After a decade of pessimistic academic and media discussions that have painted Japanese youth either as “slackers” or as “underdogs”, the tide is now finally turning: More and more young adults in Japan are emerging as change-makers poised to refashion their society more independently from conservative preferences and paralyzed mainstream institutions (e.g. the state and large corporations). In this presentation, I explain why "Japan’s agile youth" are likely to lead a new wave of social innovation in East Asia and more widely. I use case studies, general sociological survey data and original interviews to support this evolving argument.
However, although the dynamic leaders, ideas and resources are indeed already there, several obstacles limit the extent to which the enterprising young people of Japan are able to wield influence internationally. One of these is in fact the hesitation of Japan's researchers based to fully engage in the global discussion on social entrepreneurship and innovation. The presenter invites participants to actively discuss this and other challenges from a critical angle.
Tuukka Toivonen, a sociologist, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oxford and presently serves as a Junior Research Fellow in Management at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. Tuukka’s interests include deconstructing youth problems, detecting social innovations and bringing together social entrepreneurs. Details on each of these activities can be found at www.tuukkatoivonen.org and www.kansairise.org. Publications include A Sociology of Japanese Youth: From Returnees to NEETs (Routledge 2012; with Roger Goodman & Yuki Imoto) and Japan’s Emerging Youth Policy: Getting Young Adults Back to Work (Routledge 2012).