Lessons from Japan: A story about IATSS Forum Leadership Training


Being selected as one of the participants from Indonesia in the leadership training held by IATSS Forum Japan was one of my proudest moments. This program has been conducted since 1985 and was initiated by Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor. I joined the 56th IATSS Forum Training Program back in 2016 and here’s my story.

There were a total of 19 young professionals from Japan and respected ASEAN countries who had the chance to learn in Japan for 55 days (September – November 2016). We spent most of our training days in Suzuka city – Mie Prefecture, although we also had a chance to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Iga and Toba to learn different topics and themes.

The forum provided opportunities for participants to understand each other’s countries through seminars, field studies, group study, and cultural exchange, as well as to make efforts to solve current issues in Asia and Japan, under the motto “Thinking and Learning Together.”

The selection for IATSS Forum was held in Jakarta in December 2015. There were 20 candidates from different provinces in Indonesia who passed the first screening and were invited to an interview. Before the interview, there was a role play and group work where all the candidates were closely observed by 9 assessors. They were the representative of Embassy of Japan, IATSS Forum Japan, Indonesia IATSS Forum Alumni, Astra Honda Motor, academic professor, and psychologist. The role play was designed to match the training in Japan.

The main theme of the training was Sustainable Community Design, in which all the participants learned the basic of sustainable communities. There was also introduction to different sustainable community design projects. Not only that, but we also learned about general themes, such as modernization, politics, urban planning, education, environment, and One Village One Product (OVOP). I loved the discussion and study about OVOP.

OVOP is a concept where the community help themselves to produce one competitive product in their own village as a business to gain sales revenue to improve the standard of living and prosperity in their community, while also preserving the environment. The community needs to be independent and creative in finding products with high added value.

What I remember the most about the lecture was the quote from former Oita Prefecture Governor, Morihiko Hiramatsu who said: “local government helps those who help themselves.” I think this is an important quote because he emphasized how important it was for the community to help themselves and change their living situation, instead of wishing for the government to help them have a better life.

The important issue of OVOP Implementation in Indonesia is the lack of understanding of OVOP philosophy. The characteristic of programs in Indonesia is the top-down policy (where the government initiates the project), in contrary to OVOP concept, which is bottom-up.

Working for the government, I notice that many of our programs were not successful in reaching the goals and helping the people in a community. Many times, we made a policy that was aimed to improve the life of people, but ended up failing in the process. From the program, I realize that creating a successful program for a community requires active participation and involvement of the community in the particular area.

Many Indonesians expect the government to make a ‘miraculous policy’ to help them overcome difficulties in life (poverty, employment, traffic, drugs, pollution). It will not work that way though. The government may have an initiative, however, the success and the failure of it would depend on the support of the community. The community plays an important part to run and oversee the process. They need to feel like they belong to the program. When the community has a sense of pride of what they are doing, they will work really hard to reach the goals. Now, the challenge is to make the people/ community aware of the role.

I learned so much from the IATSS Forum staffs and some Japanese people I met during my training, I admire their hard work, dedication and commitment to help nurture human resources for ASEAN region’s sustainable development. I learn about the value of time, the importance of planning, the prioritization of group harmony and the idea of respecting the nature and the people. The lesson I learned and the friendship I made with other Japanese and ASEAN participants in Japan will forever be engraved in my heart. I am also grateful for all the support I got from BAPPEBTI as well.

For more information about the program, please visit https://www.iatssforum.jp/en/

 

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A work in progress


I have heard some positive comments from my colleagues about my new ‘look’ (or should I say transformation?). Ever since I returned from Japan, I lose weight and I feel more comfortable with myself. I also took off my head cover, change my clothes and hairstyle. Deep down I am still the same sensitive and overthinking person though, but I try to develop a thicker skin so I can shrug off all the negative comment and just live life the way I want it to be. It’s helpful to have some good friends and colleagues who encourage me to just be myself.

One of my seniors made his own assumption about my new look. He thought that I owe my transformation to a guy, so he kept on teasing me and wishing that I would tie the knot asap with this mysterious guy.

Little did people know that it was not the reason why I paid more attention to myself. I feel the need to change because I am not the same person anymore; a little (or big) part of Annisa has changed. I feel like I have discovered a new person; a happier person. I tend to my own needs. I put myself as a priority. Oh well, there were times when I got defeated though. My progress is slow, but it’s my own learning process. As long as I am not interested in looking back, I guess I am already in the right path. I am a work in progress and I am proud of myself.

Thank you for people who stand by my side through thick and thin; those who give me honest and salty comments; those who said “I will support you no matter what“; those who always be all ears whenever I feel down and share their lights when mine gone dim. I owe this transformation to you…

A Voice from Jakarta*


Hello!

It’s Annisa, the 56th IATSS Forum participant from Indonesia.

It’s been more than 100 days since I left Japan, but a little part of my heart will forever stay there. The post-IATSS Forum syndrome (or should I say shock?) was surely difficult to overcome, but I realize that I have ‘graduated’ from the training to finally go out to the real world and contribute -however small, to the community now.

The biggest change I feel after returning from Japan is my own way of thinking; of how I value my life and other people’s life. I started to realize how important it is to live a healthier life, both mentally and physically, in order to do bigger things in life.

I met amazing and inspiring friends, staffs, mentors, volunteers and people during my training in Japan and they have touched my life in their own ways. They are my new family because family is not always about blood; it is about people who accept me for who I am and share the same vision of how we want to change the world and leave it better for the next generation. This treasure of social capital is something that I will never get from somewhere else and because of that I just want to pay forward whatever I get from the training to the next people.

On the 25th of November 2016, I helped IIFA (Indonesia IATSS Forum Alumni) conducted a public lecture about Community Resilience on Disaster Management in Bandung, West Java. This program received a full support from the IATSS Forum Japan and the Magister of Social Science of Parahyangan University. We were delighted to have Professor Tsutomu Mizota of Nagasaki University and Mr. Siswanto B Prasodjo of the National Board for Disaster Management shared their knowledge and experience about the discussed theme.

Last December 2016, I also had a chance to join the first cross-country learning and leadership development in Thailand. This program was initiated by the TIFA (Thailand IATSS Forum Alumni) with the support of IATSS Forum Japan. During the program, I had a chance to see how the communities in Thailand implement sustainable community designs. I also met more amazing and inspiring alumni of IATSS Forum from ASEAN countries who continuously work hard to contribute in their own fields long after they have completed the training in Japan.

To the future participants of IATSS Forum, welcome to the family! We are lucky to be among the selected few of people who get a chance to join the training. This will be a challenging yet rewarding experience in your life, so make the best of it.

  • Be careful of getting too attached to the amazing, kawaii and lovable IATSS Forum staffs
  • Just skip some breakfasts at the boring-yet-excellent all-you-can-eat buffet at Sora Tabeyo Restaurant when you cannot wake up early because you sleep late trying to finish a report. Maybe by doing so, you will not miss having breakfast at that restaurant when you finally return to your own country.
  • Do not fall in love with the people, the culture, the custom, the city, the language or the amazing country! It will be difficult to move on. Trust me, I am still struggling to move on.
  • Be ready to get shocked once you return home because you will have a love-hate relationship with your ‘oh-so-organized’ life in Japan and all the busy day-to-day routine (I love the 2-week schedule!)

On a serious note,

  • What you read and heard about the Japanese being really strict about time is true. So don’t be late and respect the time.
  • Be honest and be patient with the learning process.
  • Be part of the group and be open-minded with all the differences.
  • Be active and committed to create a safe, meaningful and happy learning environment for yourself and fellow participants.
  • It’s okay to have a different opinion, you don’t have to always agree.
  • Invest your time to get to know people better.
  • Find a personal time to do a self-reflection.

Consider yourself warned!

With love,

Annisa

Annisa @Sanjusangendo.JPG

*This letter is written as an article for the participant’s voice section on IATSS Forum official website (as requested by Mie-san on Feb 17, 2017)

#NotGonnaGiveUp


I was about to have lunch with my colleagues when I saw many people standing in front of a house next to the RM Padang I went to. Abang RM Padang told us that there was an incident happened; someone committed suicide in the house and they have just found the body. He said that the victim was a loner and was not married yet, he lived with his dad and his mother passed away already. That’s all the info I could hear.

I felt so sad when I found out what happened. What happened today was a reminder to cherish life no matter how difficult and hard it might seem. There were times when I got so depressed and I could not contain my sadness. I always overthink everything and it’s killing me.  I know it’s not healthy, but I keep on doing it. There are things I cannot control and when I am ready to let it go, I will feel happier. I just need to remind myself that it’s okay to feel this deep feeling; that it’s part of who I am. I need to love this part of me. This huge heart feels so deeply of everything and right now I am overwhelmed with all the emotions.

I do not want to do anything stupid anymore, I promised myself and closed people of mine not to do anything stupid. That I will not give up with life.

Songs of the week (still having too strong feeling for しるく right now):
Namie Amuro – Baby Don’t Cry
Yura Yunita – Intuisi
Maera – Benak
Sara Bareilles – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

“Upon my return home” Report


Dear Silk and Midori,
This is Annisa, the 56th Batch IF participant from Jakarta, Indonesia. Thank you so much for your replies. 

Life in Jakarta has been surreal. When I left Suzuka that Monday morning, I kept on denying the fact that I’m leaving Japan for good. 

I thought it was only for a field trip (in Kansai area or Tokyo). In a week, I’d be returning to Suzuka and see you all again :-(

The first time I landed in Soekarno-Hatta airport and went into the toilet, I was slapped by reality; I have returned to a familiar smell of this city. 

I have adjusted myself well to life in Japan, that’s why many things shocked me upon my return.

When we queued to claim our luggage, I was overwhelmed by the aggressiveness of Jakartans and their impatience to queue. I decided to just sit and wait until most of them leave before I look for mine.

When my dad drove me back to our home, I was so stressed out because everyone was in a hurry, they’d speed up and drive carelessly. No one seemed to have the ‘safety first’ attitude and I kept on complaining about it. We were also greeted by traffic jam! It’s so stressful. 

Rainy season is coming. In the afternoon and at night, it’s been raining constantly. It reminded me so much of our first weeks in Suzuka. The difference is that, none of my friends and IF staffs are here with me. It’s been a little lonely. 

I have always missed Indonesian food when I was in Japan, but when I tasted the food here, everything tastes too salty, too spicy, too much MSG, too not healthy. Even my tastebuds is overwhelmed! 

I miss Sora Tabeyo and cafeteria food, I miss having dinner and lunch with y’all. I miss all the random talks we had during and after the meal. 

My colleagues complained because I kept on sitting in my desk and looked at my laptop instead of interacting with them. 

I have to put on an ‘auto-mode’ here. I am still not ready to return back to life before IF. They don’t know I struggle so much to have a sense of normalcy in this place. 

Right now nothing is normal, everything is new to me. I forgot my official working hour, I forgot which days should I wear the office uniform, I even forgot where I put my ID Card. I had to ask my colleagues and they were laughing. They thought I was joking!

You are always in our mind and heart. I keep on replying all the videos and seeing all the pictures I have on my phone. There’s just too many memories. The good thing is that, the participants keep on talking and sharing their daily life through Whatsapp and Facebook group. I feel a little less lonely. 

We are glad to hear that you are missing us as well. I guess the Goodbye video really got to you. All the quietness eventually make you miss us even more. 

Have a good day at work. 

I love and miss you with every fiber of my being <3
xoxo,

Annisa