Youth Entrepreneurship in Japan and the UK: New hope for ‘desperate societies’?

The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation


Dr Tuukka Toivonen  of ICCE at Goldsmiths, University of London will chair the following event

Seminar details:

17 October 2013

6:00 – 8:00pm, followed by a drinks reception to 8:00pm

13/ 14 Cornwall Terrace, London, NE1 4QP

Youth Entrepreneurship in Japan and the UK: New hope for ‘desperate societies’?

Amid gloomy news about deepening youth unemployment and increasingly precarious labour conditions, entrepreneurship has been highlighted as an alternative career path for today’s young adults in both Japan and the United Kingdom. There seems to be a general consensus — or at least a widely shared hope — that more entrepreneurial activity by the young will lead not only to more jobs and greater opportunity, but also to more economic growth. Social entrepreneurship and innovation are also increasingly cited in high-profile books and proposals that consider ways to enhance national dynamism and well-being.

Puzzlingly little, however, is known about the ways in which young people get involved in entrepreneurship in practice, and few policy-makers or academics appear to understand how such involvement could be effectively supported via public policy, educational institutions or intermediaries. In order to address these conundrums, this session brings together two leading researchers of youth entrepreneurship in Japan and the United Kingdom. They will critically contrast the images of youth and entrepreneurship that prevail in these two societies with observed realities and practices, challenging us to reconsider the key structures, meanings and conditions that mediate young people’s involvement in entrepreneurship. Can youth entrepreneurship truly serve as a source of hope and vitality for our affluent but ‘desperate’ modern societies? Or are we mistaken to place high expectations on young entrepreneurs without supporting their activity at a level commensurate with these expectations.

About the contributors

Noritoshi Furuichi

Noritoshi Furuichi is Japan’s leading young public sociologist. His controversial second book, The Happy Youth of a Desperate Country (Kodansha, 2011, see here for an overview in English) attracted great attention in academia and the general media by arguing that young Japanese adults in fact enjoy high levels of life satisfaction even as they struggle with challenges such as rising unemployment and disparities in social security benefits between the young and older generations. This argument posed a challenge to the prevailing youth discourse in Japan that portrayed young adults as an unfortunate, disappointed generation with few opportunities, calling for a more reflective debate on youth and related public policies. Since the publication of this volume, Furuichi has appeared frequently on national TV, as well as in the national and international press (recently in the Financial Times). He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Tokyo, writing a thesis that sheds light on the sociological factors that regulate youth entrepreneurship in the Japanese context. His two most recent books are Bokutachi no Zento (2012), an ethnographic reportage on selected young entrepreneurs, and Daremo Sensou wo Oshietekurenakatta (2013), a critical exploration of the relationship between war education and young people.

External links:

Shiv Malik

Shiv Malik is a journalist who writes on political issues affecting young people, and co-wrote the bestselling book, Jilted Generation: How Britain Bankrupted Its Youth with Ed Howker. He started his career as a reporter after winning a bursary from the Guardian’s Scott Trust and obtained an MA in Journalism at the University of Sheffield in 2003. In 2008, he was involved in a landmark court battle with the Greater Manchester police to protect his sources on terrorism and was also selected as the Evening Standard’s most influential Londoners of that year. He is also co-founder of the think tank, theIntergenerational Foundation which seeks to find solutions to economic imbalances between those of different age groups in society. In 2012, he was assistant editor of a collection of essays on intergenerational justice, Regeneration. He currently works for the Guardian as an investigative journalist and is a regular contributor on UK media on economic issues affecting young people.

Stephen Miller

Stephen Miller is Senior Researcher at UnLtd – the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, with a decade of research and policy experience, much of which has been focused on improving outcomes for young people. UnLtd is the leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs in the UK and offers the largest such network in the world. Stephen manages and delivers substantial research and evaluation projects from conception through to completion, and is currently overseeing the evaluation of UnLtd’s work to promote and support social entrepreneurship amongst 11-21 year olds in the UK. At this seminar, Stephen will share what he has learned from the past four years of UnLtd’s work in this area, looking at how it and other organisations are supporting youth social entrepreneurship in practice, the challenges encountered and the likely road ahead.

Dr Tuukka Toivonen (Chair)

Dr Tuukka Toivonen directs the new MA course in Social Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths, University of London, while serving as a research fellow at the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, University of Oxford. His PhD research at the University of Oxford investigated how the state and entrepreneurial youth supporters strive to “activate” jobless young people in the Japanese context, leading to the publication in 2013 of Japan’s Emerging Youth Policy: Getting Young Adults Back to Work. He is currently writing papers about so-called “social innovation communities” that demonstrate the collective, collaborative nature of much of social entrepreneurship in today’s networked cosmopolitan cities.


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