Archive for the ‘Jazz’ Category

May 20, 2008 – The U.S.-Japan Innovators Network held the public symposium Innovation & the Art of Future Building in New York on May 20 in order to explore innovative approaches to helping people envision a better future, whether it’s a community coping with natural disaster, an individual rebounding from homelessness or online networks sharing information vital to recovery. Part of Japan Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Network, the program was co-organized with MCG Jazz, Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans and The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. A second presentation took place Thursday, May 22, at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, LA.

For a summary of the event, please read Innovation & the Art of Future Building.

To listen to the participants’ different perspectives on recovery and future building, please visit Innovators Podcasts on Japan Society’s website.


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Tuesday, May 20, 6:30 PM — Japan Society, New York
Thursday, May 22, 6:30 PM — Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans

Kohei Nishiyama, CEO of design-to-order company elephant designInnovation, improvisation and collaboration are critical ingredients for recovery. New approaches to problem-solving in Japan and the United States are helping people envision a better future, whether it’s a community coping with natural disaster or an individual rebounding from homelessness. These symposia explore the art of recovery from a range of different perspectives, keying off of conversations with members of the U.S.-Japan Innovators Network, including Rosanne Haggerty, founder of the supportive housing non-profit Common Ground Community, Kohei Nishiyama, CEO of design-to-order company elephant design, Marty Ashby, Executive Producer of MCG Jazz, and Jay Weigel, Executive/Artistic Director for the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans.

Co-organized with MCG Jazz, Contemporary Arts Center, The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

Followed by a reception.

Tickets: (May 20 only, New York): $10/$8 Japan Society members/$5 students & seniors. Order tickets online at www.japansociety.org/ or call the Japan Society box office, Mon-Fri, 11 am to 6 pm, Weekends, 11 am to 5 pm, (212) 715-1258. A $3 service charge is added to all orders. Member ID number required for member ticket purchase. No refunds or exchanges. Programs subject to change.

Tickets: (May 22 only, New Orleans): Free Admission. For more information, please call the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, (504) 528-3805, or visit www.cacno.org/.

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The U.S.-Japan Innovators Network is pleased to announce Common Ground’s first annual Jazz Is Life Concert to Benefit Homeless, which will be held on April 18, 2008, at the Prince George Ballroom in New York City. Featuring Nancy Wilson and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, this event is a collaborative effort between IN participants Rosanne Haggerty, founder of Common Ground, and Marty Ashby, Executive Producer of MCG Jazz, who began discussing this event as they headed to Narita Airport after the Innovators Network retreat (IN)SIGHT: Bridging Gaps.

For tickets please visit http://www.commonground.com/

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Wednesday, February 27
6:30 pm
Japan Society (333 East 47th Street, New York, NY)

Bill Strickland, Nana Watanabe

Over the past 30 years, Bill Strickland, a leading American social entrepreneur, has been transforming the lives of thousands of people through jobs training center and community arts programs at Manchester Bidwell. He and his staff strive to give disadvantaged kids and adults the opportunities and tools they need to envision and build a better future. Keying off his new book, Make the Impossible Possible (January 2008, Currency/Doubleday), Mr. Strickland, a master storyteller, shares his inspirational story from growing up in a Pittsburgh ghetto to running a nationally-recognized organization that successfully balances social action, artistic creativity and entrepreneurial acumen. More recently he has worked with the Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Network, a multidisciplinary network of innovative leaders committed to creating a better world. Nana Watanabe, an award-winning photographer and author of Changemakers II: Working as a Social Entrepreneur (in Japanese), which includes Mr. Strickland, will preside. Followed by a reception and book signing.

Tickets $10/$8 Japan Society members/$5 students & seniors
Purchase Tickets at www.japansociety.org

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“I predict that the 21st century will be most effected by a new breed of something we have not seen yet, which is a new form of chapter based organization. Institutions always need to be blown up every once in a while, because even with the best intentions and the great people, new things, you just need ‘new’ to be effective. There’s going to be a whole new breed of organizations like this.”
-Scott Heiferman

When I first heard these words I was taking notes as a relatively new member of the Japan Society staff. Japan Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Project was holding its second major retreat in Tokyo and it was my job to capture the overall experience, i.e. atmosphere and important ideas, of the three-day event. Needless to say I was very nervous and anxious to take on one of my first big tasks on the job. I listened and typed and tried my best to record what I could; however, after the retreat I realized nothing really sunk in. There was no time for me to mull over the information that flowed into my ears, through my fingers and onto the screen in front of me. Now, almost six months later I finally got a chance to sit down and go over my notes and transcripts for a purely personal look at what I may have missed. Let me tell you that after re-reading those notes I realized that the wisdom that came out of that retreat was incredible, and I’d like to share some of it with you.

Below is a list of some of my favorite quotes that came out of that retreat, in no particular order:

  • “The high cost of the status quo, well basically what I keep writing down in my notes is SQ > C. Status Quo is costlier than a change. Now that’s a huge idea.”
    -Dan Pink
  • “You know, I’ve kind of figured out how to go from the bandstand to the board room and make it swing. I kind of figured out a way to improvise through that and think of the balance sheet as a set of changes, and never lose that ability say, ‘Why?’ Why do we have to do it that way? Can’t we have some fun with it and play with it? At the end of the year it’s going to be the same numbers. Why don’t we do it this way? And so we’ve been able to kind of improvise our way through it, and still have fun, and keep it going. I mean, that’s the point, is that without the fun part and the play, oh my goodness, I never could deal with these arts administrators and stuff.”
    -Marty Ashby
  • “Start off with the assumption that people are assets, not liabilities, and treat them that way and you will see extraordinary things happen.”
    -Bill Strickland
  • “What we need to do is to create these cycles, and allow innovation to be adaptive and not recreated, because we’re wasting so much money in international reconstruction trying to reinvent the same solutions to similar problems.”
    -Cameron Sinclair
  • “Knowledge that can be expressed by word is available to anyone; therefore that knowledge is losing its value. However, it has become more important for us to have the tacit wisdom that cannot be expressed by words; for example, intuition, insight, imagination and creativity.”
    -Hiroshi Tasaka
  • “I call it innovation acupuncture. The idea is that if you want to create large change, don’t do massive projects and expect a society or a culture to come with you. You have to do these small, little interventions and you put one in and you see if that thing spreads. That little pin makes a huge difference. If it doesn’t that’s okay, we’ll put another pin in. And we’ll keep going until those pins eventually make you feel better.”
    -Cameron Sinclair
  • “Money is the raw material of politics. And politics is either the raw material of change or preserving the status quo.”
    -Ann Rutledge
  • “I am rich in terms of life, which I believe actually has more value, ultimately. I am not personally wealthy. But that is precisely – that actually gives me an advantage. Because when I’m able to talk with young people, particularly students and my staff, I’m able to say that I am not doing this because I am driven by wealth in the conventional monetary sense. I’m driven by a higher order of things that is more in the range of what this Japan-America conversation is all about. I believe at the end of the day, at the last day of your life, you only have your memories. You can’t take the money with you. So the question becomes to make sure that you have memories that reflect a quality experience and reverence for life.”
    -Bill Strickland
  • “We need to examine is what we believe about homelessness and other social challenges…If we think that homelessness is about altruism, then we are comfortable with gestures like giving people money, handing out a bowl of soup. That’s something that makes us feel better. It doesn’t change the situation of someone who’s homeless.”
    -Rosanne Haggerty
  • “I’m here to contend that sooner or later, it does not come down to money. Sooner or later, it comes down to people. And you can call me some sort of a hippie freak if you’d like.”
    -Scott Heiferman
  • P.S. – Check out the August 2, 2007 New York Times’ article Design Steps Up in Disaster’s Wake, by Allison Arieff. The article highlights the struggle of a woman trying to rebuild her and her family’s life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and how Architecture for Humanity came to her aid.

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Hello, and welcome to the Japan Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Network staff blog. I’m Andrew Stuerzel, Program Associate of Global Affairs, and I’m here to kick-start what we hope will be an interesting, informative and stimulating resource for people committed to a better future. In short, the U.S.-Japan Innovators Network is a multidisciplinary network of innovators committed to making a social impact through retreats, symposia, exchanges and virtual media. The Network enables participants to step outside their everyday lives, connect with people, collaborate with them and catalyze the future.

Marty Ashby performing a jazz piece during the Innovators symposiumRecently we’ve been discussing a number of topics here at Japan Society, such as sustainable design, revitalizing communities and essential skills for social entrepreneurs like improvisation and storytelling. Last month we held our first-ever public symposium titled Improvisation, Creativity, Collaboration: Fueling Innovation in the 21st Century. The symposium participants Marty Ashby, Dan Pink, Hiroshi Tasaka and Alan Webber highlighted the importance of jazz and “right brain” qualities like improvisation, empathy and joy. What really hit home for me was this theme of “ego management” in the boardroom discussed during Marty Ashby’s conversation with Alan Webber. According to Marty ego management is just another way of checking your ego at the door. Know yourself, embrace you strengths and weakness and celebrate the strengths of the people around you. Anybody can lead at any moment. Don’t impose you will on others because if you do it will only lead to inharmonious moments, which leads to stalled collaboration and improvisation. In Marty’s words, “You just have to swing man.”

Listening to Marty, my mind drifted back to the Innovators Network’s last retreat in January 2007, (IN)SIGHT: Bridging Gaps. There, retreat participant and founder and CEO of Architecture for Humanity Cameron Sinclair talked about ego management as well, but in a different sense. Cameron talked aboutBridging Gaps retreat in Tokyo Architecture for Humanity and how it serves people in developing and war-torn countries. His take on ego management came down to this: Don’t go in thinking you know the best solution. Ask the people what they want and need, let the people be collaborators in the design process and go from there.

It seems so simple doesn’t it? Let the end-user help design what they need. Imposing your own personal designs, plans, structures and ideas is the way of the past. Open source collaboration is erasing the lines between expert and your “average Joe.” By empowering people to step up and become part of the process you can start a cycle of empowerment within a community that changes the way they live forever.

Inspiration and genius can come from anywhere at anytime; from the kids playing soccer in an alley of some war-torn country or from the junior-level assistant you just hired.

Check you ego at the door, learn from those around you…and just swing.

A couple of quick hits before you go:

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (2 East 91st Street, New York, NY 10128) is holding a great exhibition demonstrating how design can be a dynamic force in saving and transforming lives, at home and around the world. A couple of us from Japan Society visited Cooper-Hewitt recently and were really impressed by the innovative design solutions currently on display there. Check it out. On display until September 23, 2007. Here’s a little bit about the exhibition:

Design for the Other 90%

“The exhibition highlights the growing trend among designers to create affordable and socially responsible objects for the vast majority of the world’s population (90 percent) not traditionally serviced by professional designers…[It’s] divided into sections focusing on water, shelter, health and sanitation, education, energy and transportation and highlights objects developed to empower global populations surviving under the poverty level or recovering from a natural disaster.”

World population growth is increasing. Available drinking water is decreasing. Let GOOD Magazine put it in perspective for you in Drink Up: “The world’s water resources are becoming increasingly valuable–and strained. GOOD and the Office of CC put the mind-boggling numbers in perspective.” View Drink Up transparency.

And for those of you who think this water problem effects only developing countries you might want to read this article: US News and World Report, The Coming Water Crisis, By Marianne Lavelle and Joshua Kurlantzick. Here’s a little taste:

“In a nation where abundant, clear, and cheap drinking water has been taken for granted for generations, it is hard to imagine residents of a major city adjusting to life without it. But Atlanta’s water woes won’t seem so unusual in the years ahead. Across the country, long-neglected mains and pipes, many more than a century old, are reaching the end of their life span. When pipes fail, pressure drops and sucks dirt, debris, and often bacteria and other pathogens into the huge underground arteries that deliver water…America’s aging water infrastructure needs huge new investment, and soon.”

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