All FSI News Blogs May 25, 2021

Stanford e-Entrepreneurship Japan: Fostering Innovative Ways to Address Social Issues

The following reflection is a guest post written by Naho Abe, an alumna of Stanford e-Entrepreneurship Japan.
Stanford e-Entrepreneurship Japan student Naho Abe in Mexico City
Naho Abe in Mexico City; photo courtesy Naho Abe

Stanford e-Entrepreneurship Japan is an online course offered to high school students in Japan. It is offered annually in fall and spring by SPICE and the Japanese NPO e-Entrepreneurship, led by Yusuke Matsuda. The instructors are Irene Bryant (fall) and Maiko Tamagawa Bacha (spring). The goal of the course is to foster creative thinking and problem-solving skills in students with a focus on innovation to address social issues.

Because of my experiences with social issues in Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Japan, and Mexico, my decision to apply to Stanford e-Entrepreneurship Japan—a course for those with a passion in social issues and innovation—was immediate. However, when I started taking the course, I had little idea of the connection between business and social issues. Soon after classes began, I saw real-life examples of how unique innovations can improve the world. Every two weeks, a different professional gave us a lecture. Getting to hear stories of their first-hand experiences as entrepreneurs was an opportunity I never received at school, and I embraced it fully by asking question after question.

My favorite lecture was one given by David “Mas” Masumoto, who runs a sustainable peach farm in California. Through his lesson on growing organic peaches and passing down the farm to his children, I was able to make connections to a larger social issue in Japan: the lack of young people in agriculture. His lecture provided insights on specific ways professionals were practicing social entrepreneurship.

The course was certainly demanding. After the lectures, we had to work on group projects to come up with our own solutions, which enabled me to further understand and practice aspects of social entrepreneurship. It took hours of preparation and as I was one of the only students who lived abroad, I sometimes had to work with peers at ungodly hours. Nonetheless, all the hard work was absolutely worth it. The diversity provided by the unique regional backgrounds of other students located all around Japan exposed me to important perspectives on social issues.

For the final project, which included an individual research report on a social issue and a group business pitch, we had full control of what we wanted to do. The individual paper was refreshing for me because at school there is never this much flexibility, and it was a perfect chance for me to explore my interest in addressing social issues like environmental sustainability through entrepreneurship. For the group project, we created a business plan for a sustainable toothpaste. I have never worked with such motivated, diverse, and brilliant students willing to put in so many hours of work. Through the project, not only did I get to put skills that I learned during the program into practice, but I also made lifelong friends who shared the same passions as me.

Finally, Stanford e-Entrepreneurship Japan has grown my interest in how social issues can be resolved through entrepreneurship, and has motivated me to pursue not only the exploration of social issues, but business in college. It is a course like no other, with wonderful peers, invaluable lessons, and a supportive teaching staff. I encourage people who are curious about social issues or business in general to take advantage of the program.

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