each country twice per year during the spring and summer breaks.

What is unique about MIS activities?

Mr. Fukazawa

I think what is particularly unique about MIS activities is that each team is in charge of the whole process: identifying the social problem to confront; analysing the causes; determining measures to resolve the problem; implementing projects; and self-appraisal. Take for example the “Garbage Education Project&cdquo; by the Myanmar Team in which I participated. On a visit to Yangon, a member of our team noticed a fetid odor that permeated the city was due to the heaps of garbage along the streets. The awareness of this member led us to focus on the garbage problem in Myanmar. Subsequently, by internet research and SNS messaging with partner students, it was revealed that the garbage problem in Myanmar is due to the lack of education about garbage, which steered us to implement a project with the theme of garbage education. As you can see, the beauty of MIS activities is that one can participate in the whole project, from beginning to end, and we believe this helps create leaders of the next generation with the capacity to resolve problems.

The Garbage Education Project was undertaken in Myanmar.
With children from a monastic school,
we collected garbage from around the school.

Making garbage receptacles from used tires.
The children showed keen interest
in their first recycling experience.

Can you talk more about the Garbage Education Project of the Myanmar Team?

Mr. Fukazawa

The Myanmar Team carried out the Garbage Education Project two times at a monastic school under the administration of the local temple. During our visit in the spring of 2018, we taught the students between 10 to 12 years old the reasons why littering should stop and the need to sort garbage, and also organized a work party to pick up garbage in the area. During the summer 2018 visit, we organized workshops and class demonstrations of school garbage education in order to empower local educators to take on garbage education. We elaborated for the project the “Garbage Education Manual” in Japanese, which was translated to English and presented to the student partners, which was then translated to Burmese. We presented the “Garbage Education Manual” to the Yangon Educational Committee and requested their collaboration for its distribution. We hope that with this manual, garbage education is disseminated throughout Myanmar, even after the “Garbage Education Project” ends.

The Department of Education of the NLD
(National League for Democracy)introduced us to
many schools to disseminate the Garbage Education Manual.

We were able to confirm in a school where
the project was implemented that the sorting of garbage
is being carried out after the project ended.

Can you also tell us about the activities of the Japan Team?

Mr. Nishimiya

The Japan Team organizes “Experience Japan”, in which about 10 students from Southeast Asia are invited to Japan each summer. The most notable particularity of the Japan Team is that Japanese students take the initiative to gather students from different countries to have multi-national interactions, whereas the other teams perform their activities in a foreign country together with students from that country. Each year a theme is chosen for “Experience Japan”, lectures and field work are organized pertaining to the theme, and students spend about 10 days together enjoying sightseeing and experiencing Japanese culture. By using various means, such as ads on Facebook or on the MIS website, friends and acquaintances of our partners in each country or former participants, the number of students requesting to participate is growing so that it was difficult this year to choose from the numerous applicants. When this project began, one goal was to grant an experience similar to the study abroad program desired by Southeast Asian students but prevented by financial barriers, and so we gladly help all participants with travel costs.

“Experience Japan” Workshop.
Participants from various countries work together.

Jointly presenting group-work ideas.

How do you find groups of students willing to become partners in the different countries?

Mr. Nishimiya

In the summer of 2018 some fellow members and I travelled to Cambodia to look for new partners. On that occasion we asked old partners to present other groups, and also asked an MIS member who had personal contact with Cambodian students and working adults who had previously implemented projects in Cambodia. In this way we were able to arrange 4 introductory meetings with 4 groups of students before leaving Japan. We visited the groups in Cambodia and we asked one group if a consensus could be reached to be our partner after confirming that we shared the same goals and got along well. Incidentally, when the organization was founded, because the then MIS members had no contacts they communicated directly with universities abroad by telephone or email to ask them to introduce groups of students to MIS. If it so happens in the future that regular means of contact are not feasible, perhaps we’ll have to fall back to this method.

Seven years have passed since the founding of MIS. What are the outcomes of the organization?

Mr. Fukazawa

MIS activities are mainly undertaken by first and second year university students, and essentially each year new teams of students begin a new project from zero. However in recent years the transition to the next generation is going well for MIS as well as for our partners which makes it possible to implement projects of longer duration, several years, passing the work from one generation to the next and thus target outcomes with greater impact. In addition, by sharing the outcomes of the projects implemented since the organization’s founding with outsiders, we have begun to receive funding, from foundations for example.

Mr. Nishimiya

The objective of MIS is to grow its members together with partner students in Southeast Asian countries to become leaders of the next generation. From this standpoint it is big accomplishment to have cases where we sense there has been a shift in the consciousness of students we work with in the field. For example, the partner students of the Vietnam Team to which I belonged, at first acted only on our requests, but gradually began to actively offer their opinions and take the lead on their own initiatives. Seeing this change made me happy to have worked with them.

Regular meeting of MIS.
The progress of each team is reported
and helpful activity skills are learned.

The methodology of problem solving is shared among all MIS members.
A multi-day camp is hosted to learn methodologies
in an intensive workshop.

Please tell us of activities to be developed in the future.

Mr. Fukazawa

MIS is currently experiencing a dramatic growth of membership. Previously, each team had only 3 or 4 people with a strong sense of responsibility who had to dedicate themselves to the activities because the project wouldn’t be able to keep going with even one team member missing. Now however, the increase of members has created a situation where some members can be without a sense of purpose or a clear role. We want MIS to grow even more, perhaps by forming new teams to show members it is possible to realize activities different from the ones the organization implements.

Mr. Nishimiya

In addition to the activities carried out by each team, we will host a “Japan and ASEAN Student Conference” in February 2019 in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE). About 140 students from Japan and ASEAN countries will come to Tokyo to discuss varied themes, attend lectures and conduct field work. After the event we would like to present the outcomes in some way, and would like to host a similar conference abroad if possible. Graduate school students are currently taking the lead to plan and manage the conference, and first, second and third year university students are part of the management team. As this is a project to break down all barriers between countries and examine social problems, we have high hopes for this event.

Tokyo International Communication Committee

Ono Bldg. 3F, 17-15 Kandamatsunagacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0023
TEL:03-5294-6542 FAX:03-5294-6540