Leadership Training for Persons with Disabilities under the Partnership with a Private-sector Company

-As in the Case of the Duskin Leadership Training Program for the Persons with Disabilities-

Masako Okuhira* June, 2007
*Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities

last update: 20151224

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1. Introduction

In the current business world, contribution to society is taken for granted so naturally that corporate activities could not be carried out without taking into account the concept of social contribution. The Charter of Corporate Behavior by Nippon Keidanren (The Japan Business Federation) also stipulates that "As 'good corporate citizens,' members shall actively engage in philanthropic activities, and other activities of social benefit."
Meanwhile, NGOs, private companies and citizens have come to play more important roles in today's international cooperation arena, and it is becoming a matter of course to link disability and development.
In this paper, I would like to discuss the leadership training program for persons with disabilities under the partnership with a private company, citing examples of two leadership training programs which are implemented in cooperation between the Duskin AINOWA Foundation, a benevolent corporation of Duskin Co., Ltd., and the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities, a disability-related NGO.

2. Study Abroad Leaders Program for the Disabled

This program has produced more than 350 graduates over the 27 years since its inauguration in 1981.
First, I would like to describe the Duskin Study Abroad Leaders Program for the Disabled, whose objective is to develop disability leaders of Japan.

(1)Start of the Program
In 1981, on the occasion of its 10th anniversary, Mister Donut Division of Duskin Co., Ltd., they wanted to do something to show their appreciation to the people in the community. As the year coincided with the United Nations International Year of the Disabled, they consulted with those related to the welfare of persons with disabilities, and decided to launch the Mister Donut Study Abroad Leaders Program for the Disabled (hereinafter referred to as the dispatch program). In order to implement the program, they applied to the then Ministry of Health and Welfare for a benevolent corporation, and established the Duskin AINOWA Foundation (hereinafter referred to as the AINOWA Foundation), and entrusted the program to the Japanese Society for Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (hereinafter referred to as JSRPD).
The program provided an opportunity to receive training in the United States for those Japanese persons with disabilities who had aspiration to become leaders in making contributions to promote the situation of persons with disabilities in their communities. The yearly number of the trainees was 10, with the training period of one year at the longest. JSRPD organized an executive committee of experts and researchers, and decided on an open application system. In the first year ten trainees were selected out of more than 130 applicants, and they left Japan for the United States.
After 10 years since the inauguration of the AINOWA Foundation, Duskin Co., Ltd. decided to give company-wide support to the Foundation which had been developed solely by its Mister Donut Division. At the same time, it was decided that the dispatch program be carried out by the Secretariat of the AINOWA Foundation, and the training destinations increased in number to include Europe, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to the United States.

(2)Features of the Program
Put simply, the feature of this program can be described as "free." A trainee can receive his/her desired training in a desired country. Other important features include: ① type of disability not specified (cross disability), ② educational or work background not required, and ③ experiences not required.
Also, since the training period can be adjusted and a personal assistant is available within the limits of the budget, it is possible for a person with severe disability to participate in the program.

(3)Results of the Program
As stated above, the program has continued for 27 years and has produced more than 350 graduates to date, many of whom are engaged in the independent living movement. The graduates played an important role in the establishment of Japan's first Independent Living Center, and many graduates of the dispatch program are actively working as central figures and leaders in the grass-root disability movement. Ms. Judy Heumann, active as the former Advisor on Disability and Development of the World Bank, once acclaimed the program, saying, "It was indeed wonderful that they selected NGOs such as the Independent Living Center to send persons with disabilities for training 27 years ago." The pioneering project of giving training to persons with disabilities under persons with disabilities, which was initiated 27 years ago, is now producing definite results.
Of course, in addition to grass-roots activists, the graduates represent a diversity of careers in many different fields as politicians, lawyers, athletes, musicians and so on. The results of the leader training programs are not easy to measure and cannot be described in number, but the development of disability leaders in Japan is largely attributable to the Duskin Study Abroad Leaders Program for the Disabled.

3. Duskin Leadership Training in Japan; A program for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific)

In 1998, when the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons which started in 1993 reached the halfway point, the AINOWA Foundation came to JSRPD with a proposal to launch a new program. As a result, the Duskin Leadership Training in Japan; A Program for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific (hereinafter referred to as the invitation program) was finalized, linking the leadership training program that the AINOWA Foundation has continued and the Asia-Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons. The implementation of the program was entrusted to JSRPD, and it is now the 7th year of its operation.
In this section, I would like to state the content and features of the program, and the results to date, as well as the partnership the program involves.

(1) Outline and Features of the Program
① Outline
The program is a training course which has been implemented since fiscal 1999 as part of efforts to promote the United Nations Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons (1993-2002). Its objective is to provide an opportunity to study the present situation of social welfare in Japan and to pursue his/her studies for young people with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific who wish to become leaders of their communities.

② Features
"Applicants: Although the application guideline stipulates that an applicant should be a person with disability aged between 18 and 25 years, we allow some margin for its upper age limit in our screening process, reflecting the reality that "there are many persons with disabilities who do not have enough common social experience."
"Individual Program: As is the case with the dispatch program, the invitation program does not request specific educational background or work experience, and is an invitation scheme based on open application where no recommendation from the government or other public offices is required. It also has a unique feature that a trainee can receive individual training on his/her desired field at his/her desired relevant facility during the training period of approximately 10 months.
"Cross Disability: The application guideline only states that an applicant "should be a person with disability" and does not limit the type of disability. However, as one of the qualifications states that the "applicant should be able to carry on the activities of daily life without assistance," we regret to say that we have not accepted persons with severe disability who require constant assistance of another person in their activities of daily living. Nevertheless, we certainly include three types of disability every year, namely orthopedic, hearing and visual. By interacting with other trainees who have different types of disability, a trainee will not only learn about other disabilities, but learn to cooperate with each other. For example, when all the trainees travel, staff members encourage cooperation among trainees themselves rather than extending immediate help. It may look awkward in the beginning but as time goes by, they begin to help each other naturally in the course of events: a trainee with hearing disability acts as guide for a trainee with visual disability, or a trainee with visual disability pushes a wheelchair on a slope while the wheelchair user becomes an eye for him/her.
"Language: Training is provided in Japanese language or Japanese sign language, and this makes the program very unique. By acquiring Japanese, trainees will be able to deepen their understanding of Japan and its culture, and, moreover, they can foster close relationship that continues even after their return home by speaking Japanese with persons at training sites. Also, when they use Japanese or Japanese sign as their language in common, the trainees from different countries/areas will give form a kind of group solidarity in their struggle of learning, which is a positive effect of having a common language.

(2) Selection Process
The executive committee, organized as the decision-making body of the program, administers the selection process. The members of the committee comprise not only welfare experts but researchers, the director of the AINOWA Foundation, secretariat staff at JSRPD, and graduates of the dispatch program. The graduates are of course persons with disabilities and they play an invaluable role in the committee because they are the persons who have different disabilities and have training experience overseas.
Below is the flow of selection.

    Table 1. Flow of selection
Time of YearContent
Mid-AugustDelivery of Application Guidance for the next season
Mid-NovemberDeadline for application submission
Late DecemberFirst selection meeting (screening of application materials)
Early February to Early AprilInterview
Mid-AprilSecond selection meeting (final selection)

Approximately 800 copies of the Application Guidance are sent out to disability-related NGOs and individuals in countries/areas in the Asia and Pacific region, and we receive more than 300 applications every year. We then narrow down the number in the first selection meeting to about 20 or so potential candidates for the interview. In the selection, the opinions of committee members with physical, hearing, or visual disabilities are strongly reflected in the process. The members of this selection committee who have disabilities not only are persons with disabilities themselves but they have experience of supporting developing countries, and they also have a better understanding of the needs of candidates' home countries/areas and of the movement of persons with disabilities in the world; therefore, they rightly offer opinions that are more appropriate.
The on-site interview is then conducted in respective home countries/areas of candidates, and this is another characteristic of the selection and implementation processes of this program. A committee member is paired with a secretariat staff member to carry out an interview with the candidate. We visit his/her home and organization, and even when the candidate lives in a very remote area, we try our utmost to reach there. Observation of the candidate's community environment and talks with his/her family members and friends help us know the local needs and serve as a reference in drawing up the training program. In addition, if we take plenty of time on interaction with the candidate, it often clarifies the expectations the candidate has of the program, or elicits his/her awareness of the issue.
The final selection process is held at the executive committee meeting when all the interviews are completed. Each secretariat staff member prepares a report based on the opinion of the committee member who has traveled with him/her for the interviews, and makes presentation using photographs and videos. The whole committee members then have discussions based on the presentations, and finally trainees are selected.

(3)Content of Training
As mentioned above, this program is implemented in Japan, and the intensive Japanese language course of three months begins immediately after the orientation and the opening ceremony. After the language course comes the individual training, the greatest feature of the program and it continues for six months during the 10-month program period.
Below is the outline of the program.
①Japanese language course: An intensive Japanese language (or Japanese Braille or Japanese sign language) course is provided to trainees after their arrival in Japan. The goal is to obtain communication skills in Japanese.
②Group training (lectures and facility visits): To understand the present situation of social welfare in Japan, lectures are given on the rehabilitation administration, the history and current situation of disability movement, the social environment surrounding persons with disabilities, education, employment and social services for persons with disabilities, followed by visits to facilities related to the contents of lectures. They visit government, local government and private facilities, as well as disability organizations, schools, workshops, and companies, to enhance their understanding.
③Individual training: On-site training is provided at various facilities and organizations throughout Japan. The field of interest and needs of each trainee are taken into account in planning.
④Various seminars and disability-related events: Trainees participate in various seminars and events held by JSRPD or other relevant organizations, various interactions, get-togethers, and other events. Receptions and home-stay programs are also arranged.
⑤Discussions: A trainee is able to find opportunities to improve his/her leadership through exchanging opinions and experiences with other trainees or relevant persons in Japan on such occasions as report presentations.

Not a few trainees are amazed at state-of-the-art technologies or facilities of Japan and wish to learn them. In most cases, however, it is not easy to put them into practice in their home countries/areas, because there are still many challenges to resolve before that. We need to work very carefully together with trainees when planning the individual training program and clarify at the very beginning what issue they should take up first, and it would be no exaggeration to say that this is the very key that determines whether the training program is successful or not. Furthermore, as many trainees tend to forget harsh realities of their home countries/areas in the course of everyday life in relatively safe and peaceful society of Japan, we carry out the program having them reaffirm the objective of "making a contribution to society in respective countries/areas as leaders on their return home."

The program started its first year in 1999, and currently the eighth-year trainees are receiving training in various places of Japan. Together with the current six trainees, a total of 61 trainees from 21 countries/areas have participated so far. (See Table 2 for details)

   Table 2. Number of trainees by nation and by disability
Afghanistan1  1
India1  1
South Korea5113
Kazakhstan1 1 
Cambodia3  3
Singapore1 1 
Sri Lanka3111
Thailand32 1
Taiwan3  2
Bangladesh32 1
Philippines5 23
Malaysia3 12
Myanmar32 1
Mongolia2 11
Laos2 1 1

Eight years have passed since the inauguration of the program and already the graduates are producing the results. In this section, I would like to cite the case of one graduate from Pakistan.
After returning to his home country in July 2002, an ex-trainee from Pakistan set up the first Independent Living Center in South Asia together with his fellow friends in December of the same year with the support of the Independent Living Center in Japan where he had received training. In February 2003, the next year, seven disability leaders from Japan visited his town and held the first international seminar in Pakistan organized by persons with disabilities. This lead to the active interaction among persons with disabilities of the two countries, and the disability movement in Pakistan has intensified very rapidly.
Since then, their activities began to attract attention, and with the cooperation of the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the World Bank (WB), they invited persons with disabilities from more than 20 countries and held a training session.
When there was a major earthquake in northern Pakistan, they were quick to take action and went over to the disaster site to support the victims. They actively implemented various support activities, which included empowering persons who became disabled in the earthquake and giving basic information on disability. On account of these activities, they were entrusted with a project from the Japan Social Development Fund through the World Bank's Pakistan Office, and established four Independent Living Centers in the disaster area to support victims with disabilities. They are still more active in their support activities there.
The activities of his organization are running smoothly not only because he and his fellow friends are working very hard, but certainly because they work in cooperation with persons with disabilities in Japan, NGOs including the Independent Living Center in Japan and APCD, and donors such as the World Bank and JICA. As this case shows, the effect can be profound and far-reaching when persons with disabilities and various organizations work in good partnership.

(5)In future Years
There is a great difference between the conditions of Japan and those of trainees' home countries/areas. This difference should be far greater than that between Japan and the training destinations in the dispatch program. This could be a major reason for the serious depression many graduates experience especially a few months after their return home, when they feel their experiences and knowledge obtained cannot be made use of. If he/she could get a little moral support at those times, he/she might be able to make a recovery and go on with their activities. Some trainees have successfully built strong relationship with organizations where they received training, and several of them receive continued support for activities because the organizations recognize their strong ambitions for disability movement. I assume, however, that many graduates are still unable to do anything, because they have a sense of failure.
It takes 10 months to sow the seeds; we need to think about providing some support for them after their return home, so those seeds will dry out. When we consider, however, the fact that the total number of graduates increases every year, cooperation and partnership with other organizations become critical because one NGO or one donor alone has its limitations in providing support. From now on, we need to systematically look into the matter so that follow-ups and cooperation structures may be applied to other cases utilizing the case example of Pakistan. Moreover, as one who is engaged in training, I must carry out the program in patience while keeping it in mind that grooming of new leaders requires time.

4. Points to Note of Cooperation with Private Companies and its Benefits

Currently many major companies have benevolent corporations that contribute to society in the various fields including not only welfare of the persons with disabilities but environmental conservation, education, sports, art, regional development and so forth. Many of these companies advocate that their objective is to "fulfill social responsibility as a good corporate citizen," but there are possibly other objectives, such as "corporate image" or "name recognition." One needs to take this aspect into account when working in cooperation with a private company.
If, however, the company interests are emphasized and the original objectives forgotten, priorities would be extremely wrong. Therefore, it is important to manage the program while striking an appropriate balance.
When a donor foundation does not directly manage the program but outsources it to other organization, it is not easy for the foundation to see the process of implementation; and in addition to that, it is also not easy to clearly demonstrate the results of the leaders training program. Therefore, it is critically important to achieve the foundations' understandings on the content and significance of the program.
Another point of note is the "economic situation." This is the major difference between a public organization and a private company. Since a benevolent corporation can only exist because the main body, the company, makes profits, the revenue decline will necessitate the downsizing of the program. I believe the best way to keep this negative impact to a minimum is to demonstrate the need and results of the program to the foundation.
Below are our approaches whereby the donor foundation is informed of the need and results of the program.

The donor foundation
"Attends executive committee meetings and selection process
"Joins in interviews in developing countries, so as to know the need of the program
"Holds the opening and closing ceremonies, where their company employees are invited
"Receives cooperation on their awareness activities in the company on such occasions as training session of new employees
"Participates in seminars and other events

Enlightenment through a corporate citizen would be the benefit that is first pointed out in the cooperation with a private company. When the employees of the donor company start to know the program and activities of the foundation, or are involved with the program in one way or another, they will appreciate its significance and results, and this will consequently lead to their raised awareness of relevant social problems.

Moreover, the partnership has the flexibility and swiftness that are not always found in public projects. Based on discussions at committee meetings, of course, it is relatively easy to incorporate new ideas, and swiftly put them into practice.

5. Summary in Conclusion
I have thus far discussed in this paper the leadership training programs for persons with disabilities under the partnership with a private-sector company, by presenting two programs sponsored by the AINOWA Foundation, namely Duskin Study Abroad Leaders Program for the Disabled, and Duskin Leadership Training in Japan; A Program for Persons with Disabilities in Asia and the Pacific.
In years to come, cooperation with not only government, but ordinary citizens, NGOs and private companies will be increasingly essential in the international cooperation schemes. I would like the programs I have stated to serve as a good example of international cooperation in partnership with a private company. I also look forward to the day when the graduates of these programs become the driving force as leaders with disabilities to make a difference in their communities in Japan and Asia and the Pacific, and build a global-level network.

1.Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) Website: http://www.keidanren.or.jp/index.html
Charter of Corporate Behavior:
http://www.keidanren.or.jp/japanese/policy/cgcb/charter.html (Japanese)
http://www.keidanren.or.jp/english/policy/cgcb.html (English)

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