Glocal is Critical for Sustainable Social Innovation

Smart Cities are Big (even if they are small)

Social Innovation/Smart City Week 2014 (I wrote about the event in another article in this site) was held on October 29-31, 2014. The event was the 4th edition of what is becoming a very important event for the promotion of activities that can help cities throughout the world adopt more sustainable practices. While "eco" and "green" events are becoming very common and are also important to spread public awareness about the things that people and enterprises can do now to change the direction human endeavors have taken to threaten the livability of our children and grandchildren on this planet, there are few that are dedicated to providing a showcase for governments, corporations, non-governmental and non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and the general public to consider the viable options in urban planning that can make cities - urban, metropolitan, and industrial centers - become assets and not liabilities in global efforts to advance sustainability.

The World Health Organization reports that in 2014 54% of the world's population lives in urban areas. The iconic NY-based publishing company, Fast Company, published in 2012 an article with an infographic that uses data from UNICEF that projects the world's urban population at 70% by 2050 (http://www.fastcodesign.com/1669244/by-2050-70-of-the-worlds-population-will-be-urban-is-that-a-good-thing). Even if we are successful in convincing more people to revitalize rural communities, there is little doubt that the role of cities in advancing sustainable initiatives will continue to grow.

Of course, it is easy to see that many great initiatives are being conducted in cities as diverse as New York City, London, Yokohama, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, and even Istanbul. The 2014 Good City Index (http://magazine.good.is/guides/good-cities-index-2014) tries to look at many of the qualities essential to a Smart City and select the cities exhibiting promise and hope. But it is important to note that in Social Innovation/Smart City Week (and in the Good City Index) there are many smaller cities represented.

Toyama City is the major city in a very rural prefecture near the Sea of Japan, in one of the more rugged parts of Japan's main island, Honshu. Utsunomiya City is a smaller satellite of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, located roughly 100 km north of Tokyo in Tochigi Prefecture. Both cities exhibited at SI/SCW their initiatives to improve quality of life and share their best practices with other cities.

International Insights

Another key aspect of Smart City Week is the international dimension. The number of visitors from overseas is increasing each year, from a start of, at most, a few hundred in 2011 to nearly 1000 in 2012, roughly 3000 in 2013 and an estimated 4000+ this year. This year, in addition to a number of conference programs featuring international activities and the presentations of international cities and their Smart City initiatives, Jarman International organized a workshop session featuring presentations by trade representatives from Indonesia and the United States. A presentation by a representative from the Embassy of Togo was also planned, but the person was forced to cancel participation due to an emergency that day.

While the attendance to the workshop was a bit short of expectations, the presentations about how government, industry, and the educational sectors cooperate to provide solutions to urban populations in Indonesia and the US, as well as learn through their cooperative endeavors with Japan, were the source of a wealth of information. In particular, the ways that Indonesia has learned through the examples of Japan's convenience stores in offering a variety of solutions and provide services such as banking, media, information, transport/logistics, and entertainment, as well as some kinds of emergency/disaster recovery services, were very enlightening. The presentation highlighted the fact that common retail and commercial enterprises can be an effective means of providing services that improve public welfare efficiently, and should be considered as a possible alternative to public services.

On the other hand, the presentation from the United States focused on the strong cooperative endeavors between Japan and the US. Energy security and next generation healthcare are, in particular, two area in which both nations have exhibited leadership and cooperation. These pose both opportunities for further cooperation, but also mutual benefit, especially when these best practices and core solutions can be exported to other nations and regions.

Jarman International

Jarman International, in addition to the seminar, Jarman International assisted the event organizer, Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. (NikkeiBP), in a myriad of ways. Ruthie Jarman, Tonia David, and Austin Auger were at the international organizer's party on the evening of October 29th, after the exhibition and conference. Many others, including myself and other fellow DJs were at the show, not only researching companies and initiatives and providing information to others via the Deep Japan site, but also assisting attendees and exhibitors.

A summary of the event and many of the event's highlights is in the video log posted below. I made it for Jarman International to summarize some of the event's highlights. It is more of a home music video than a professional showcase, but shooting footage on an iPhone and editing it using iMovie is a challenge.


mikekato image


United States

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