24 February 2013
Tokyo, Japan

World in Asia (WiA) announced on February 24, 2013 that SEELS, which Akira Foundation (AFJ) funded and has supported, has been awarded a grant by WiA with the other three recipients. WiA has supported local social entrepreneurs and innovators keen to tackle social and economic challenges in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami that occurred on March 11, 2011.

Social Enterprise English Language School, or ‘SEELS,’ was founded by Cesar V. Santoyo in May, 2011 and, since then, has been supported by Akira Foundation, financially and non-financially. SEELS aims to create job opportunities as English teachers for more than 6,000 Filipino living in Tohoku, in the northeastern part of Japan. It provides English and international early childhood education services at an affordable price, which may fit well in the severe financial hardship condition of the families who fall under the middle income bracket, as well as in need of global-minded human resources.

“This award means a lot in order to narrow the gap between the communities of local Japanese parents and children and Filipinos,” said Cesar V. Santoyo, founder and CEO of SEELS. “Not only that financial assistance would help us leverage SEELS’ resources and working capital, but also that having SEELS in the league of WiA will definitely help us reap more fruits of meaningful, collaborative partnership with social entrepreneurs and innovators through WiA’s network. As such, we all of Filipino migrants are very happy and honored to receive the award.”

In July 2011, WiA started its activities to support social entrepreneurs involved in the area of disaster recovery in Tohoku where the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011. Since then, WiA has awarded grants to five organizations so far. In addition, given the fact that extensive and long term support will be needed in Tohoku, WiA has started to accept new grant applications for social entrepreneurs who work in the following areas: healthcare, education, transportation, skill training, and town-building.

On February 18, WiA conducted the presentation session and final evaluation for four organizations that had passed the initial screening process, and has awarded grants to all of them (Visit its site at http://wia.stonesoup.jp/). WiA will provide financial and administrative support to SEELS which has been committed to English and early childhood education in Tohoku, in a comprehensive, long-term fashion.

About World in Asia (WiA)
WiA’s mission is to “develop the market for discovering, encouraging, fostering and connecting social entrepreneurs.” In doing so, WiA believes “that the highly developed technology and service industries in Japan’s ‘middle class society’ can be leveraged to solve the problems that the world will be facing in the coming years. At World in Asia, we aim to bring these emerging innovations in Japan to life through a dialogue with global citizens.”

WiA is committed to overcoming the barriers that have hindered collaboration among sectors, organizations and societies, creating broader, innovative agenda with social entrepreneurs, and building its Hybrid Value Chain (HVC) to enable the delivery of new goods, services and projects in line with such problem-solving skills by reducing the separation between for-profit and non-profit organizations.


21 November 2012
Tokyo, Japan

Akira Foundation (AFJ) is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2012 Social Innovation Scholarships (SIS). The winners are:

First Award: 80,000 yen per month for one year
Name: Mr. WANG HAO (China), Graduate Student
Institution: Nagoya University (Aichi, Japan)
Department: Comparative Studies of Language and Culture
Research Scope: Framing Analysis of the News Media in Japanese Parliamentary Elections

Second Award: 200,000 yen one time
Name: Ms. KWAK JEONGRAN (South Korea), Doctoral Candidate
Institution: Ritsumeican University (Kyoto, Japan)
Department: Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Science
Research Scope: Developing Bilingual Education for Deaf Children in Japan

The SIS Program was established with a gift from Hirofumi & Atsufumi Yokoi, Co-Founders & Presidents of Akira Foundation, in 2009. Every year, Akira Foundation, in partnership with Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JEES), awards annual and one-time scholarships to enthusiastic international students who “make a difference” by addressing social issues through and after their research at the master or doctoral level. We are confident that their value-driven research will help eradicate social issues and fill the alarming gap of the social entrepreneurship and innovation between other countries and Japan.

Since its inception, Akira Foundation has awarded scholarships to 10 students from 6 countries.

19 November 2012
Sendai, Japan

The next month is a significant month for Akira Foundation (AFJ) as it marks the 3rd Anniversary for AFJ from its establishment on December 11, 2009. This will be a chance for us to appreciate all of the members, partners and supporters on such an important day at a venue of Sendai, Japan, where the massive earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011.

The Social Enterprise Education and Language School (SEELS), a partner of AFJ, will host the event which will include several presentations and activities such as singing and dancing performances by local Filipino communities in an intimate space and more amicable, comfortable mood. So, everyone can join us regardless of age, culture or nationality!

Let us wrap our loving arms around everyone and share the joys of thanksgiving together with Women Educators Association (WEA) and SEELS. Our thoughts and prayers are always with those who believe in a future of hope and happiness, no matter who you are, underserved, marginalized and segregated even in dire straits.

Date and Time:
Thursday, December 9, 2012, 1:30pm – 6:00pm
(Door opens at 12:30pm)
SEELS Montessori School in Sendai
2-10-8 Gorin, Miyagino-ku, Sendai, Miyagi

20 October 2012
Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town October 20, 2012 – Akira Foundation (AFJ), a strategic partner at the World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship (THEWSIE), announced its strategic partnership with African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. ACC is one of the world’s leading research institutions focusing on African urbanism. With this agreement, AFJ becomes the first Japanese partner of ACC.

The objective of ACC is to facilitate critical urban research and engage in the development of critical policy discourses for the promotion of vibrant, democratic and sustainable urban development in the global South from an African perspective. As a UCT Signature Theme, ACC was launched in 2007 to serve as a platform for interdisciplinary research on urban issues – both theoretical and applied – across UCT. ACC works in close collaboration with a wide range of partners and supporters, including Cities Alliance, City of Cape Town, Mistra Urban Futures, National Research Foundation (NRF), Ove Arup Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, UN-Habitat, and Western Cape Government.

As a strategic partner, AFJ will share its ideas and actions on the use of innovation and entrepreneurship in addition to interdisciplinary, collaborative approach as the key enabler for creating academic and social bridges between Japan and Africa. AFJ will also hold international conferences and seminars as well as support joint research projects in partnership with a wide range of organizations in both national and global scales.

“Africa’s impressive economic performance over the course of the past decade is largely dependent on its cities. As Africa’s urban population doubles over the course of the next two decades, it is vital that sufficient and appropriate infrastructure investments are made to ensure optimal efficiency to achieve more inclusive and sustainable urban living”, said Prof. Edgar Pieterse, director of ACC and holder of the NRF South African Research Chair in Urban Policy.

In this regard, ACC with partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) focused on the World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship (THEWSIE), held in Boston, September 26-28, 2012. ACC, Harvard GSD and AFJ curated a session, “Smarter African Cityscapes: Evading the Hype” at the landmark summit. This session discussed the imperatives for inclusive and resilient models of urban development, placed in a broader context of transitioning to low-carbon cities in the context of the green economic revolution. In the build-up to this event, Prof. Pieterse was also invited as a keynote speaker to attend an international symposium in Tokyo, “Urbanization in Africa and Emergence of New Global Issues”, hosted by Sophia University in Tokyo, working collaboratively with AFJ.

“We are delighted to partner with ACC on this very significant engagement,” said Atsufumi Yokoi, Co-Founder & President of AFJ. “We have been addressing the needs of urban research in Africa, which remains underdeveloped and under-theorized, despite the fact that Africa is the least urbanized area but the most urbanizing area across the world. In addition, more than 60% of people in Sub-Saharan African cities have been stuck in slums. With these situations, new global scale, complex issues have emerged, including urban poverty, informality, inequality, urban food security, urban violence, climate risks, malfunction of urban governance, and so forth. In such a way, ACC will help Japanese and global citizens aware of them and build a people-centered relationship with scholars, innovators and entrepreneurs, to seek deep, systemic, multi-dimensional change for African cities”

To make it happen, AFJ has been developing a variety of partnerships and networks at both local and global scales, while delivering scholarship programs and social enterprises toward helping foster an ecosystem of social innovation and entrepreneurship. At present, AFJ is a strategic partner at the World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship to illuminate and showcase the visions and practice of innovations at a global level.

“We need to co-produce new knowledge and discourse on this unprecedented phenomenon” said Yokoi. “Toward an inclusive society, particularly across African cities, we cannot solve any social, economic, environmental and cultural issues without having interdisciplinary platform. ACC, in this regard, truly fits in the way forward.”

01 October 2012
Boston, USA

Akira Foundation is excited to announce that our partner organization, Social Enterprise English Language School, or ‘SEELS,’ has been named to the list of Global Hot 100 Companies at The World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship (THEWSIE) held in Boston between September 26 and 28, 2012.

The Global Hot 100 Companies are those companies leading technical innovation and business thought leadership to solve growing global challenges.

“This is another milestone SEELS has reached since we forged a strong partnership between the Akira Foundation and SEELS more than a year ago, in collaborative pursuit of the global phenomenon and movement of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Cesar V. Santoyo, founder and CEO of SEELS. “Indeed, the past recognition at both national and international levels has made us realize that we need to live up to the expectation from it and exert a more profound influence and change on the world we live in. A true, authentic leadership is essential in working with the underprivileged foreign migrants toward changing and transforming our society for the better. ”

Since its inception, SEELS have trained more than a hundred Filipinos and other nationalities from Cuba, Peru and Japan, where a massive earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011, which led to a nuclear radiation crisis around the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. In response, the Women Educators Association (WEA), an organization formed by SEELS trainees, has demonstrated outstanding leadership as a SEELS business partner across cities of those disaster-stricken prefectures. Under SEELS-WEA partnership is the incubation of five micro-franchised schools located in the three prefectures and all the schools are expected to open its classrooms in April 2013.

The World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship was launched in 2006 at the United Nations under the support of key multinationals. The Summit connects an elected group of the world’s most innovative people to exchange inspiring stories and architect meaningful actions for economic and social innovation. Summit partners include Deloitte, Dassault Systemes, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, MIT Enterprise Forum, and Akira Foundation.

Social Enterprise English Language School, or ‘SEELS,’ was established in May, 2011 and, since then, has been supported by Akira Foundation, financially and non-financially. It adopts a socially innovative approach by tackling the triple bottom line: an unsolved issue of the socioeconomic status (SES) of Filipino migrants in Japan; a shortage of skilled English language teachers; and a pressing need for Japanese children to get an education at pre-schools in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the country’s eastern coastal region on March 11, 2011.

The educational programs served by SEELS are spreading through its micro-franchising model that targets low-income families who live in a hinterland or rural area where major English education service providers have missed out or untapped. Teachers are locally hired and serve as neighbors in intimate settings. Such a cultural and financial fit may work well in those communities, while helping SEELS lead more sustainable and impactful.