Warm winter greetings from Seattle! It is an honor and privilege to write this column and I look forward to engaging you in a conversation that will hopefully lead to us meeting in either Japan or Seattle in the near future.
To begin, let me tell you a bit about myself. I have been working in the field of social enterprise and innovation for over 15 years as a practitioner, researcher, and teacher in places all around the world. Through my years of work, I am fortunate to have friends and colleagues all over North America, Asia and Africa and it is from this Global Community of Practice that I derive my inspiration and creativity for social action. My formal teaching covers the fields of social innovation, leadership, sustainability, and collaboration In addition to holding a doctorate (Ph.D.) from the University of Washington and a masters (M.S.) from the University of California, I also received a Fulbright Fellowship for study in Japan in 2004-05.
In fact, I was born in Japan (Tachikawa). But as a nikkei yonsei, my family moved back to the United States when I was only a few months old. In my mid-twenties, I returned to Japan for the first time since leaving as a baby and lived in Kumamoto prefecture (the home of my mother’s distant relatives) with Dr. Takekuma Yoshitaka, learning the art of traditional Japanese farming, food preparation, and community public health. Since that time, I have been back to Japan numerous times and without question, I consider it to be my second home.
For the past six years, I have been working as both a university professor at the University of Washington and Antioch University Seattle, and the executive director of an international training and education organization called iLEAP: The Center for Critical Service (ileap.org). In both my classroom teaching at the university and my nonprofit work directing iLEAP, I seek to spark the flames of inspiration in my students and colleagues to help support their efforts to create positive social and systemic change in the world. I love my work and the people from all over the world with whom I collaborate.
Since it’s inception in 2004, iLEAP has worked closely with Japanese-both sending them abroad to live and work in places like the Philippines and India through our Taking the LEAP program, and bringing them to Seattle for our Social Innovation in Seattle (SIIS, siis.ileap.org) course of study. Currently, we offer our SIIS program three times a year and this is a great opportunity for Japanese of all ages to learn about social innovation, gain professional experience, develop new friendships, and improve English communication skills--all at the same time! Seattle has been called the, "Silicon Valley of Social Innovation" and iLEAP makes it very easy for participants to step into this emerging market of social benefit through our SIIS program.
SIIS is unlike any other program that can be found in the world. It brings together an internship in a socially innovative organization or business with rigorous academic coursework taught by university faculty, and also connects participants to the social enterprise community in Seattle through site visits and guest lectures. iLEAP has strong partnerships with universities, businesses, and nonprofit organizations in the Seattle area and through the SIIS program, participants are able to take advantage of these. We believe in 'personalized education' where each participant is given close attention and closely mentored by me and the iLEAP staff. In fact, we have native Japanese on staff who also provide advising and coaching services. This means that SIIS participants never feel alone as we work hard to develop strong relationships with you. In fact, this is an important part of our program as we seek to maintain our relationships with graduates and hope to collaborate upon their return to Japan!
In closing, let me just say again what an honor and privilege it is to write this column and that I welcome your questions. In addition to email (britt[at]ileap.org) you can find me on Facebook (Britt Yamamoto & iLEAP fan page) as well as Twitter (dryamamoto).