Tag Archives: Sustainability

The Tripod Mindset (TM)



There are individual, organizational, and societal human and technological approaches available today. However, there is little integration of these dimensions into a coherent mindset, educational concept, or cooperative platforms. Therefore, I’ve dedicated the last couple of years to the study of leadership, learning & development, psychology consequently from cross-culturally, multi-disciplinary, and inter-generationally cooperative perspectives. And I’ve performed intensive testing of a, as I think, new discovery of a pattern of the human mind, which I’m calling the ‘Tripod Mindset (TM).’ I have found that three logic matrix-derived socio-temporal conditions put together to a “tripod” mindset would eliminate random, imbalanced, and unconnected ways of traditional and contemporary human thinking in favor of more healthy attitudes and drive for positive human evolution.

Tripod Mindset (TM) Highlights

My background in education sciences, leadership, art, technology, and psychology have equipped me with different perspectives on individual, organizational, and socio-cultural functioning. My navigation between the philosophy of time represented by the past, present, and the future, and the intra-, inter-, and extra-personal dimensions of information and communication (technology) have led me to discover a, as far as I’m aware of, novel and lawful socio-temporal matrix in which our temporal thinking about ourselves, our relationships, and humanity consolidates.

The mapping of thousands of (scientific) resources to the matrix of aforementioned socio-temporal dimensions revealed the striking finding of three coordinates that jointly form a set of mental states that governs human psyche and thriving, which I’m going to call the “Tripod Mindset (TM).” The further study of TM as an interdisciplinary concept shall explicitly consider aspects such as the Internet as a tool for democracy and global citizenship. The time seems to be ripe for leading the way to more distributed and participative approaches including a broader range of stakeholders globally. For example, the TM can be translated into design principles, which would be informing the development of next-generation and more cooperative online platforms that integrate the intra-past, inter-present, and extra-future thought patterns necessary for progressing agile approaches and human flourishing in the virtual and physical world.

Also, the TM could be used to get a balanced view on how sustainable (from an individual and collective point of view) any kind of services and products are. Are they based on a mindset that is backward oriented, protective of the status quo, or facilitating innovation?  What does each of these temporal aspects mean for the individual, the team, and the broader communities’ respectively the human context? The consistent integration of such a coherent “tripod”-stabilized mindset view will guarantee not losing sight of all that is important for true next-generation solutions.


There are many apt formulations, and rich collections of human qualities proposed to be packaged into so-called mindsets that are deemed to be favorable for individual well-being, organizational performance, or societal functioning. However, looking at worldwide suffering, competitive challenges, and societal issues, there is, apparently, still a lot missing regarding a more holistic, systematically consistent, and continuous awareness that leads to positive human behavior. Technology progress, for example, may enable positive change, but it will not be without a change in human mindset that an improved development and use of technology will occur. The Tripod Mindset (TM) has the potential to inform a new type of guiding principles in sociology/psychology, education, communication, and technology with a disruptive impact on how humanity’s collective mindset, and participative and cooperative policies and economies further develop.

Bringing platform cooperatives to Japan: Q&A with Mathias Sager (https://www.shareable.net/blog/qa-with-mathias-sager-founder-of-platform-cooperative-japan-consortium)


Thanks to all PC(J) friends and Nithin from Shareable!

The Benefits of an Internal Locus of Control Personality


Summery benefits of an internal locus of control

  • Belief in one’s control over their life
  • Improved information acquisition
  • Better decision-making processes
  • Self-efficacy, job effectiveness, and higher achievement
  • Less risk of burnout
  • Generally increased happiness
  • Increase leadership adaptability


Rapidly changing leadership challenges

Leadership education has undergone a substantial shift. Life and working world seem to have become more complex with competing urgencies and over-dynamic developments of issues that challenge the required qualities of the next generation of leaders. Leaders today need to be able to find ever-new solutions and adaptations to challenging situations. This can be traced back, for example, to the growing world population and increased growth expectations in all areas of life and economy that cause growth issues in the following six areas [1]:

  • Space
  • Agricultural yield
  • Natural resource management
  • Energy production and consumption
  • Climate change, and
  • Global health

Organizations keep aspiring to increase profits, acting ethically, and promoting community and environmental sustainability. How will it be possible to optimize all these aspects while not doing it at the cost of others [1]? One answer is that it requires leaders who believe they can respond to these challenges in their own capacity, a concept that is coined as “locus of control.”

Definition of internal vs. external locus of control

Locus of control is about a person’s confidence that he or she can control events in their lives. Individuals with an internal locus of control have a strong sense of self-responsibility and that they have the power to change their lives. Externally-controlled individuals believe that they are not in control of their lives and it is instead chance, opportunities, and other individuals and events (i.e., the circumstances) that determine their destiny [2].

According to research, adverse consequences from an external locus of control are heightened levels of intolerance and anxiety, and finally higher burnout rates [4].

Internal locus of control, on the other hand, is associated with individuals gathering more information [3], which improves their decision-making process, effectiveness, and achievement. That internally-controlled individuals benefit from increased self-efficacy is in line with these results. For example, it was found that teams with individuals of relatively high internal locus of control are able of higher performance in a self-reliant way respectively without a leader [5]. Last but not least, people with an internal locus of control generally enjoy more happiness [4].

Adaptation of leadership style

Locus of control is one aspect of personality. Leaders with an internal locus of control can adapt their leadership style as required to achieve the leadership objectives effectively and efficiently [6].

What’s your locus of control?

LEt’s find out more about ourselves. You can find a couple of free online assessments related to locus of control. The following example structures the result along different dimensions of life, such as achievement, career, relationships, and health. Comparing different tests, you will see soon that it becomes quite clear how to distinguish between internal and external locus of control.


psychologica locus of control test

Example result overview



[1] Andenoro, A. C., Sowcik, M. J., & Balser, T. C. (2017). Addressing Complex Problems: Using Authentic Audiences and Challenges to Develop Adaptive Leadership and Socially Responsible Agency in Leadership Learners. Journal Of Leadership Education, 16(4), 1-19.

[2] Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2007). History of modern psychology. İstanbul: Kaknüs Psikoloji Yayınları.

[3] Boone, C., Van Olffen, W., & Van Witteloostuijn, A. (2005). Team locus-of-control composition, leadership structure, information acquisition, and financial performance: a business simulation study. Academy Of Management Journal, 48(5), 889-909. doi:10.5465/AMJ.2005.18803929

[4] Tas, I., & Iskender, M. (2018). An Examination of Meaning in Life, Satisfaction with Life, Self-Concept and Locus of Control among Teachers. Journal Of Education And Training Studies, 6(1), 21-31.

[5] Akca, F., Ulutas, E., & Yabanci, C. (2018). Investigation of Teachers’ Self-Efficacy Beliefs, Locus of Control and Intercultural Sensitivities from the Perspective of Individual Differences. Journal Of Education And Learning, 7(3), 219-232.

[6] Dumitriu, C., Timofti, I. C., Nechita, E., & Dumitriu, G. (2014). The Influence of the Locus of Control and Decision-making Capacity upon the Leadership Style. Procedia – Social And Behavioral Sciences, 141(4th World Conference on Learning Teaching and Educational Leadership (WCLTA-2013), 494-499. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.05.086

[7] Cooper, C. (2010). Individual differences and personality (3rd ed.). London: Hodder Education. Retrieved February 3, 2015 from http://cw.tandf.co.uk/psychology//individual-differences- and-personality/

[8] Khan, E. (1998). Carl Rogers, More Relevant Today Than Freud. Retrieved June 6, 2017, from http://adpca.org/publicfiles/library/Carl%20Rogers%2C%20More%20Relevant%20Today%20than%20Freud_Edwin%20Kahn.pdf

[9] Saxena, M. K., & Aggarwal, S. (2010). Developing Emotional Intelligence in Children – Role of Parents. International Journal Of Education & Allied Sciences, 2(2), 45-52.

[10] Banai, B., & Perin, V. (2016). Type of High School Predicts Academic Performance at University Better than Individual Differences. Plos ONE, 11(10), 1-16. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0163996

[11] Salgado, J. F., Moscoso, S., & Berges, A. (2013). Conscientiousness, Its Facets, and the Prediction of Job Performance Ratings: Evidence against the narrow measures. International Journal Of Selection & Assessment, 21(1), 74-84. doi:10.1111/ijsa.12018

[12] Bertram, K., Randazzo, J., Alabi, N., Levenson, J., Doucette, J. T., & Barbosa, P. (2016). Strong Correlations between Empathy, Emotional Intelligence, and Personality Traits among Podiatric Medical Students: A Cross-sectional Study. Education For Health: Change In Learning & Practice (Medknow Publications & Media Pvt. Ltd.), 29(3), 186-194. doi:10.4103/1357-6283.204224

[13] Boyle, G. J., Stankov, L., & Cattell, R. B. (1995). Measurement and statistical models in the study of personality and intelligence. In D. H. Saklofske & M. Zeidner (Eds.), International Handbook of Personality and Intelligence (pp. 431–433).

Global Talent Gender Gap



  • The case for gender egalitarianism
  • Prestige economies and cultural tightness
  • Functional literacy and inclusiveness
  • Strength-based approaches to fostering “female” leadership styles
  • Humanitarian principles and global egalitarian mindset


The case for gender equality

Although women represent half of the population in education and global workforce at career start and mid-level management, men outnumber women in all sectors’ leadership positions. The role of female talents in future leadership is a critical challenge [1] for the growth of economies [2]. A study among a big sample across 26 countries found that work-life balance, commitment, and turnover thoughts are related to perceived job autonomy that is, for women, mediated by present gender egalitarianism [3].

Prestige economies and cultural tightness

Prestige governs economies, causing countries with high expenditure in research and development to have comparatively fewer female members (e.g., Japan with 11.6% female researchers, and only 9.7% professors), while low-expenditure nations (e.g., the Philippines and Thailand employ female researchers beyond 45%) [4]. To stay with the example of Japan, nations with similar challenges related to vocational stereotypes, job availability constraints, traditional bias and a collective mindset, even when not having as much government promotion of female employment as Japan, tend to have fewer women in corporate executive positions. Roibu and Roibu (2017) ascribe this to the strictness of how social and work rules are enforced [2]. Indeed, cultural tightness, i.e., the fierceness of norms, contributes to explaining why some organizations in some countries are less successful in advocating women leadership than others [5]. However, the finding of male domination in higher leadership positions seems to be more generally a phenomenon somewhat independent of nationality, culture, and even legislation for gender equality [4].

Functional literacy and inclusiveness

Fast technological change can negatively pronounce skill deterioration during work interruption, such as caused by maternity leave [6]. Also, education needs to be carefully analyzed regarding whether it is suited to improve social inclusion or whether, in contrast, aggravates competitive exclusivity [7]. For example, functional literacy programs shouldn’t be designed as a reading and writing capability only, but as emancipatory enablers that integrate reading, writing, and socio-economic and political understanding for democratic participation and the self-efficient creation of social networks and wealth [8].

Strength-based approaches to fostering “female” leadership styles

Some woman may be more sold on power-promising, rewarding, and recognizing careers [4] and learn how to play the neo-liberal corporate game. Many, on the other hand, do also keep a philanthropic attitude that might not be come to success in an economy that rewards competition [9]. Leadership styles are evolving though, and the value of emotional intelligence is bringing female leaders, albeit slowly, into pole positions [10]. Strength-based approaches to talent development can help also preserving gender-specific genuineness throughout personal careers [11].

Humanitarian principles and global “female” mindset

The human species can change its mindset, and a female leadership style based on humanitarian principles might be precisely the fit for an increasingly globalized and cooperating world [12]. Millennial women are expected to have a high interest to play a global role [13]. Already existing transnational women’s movements [10] may additionally help to boost self-esteem to create more egalitarian local and global environments.



[1] Andrews, S. (2017). Leadership, EQ, and Gender: Global Strategies for Talent Development. TD: Talent Development, 71(2), 7.

[2] Roibu, I., & Roibu, P. A. (. (2017). The Differences between Women Executives in Japan and Romania. Oradea Journal Of Business And Economics, Vol 2, Iss 1, Pp 81-90 (2017), (1), 81.

[3] Halliday, C. S., Paustian-Underdahl, S. C., Ordonez, Z., Rogelberg, S. G., & Zhang, H. (2017). Autonomy as a key resource for women in low gender egalitarian countries: A cross-cultural examination. Human Resource Management, 57(2), 601-615.

[4] Morley, L. (2014). Lost Leaders: Women in the Global Academy. Higher Education Research And Development, 33(1), 114-128.

[5] Toh, S. M., & Leonardelli, G. J. (2013). Cultural constraints on the emergence of women leaders: How global leaders can promote women in different cultures. Organizational Dynamics, 42(3), 191-197. doi:10.1016/j.orgdyn.2013.06.004

[6] Jung, J. H., & Choi, K. (2009). Technological Change and Returns to Education: The Implications for the S&E Labor Market. Global Economic Review, 38(2), 161-184. doi:10.1080/12265080902891461

[7] Appleby, Y., & Bathmaker, A. M. (2006). The new skills agenda: increased lifelong learning or new sites of inequality?. British Educational Research Journal, 32(5), 703-717.

[8] Kagitcibasi, C., Goksen, F., & Gulgoz, S. (2005). Functional adult literacy and empowerment of women: Impact of a functional literacy program in Turkey. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 48(6), 472-489.

[9] Morley, L. (2016). Troubling intra-actions: gender, neo-liberalism and research in the global academy. Journal Of Education Policy, 31(1), 28-45.

[10] David, E. (2010). Aspiring to leadership …… a woman’s world? An example of developments in France. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, (4), 347. doi:10.1108/13527601011086577

[11] Garcea, N., Linley, A., Mazurkiewicz, K., & Bailey, T. (2012). Future female talent development. Strategic HR Review, (4), 199. doi:10.1108/14754391211234913

[12] Werhane, P. H. (2007). Women Leaders in a Globalized World. Journal Of Business Ethics, (4), 425. doi:10.1007/s10551-007-9516-z

[13] Stefanco, C. J. (2017). Beyond Boundaries: Millennial Women and the Opportunities for Global Leadership. Journal Of Leadership Studies, 10(4), 57-62. doi:10.1002/jls.21505

What do younger talents want?


Summary. Younger employees around the world tend to prefer more professional freedom, meaningful work, and work-life in their work. Asking only older senior HR managers might not provide sufficient insight into the generation Y’s thinking though. Listening directly to the younger employees is vital to positively influence job satisfaction, engagement, and work performance altogether. The youth’s resourcefulness, e.g., in digital media, could be used for backward/reverse mentoring to engage senior management more. Offering millennials more short-term job and internship opportunities can represent a win-win situation to gain experience from both an organizational and young talent perspective. Some examples from a Chinese perspective are presented. 

Work ethics and quality of life values

Many of the so-called gold-collar workers (GCW) who demonstrate qualities such as high problem-solving abilities in challenging environments but are also used to extraordinary financial compensation, started to quit their positions in prominent Chinese cities to seek improved work-life balance, including, e.g., increased learning and development opportunities [1]. Today’s younger generations in China, while navigating the collectivist society, can also require, even from authorities, more radical openness and honesty, especially in case of perceived unfairness [2]. Researchers found that more professional freedom, meaningful work, and work-life balance constitute job characteristics increasingly crucial as a high-level tendency across different cultures [3]. Varying work values still need to be differentiated between even various countries in East Asia itself. For example, the Chinese tend to be more individualistic, while the Japanese are more risk-averse, and the Koreans are often found somewhat in the middle [4].

Insight-led Global Talent Management (GTM) and backward/reverse mentoring

Best practice Global Talent Management (GTM) in Asia is best led by insight into economic and cultural context [2], including the specific understanding of the youth. When re-assessing HR practices, consulting only with older senior management personnel might not provide sufficient and accurate insight into the thinking of the generation Y employees [5]. A demographic shift also takes place in China where the proportion of the population of over sixty-five years is growing, which is resulting in a shrinking workforce with implication for how to manage the pool of younger talents [6]. Cooperative re-negotiation of employee structures and roles within firms might be needed. The Gallup’s global employee engagement database reveals that two-thirds of Asian CEO’s are not engaged and often feel underdeveloped [7]. Bringing together the younger generations’ digital talent and the older colleagues rich experience in a kind of backward/reverse mentoring would offer an exciting approach [2].

Short and long-term view for win-win situations

Millennials often plan differently for their future, meaning that they seek more short-term employment (i.e., of one to two years length) to gain experience at the beginning of their career [8]. Consequently, talent management practices have to deal with more employee turnover. However, especially when talent acquisition is challenged due to a lack of matching organizational demand and graduate skills, short-term assignments might offer a win-win situation overall. This is the reason why both firms and candidates see internships as an ideal avenue at professional career start [9].

Empowering the youth

For the youth being able to bring their potential to the table, managers self-identified their central role as empowering their talents in furthering self-esteem and self-promotion capability [10]. For GTM, listening to the younger generation and consider their expectations is vital to positively influence job satisfaction, engagement, and work performance altogether [3].


[1] Roongrerngsuke, S., & Liefooghe, A. (2013). Attracting Gold-Collar Workers: Comparing Organizational Attractiveness and Work-Related Values across Generations in China, India and Thailand. Asia Pacific Business Review, 19(3), 337-355.

[2] Claire, M. (2011). Lessons from the East: next generation HR in Asia. Strategic HR Review, (4), 11. doi:10.1108/14754391111140954

[3] Walk, M., Handy, F., & Schinnenburg, H. (2013). What do talents want? Work expectations in India, China, and Germany. Zeitschrift Fur Personalforschung, 27(3), 251-278.

[4] Froese, F. J. (2013). Work values of the next generation of business leaders in Shanghai, Tokyo, and Seoul. Asia Pacific Journal Of Management, 30(1), 297-315. doi:10.1007/s10490-011-9271-7

[5] Lynton, N., & Beechler, S. (2012). Using Chinese Managerial Values to Win the War for Talent. Asia Pacific Business Review, 18(4), 567-585.

[6] Jackson, K. (2017). Demographic shift: implications for employment policy development in the Asia-Pacific. Asia Pacific Business Review, 23(5), 738-742. doi:10.1080/13602381.2017.1295558

[7] Ratanjee, V. (2014). Bridging the Leadership Gap in Asia. Gallup Business Journal, 4.

[8] Groden, C. (2016). Five Things You Can Do to Attract Millennial Talent. Fortune International (Asia), 173(4), 182.

[9] Rose, P. (2013). Internships: Tapping into China’s next generation of talent. Asia-Pacific Journal Of Cooperative Education, 14(2), 89-98.

[10] Middleton, J. (2012). secrets to tapping the talent in young Pacific people. Human Resources Magazine, 17(1), 34-35.

Global Talent Management (GTM) in China: Between Globalization and Tradition

China global talent management

Summary. Although multi-national enterprises (MNEs) in China are looking for talents who can balance domestic and international challenges, the evolving education and Global Talent Management (GTM) systems struggle with the timely identification, development, and retention of a workforce that is matching the required demand of new and future skills. Respect for the Chinese culture and access to so-called guanxi business networks shaped by collectivist cultural values are needed to access business opportunities. On the other hand, the opening up of secretive circles and empowering students and employees for more self-determined and problem-based learning could provide avenues to close the gap between theory and practice as well as more equality in talent development, hopefully resulting in increased entrepreneurship and innovation.

Continue reading Global Talent Management (GTM) in China: Between Globalization and Tradition

Global Mindset in Japan: A Critical Evaluation


Summary. This article critically sheds light on current socio-economic challenges for Japan and the need for developing a global mindset for companies in a globalizing world. With little chance for getting a management position before the age of 40 and confronted with dominating domestic demand for a monolingual male workforce, Japan’s youth gets blamed for being ‘insular’ and individually responsible for the lack of global mindsets. To improve global success, Japanese HR practices’ global talent management programs have to address the need for highly skilled and globally minded talents in Japan and their expatriates. Japan-specific, step-by-step, and creative alternative solutions may be required to make it happen.


Japan’s current unclear development of its role in global economy comes from various challenges such as two decades lasting economic stagnation [1] and increased competition from China and India [2]. Salary men sweat devotedly for the big companies and government agencies for the return of stable careers, while their wives take care of raising the next generation guaranteeing the continuation of the system that has become antithetical to fast-paced global changes [2]. A global mindset is needed for many Japanese organization, and there are calls for a related shift in education ([3]; [4]). However, most Japanese companies favor domestic monolingual male workforce [5], which informs higher education in the way that fewer and fewer students in Japan envision to study abroad [6]. The collectivist Japanese culture might emphasize that trend as the unity of family raises expectations for children not to stay away from their family and take care of their parents [7].

Japanese see the development of a global mindset as an individual rather than an organizational burden. Due to seniority-based promotion systems, only 9% of Japanese managers are below the age of 40, compared to 62% in India and 76% in China [1]. Ironically, the lack of talents with global mindsets has not been associated with strict hiring practices, bigoted immigration policies, or with conservative firm cultures but instead the ‘insular’ young people, the so-called ‘uchimuki,’ are blamed for keeping the island inwardly retreated [8].

Japanese HRM practices’ global talent management initiatives have been reported to not being suitable to attract sufficient talent with a global mindset for multinational enterprises [9]. English in Japan is still treated as belonging to the US or UK rather than being a global language [8]. HR brokers until today have mostly focused on low-skilled short-term immigration [10]. Therefore, not surprisingly, Japan ranks last behind all major industrialized nations regarding the percentage of foreign academics and engineers employed [11].

A trend of an increasing number of Japanese self-initiated expatriate entrepreneurs to developing countries in Asia indicates the presence of not only entrepreneurial but also global mindsets as related to social and sustainability missions [12]. Japanese multinationals, however, comparatively have difficulties to go international with their often highly successful local businesses in which the home-country expatriates obviously need to re-assess their globalization abilities [13]. For example, Japanese business men are used to relationship-based marketing [14] and would need to adapt to a more need-based style when selling abroad [7]. Maybe hybrid forms of globalization activities, developed through Japan-based HR training can advance the integration of cultural differences to promote global success [1]. Anti-globalization sentiments after the nuclear plant accident in Fukushima in 2011 and perceptions of unfairly exploitative global businesses may require an alternative kind of globalization as happening in the arts that, e.g., builds on alternative smaller destinations [15]. Step-by-step quick wins could increase confidence in more long-term investment into global mindsets to improve results from globalization [16].


[1] Ananthram, S., Pick, D., & Issa, T. (2012). Antecedents of a Global Mindset: A Mixed Method Analysis of Indian, Chinese and Japanese Managers. Contemporary Management Research, 8(4), 305-329.

[2] Ananthram, S., Grainger, R., & Tominaga, H. (2014). Constituents of a global mindset: an empirical study with Japanese managers. Japan Studies Review, 91-114.

[3] Li, S. (2014). The Conversion of Homogeneous State to Global Society: The Changes in Japan from a Higher Education Perspective. Procedia Social And Behavioral Sciences, 140(1), 553.

[4] Danielewicz-Betz, A., & Kawaguchi, T. (2014). Preparing Engineering Students for Global Workplace Communication: Changing the Japanese Mindsets. International Journal Of Engineering Pedagogy, 4(1), 55-68. doi:10.3991/ijep.v4i1.3297

[5] Kobayashi, Y. (2013). Global English Capital and the Domestic Economy: The Case of Japan from the 1970s to early 2012. Journal Of Multilingual And Multicultural Development, 34(1), 1-13.

[6] Normile, D. (2015). Japan looks to instill global mindset in grads. Science, 347(6225), 937.

[7] Michaeli, M., Lazo, A., Thao Phung, N., Moussavi, M., & Steinberg, H. (2017). Global Cultural and Accounting Difference between Japan and the USA. Allied Academies International Conference: Proceedings Of The Academy Of Accounting & Financial Studies (AAFS), 22(1), 22.

[8] Burgess, C. (2015). To Globalise or Not to Globalise? “Inward-Looking Youth” as Scapegoats for Japan’s Failure to Secure and Cultivate “Global Human Resources”. Globalisation, Societies And Education, 13(4), 487-507.

[9] Furusawa, M., & Brewster, C. (2015). The bi-cultural option for global talent management: the Japanese / Brazilian Nikkeijin example. Journal Of World Business, 50(1), 133-143. doi:10.1016/j.jwb.2014.02.005

[10] Conrad, H., & Meyer-Ohle, H. (2018). Brokers and the Organization of Recruitment of ‘Global Talent’ by Japanese Firms–A Migration Perspective. Social Science Japan Journal, 21(1), 67. doi:10.1093/ssjj/jyx032

[11] Oishi, N. (2013). Migration and competitiveness in science and engineering in Japan. Migration Letters, 10(2), 228-244.

[12] Yokoyama, K., & Birchley, S. L. (2018). Mindset and Social Entrepreneurship: Japanese Self-initiated Expatriate Entrepreneurs in Cambodia. Journal Of Entrepreneurship And Innovation In Emerging Economies, 4(1), 68.

[13] Black, J. S., & Morrison, A. J. (2012). The Japanese Global Leadership Challenge: What It Means for the Rest of the World. Asia Pacific Business Review, 18(4), 551-566.

[14] Yang, L., & Peter R.J., T. (2008). The link between cultural value systems and strategic marketing : Unlocking the mindset of Japanese and South Korean managers. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, (1), 62. doi:10.1108/13527600810848836

[15] Mōri, Y. (2015). New collectivism, participation and politics after the East Japan Great Earthquake. World Art, 5(1), 167.

[16] Yamada, K. (2016). Financing Sustainable Development with Enhanced Domestic Resource Mobilization: Transitional Role of International Cooperation. Asia-Pacific Development Journal, 23(2), 61-80.

Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ): The Future is Now

See also the embedded clip. As we concluded … Let’s cooperate! 🙂

Developing Distributed Leadership (DL) for Social Change


(1) Distinct Co-operative Governance Challenges, (2) Distributed Leadership (DL), Self-awareness, Servant Leadership, and Safe Learning Spaces, (3) Empowerment for Service, Democracy, and Value-based Management, (4) Accountability for Strategic Leadership Processes: “Leading is a function, not a status.”

Distinct Co-operative Governance Challenges

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and Co-operatives that are run according to cooperative principles, face distinct challenges compared to governments or for-profit organizations. About 90 percent of contemporary leadership research is not directly relevant for the NGO context. [1]. Furthermore, the available approaches to co-operative leadership need to be tailored according to organizational structure and maturity, economic sector, and membership size [2].

In a time of mystification and celebration of top-down leadership [3], capitalist shareholder dominance, and the absence of teaching foundations of cooperative democratic principles in schools, NGOs and Co-ops nevertheless continue to prioritize cooperation, especially by democratic and participatory principles that foster the inclusive membership’s well-being beyond pure business goals (Pinto, 2011). The cooperative governance model developed over decades by the CDS Consulting Co-op [29] has proven to provide leadership guidance to meet these unique needs by structuring governance elements into the four pillars of (1) teaming, (2) accountable empowerment, (3) democracy, and (4) strategic leadership. The following selected possible leadership program aspects are recommended to address the governance challenges of early-stage, still small cooperative organizations with a diverse and growing volunteering membership base.

Distributed Leadership (DL), Self-awareness, Servant Leadership, and Safe Learning Spaces

Protagonist leaders not sharing appropriately information are roadblocks to the active participation of co-leaders (e.g., other board members) and other members as everyone is supposed to participate in the democratic process [29]. Mutually owned solution development involving all stakeholders (i.e., diverse member categories and other stakeholders in a multi-stakeholder cooperative) cultivate creativity [28]. The risk of stakeholders pursuing their individual career goals at the cost of enhanced social networks and shared knowledge has to be prevented [16]. Cooperative enterprises require concerted collective action [17]. Such a collective capacity [1] is necessary to sustainably pool resources and know-how and can be addressed by the distributed leadership (DL) paradigm [18]. Co-ops may foresee to offer leadership education that is addressing the dimensions of DL, which are “bounded empowerment, developing leadership, shared decision and collective engagement” ([19], p. 693).

A higher self-awareness may be needed for individuals to make sense of the broader cooperative perspective [20]. DL suggests a culture of intensified inquiry among individuals [21] that can be positively influenced by increased self-efficacy, job satisfaction, and creative behavior among the members. A co-op can consider administering the validated DL instrument as the basis for its leadership development [22]. Especially at early stages of forming an organization, group coaching as proposed by Fusco, O’Riordan, and Palmer (2015) [23] to develop authentic self-leadership within the team can be an appropriate activity as well. Servant leadership characteristics showed global validity and could inform the coaching approach and the creation of safe learning spaces for experimentation [20], which can be of high value especially in multi-cultural and human-oriented communities [24].

Empowerment for Service, Democracy, and Value-based Management

It was a misbelief that paid Board members would remain solidary to volunteer work [4]. Rather, a study with students found that independent commitment to service provides for meaningful learning experiences and collaborative capacity building [5]. Democracy offers a meaningful collective leadership approach [6] that can enhance innovative behavior and commitment among the members who have the possibility for representation in the governance of the organization [7].

The members need to be offered the potential for own socio-economic success as a result from collective operation [8], best based on a stakeholder analysis allowing for alignment of different members’ incentives [9]. Engagement comes from understanding the purpose, vision, and values of the organization [10]. Indeed, value-based management helps to create a shared sense of belonging to all stakeholders [11], which is vital team-building success. More specifically, a formal value statement can help keeping up values required for shared leadership development. A clear positioning against external competition might eliminate internal competition [12], which can be achieved by training [13]. Another proposition is journaling to analyze how members experience their service contributions, a measure that has been able to confirmed the joy of service [14].

Accountability for Strategic Leadership Processes: “Leading is a function, not a status.”

Every minute of volunteering should be appreciated, and different levels of engagement between and within members over time accepted. Therefore, rather than defining and assigning roles and responsibilities to which it could be challenging to adhere to, accountability should be promoted. That way leaders can freely emerge without conflicts with non-matching role descriptions [2]. As Cannell (2018) [15] puts it aptly, “leading is a function, not a status.” Any, and especially also young members should be encouraged to self-nominate for leadership and management roles [16]. Technology can support strategy processes, planning, budgeting, member and associate management, as well as communication and media [25]. The Social Change Model of Leadership offers a framework on which leadership development programs could be built on to facilitate value-based collaborative group processes for social change [26] and the encouragement of new leaders [27].


[1] Dragoș – Cătălin, A. (2013). Non-Governmental Organization Leadership And Development. A Review Of The Literature. Manager, Vol 17, Iss 1, Pp 145-161 (2013), (1), 145.

[2] Whittle, K. (2018). Who’s afraid of leadership? Key lessons for co-op leaders. Retrieved from https://www.thenews.coop/125400/topic/business/whos-afraid-leadership-key-lessons-co-op-leaders/

[3] Bennis, W. (1999). The End of Leadership: Exemplary Leadership Is Impossible Without Full Inclusion, Initiatives, and Cooperation of Followers. Organizational Dynamics, 28(1), 71-79.

[4] Pinto (2011). Leadership, capacity building and governability in cooperatives. Swedish Cooperative Centre. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/social/meetings/egm11/documents/Costa%20Pinto-Leadership,%20capacity%20building.pdf

[5] Dooley, J., & Shellog, K. (2016). Social change model of leadership development: A 20-year legacy and future considerations. Campus Activities Programming, 49(5), 20-25.

[6] Smolović Jones, S. )., Smolović Jones, O. )., Winchester, N. )., & Grint, K. ). (2016). Putting the discourse to work: On outlining a praxis of democratic leadership development. Management Learning, 47(4), 424-442. doi:10.1177/1350507616631926

[7] Rustin, M., & Armstrong, D. (2012). What happened to democratic leadership?. Soundings (13626620), (50), 59-71.

[8] Kuria, N. C. (2012). Harnessing the co-operative advantage to build a better world. United Nations Expert Group Meeting and Forum. Retrieved from https://social.un.org/coopsyear/documents/KuriaCooperativeLeadershipandGovernanceAddisAbaba.pdf

[9] Wilson, N. A., Ranawat, A., Nunley, R., & Bozic, K. J. (2009). Executive summary: aligning stakeholder incentives in orthopaedics. Clinical Orthopaedics And Related Research, 467(10), 2521-2524. doi:10.1007/s11999-009-0909-4

[10] Smith, C. (2015). Exemplary leadership: How style and culture predict organizational outcomes. Nursing Management, 46(3), 47-51. doi:10.1097/01.NUMA.0000456659.17651.c0

[11] Current state of research into co-operative management. Context, and future vision (2009). University of Leicester. Retrieved from www.pellervo.fi/pp/110esitykset/current_state_davis.ppt

[12] Maner, J. K., & Mead, N. L. (2010). The essential tension between leadership and power: When leaders sacrifice group goals for the sake of self-interest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology99(3), 482-497.

[13] Tomlinson, C. A. (2017). Shining a Light on Leadership. Educational Leadership, 74(8), 91-92.

[14] Buschlen, E. L., & Reusch, J. (2016). The Assessment of Service Through the Lens of Social Change Leadership: A Phenomenological Approach. Journal Of College And Character, 17(2), 82.

[15] Cannell, B. (2018). Co-operative leadership: How should it work in practice? Retrieved from https://www.thenews.coop/125421/topic/business/co-operative-leadership-work-practice/

[16] Espedal, B., Gooderham, P. N., & Stensaker, I. G. (2013). Developing Organizational Social Capital or Prima Donnas in MNEs? The Role of Global Leadership Development Programs. Human Resource Management, 52(4), 607-625. doi:10.1002/hrm.21544

[17] Di Ruggiero, E., Kishchuk, N., Viehbeck, S., Edwards, N., Robinson, K., Riley, B., & Fowler, H. S. (2017). Alliance members’ roles in collective field-building: an assessment of leadership and championship within the Population Health Intervention Research Initiative for Canada. Health Research Policy & Systems, 151-11. doi:10.1186/s12961-017-0265-x

[18] Hristov, D. (2017). Distributed leadership : lessons from destination management organisations.

[19] Hairon, S., & Goh, J. P. (2015). Pursuing the Elusive Construct of Distributed Leadership: Is the Search Over?. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 43(5), 693-718.

[20] Creating a learning environment for transformation: A case study of a course in sustainability leadership. (2013). Leading Transformative Higher Education Olomouc: Palacký University.

[21] Sloan, T. (2013). Distributed Leadership and Organizational Change: Implementation of a Teaching Performance Measure. New Educator, 9(1), 29-53.

[22] Jønsson, T., Unterrainer, C., Jeppesen, H., & Jain, A. K. (2016). Measuring distributed leadership agency in a hospital context. Journal Of Health Organization & Management, 30(6), 908-926. doi:10.1108/JHOM-05-2015-0068

[23] Fusco, T., O’Riordan, S., & Palmer, S. (2015). Authentic Leaders are… Conscious, Competent, Confident, and Congruent: A Grounded Theory of Group Coaching and Authentic Leadership Development. International Coaching Psychology Review, 10(2), 131-148.

[24] Hirschy, M. J., Gomez, D., Patterson, K., & Winston, B. E. (2014). SERVANT LEADERSHIP, HUMANE ORIENTATION, AND CONFUCIAN DOCTRINE OF JEN. Academy Of Strategic Management Journal, 13(1), 97-111.

[25] Sinclair, I., & Matlala, M. (2011). The use of technology and leadership in enhancing strategic cooperative policing within the SADC region. International Journal Of African Renaissance Studies, 6(1), 47. doi:10.1080/18186874.2011.592391

[26] Iachini, A. L., Cross, T. P., & Freedman, D. A. (2015). Leadership in Social Work Education and the Social Change Model of Leadership. Social Work Education, 34(6), 650-665. doi:10.1080/02615479.2015.1025738

[27] French, A. (2017). Toward a New Conceptual Model: Integrating the Social Change Model of Leadership Development and Tinto’s Model of Student Persistence. Journal Of Leadership Education, 16(3), 97-117.

[28] Broussine, M., & Miller, C. (2005). Leadership, Ethical Dilemmas and ‘Good’ Authority in Public Service Partnership Working. Business Ethics: A European Review, 14(4), 379-391.

[29] Cooperative Governance – 4 Pillars Cooperative Governance (n.d.). Retrieved from  http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/cooperative_governance/4pcg/

Beyond happiness

I was looking for happiness and found meaning. When I accepted meaning, happiness became meaningless.

Compassionate leadership: If we all ‘lead,’ we don’t need ‘managers’ anymore

There are significant differences between leadership and management

In our contemporary world both leadership and management may be required and co-exist in different situations, but the identification and understanding of their distinguishing features is important if we want to use both of them effectively and eventually think about shifting the emphasis towards managers who are real leaders too.

Having been in diverse leadership and/or management positions in educational institutions and schools, business and consulting firms, military/public service organizations, media and communication practices, as well as leisure/sports clubs and civic movements over the last 20 years, I’ve reflected on the difference between leadership and management from many different angles. I’m always coming back to the conclusion that the concepts of leadership and management are not as related as the popular interchangeable use of the terms might suggest.

The ultimate market-participating organizational SMART goals versus dreams and visions

Like a path is leading to a different place, or a sheep can be led into a stable, human leadership can be defined as leading something or somebody towards a certain direction. It is said that leadership requires meaning; meaning that is represented and communicated through goals. Although managerial and leadership goals should always be believed to be achievable, the type of goal formation process and quality of goals themselves involved in leadership and management differs significantly [1].

A leader typically is self-guided by intuition and his intimate moral understanding, while a manager is hired by the board of directors pursuing shareholders interest for securing maximized return on their investments. In case of doubt or conflict, the financial interests always have to succeed over other values in a for-profit organization. Manager’s success is measured by how accurately they achieve the business goals. The more long-term, the less predictable the attainment of goals becomes. Leadership tolerates not directly measurable long-term results [1]. Managers, in contrast, for above reasons preferably are to set short-term goals. To ensure that goals are as clear and realistic as possible, so-called SMART goals are commonly used in the corporate world, which ought to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Leaders may not only not have SMART goals, but even allow more vague dreams and visions that are often requiring significant imagination.

There is a difference between the concept of power based on formal authority and influence through inspiration

One broad approach is to define leadership as the interpersonal dimension of management that comprises the “ability to inspire confidence and support among the people who are needed to achieve organizational goals” ([2], p. 5). Frequently leadership gets confused with authority, seeing power as being based on formal roles. The formal assignments of a manager or officer let people notice legitimacy and comply with instructions because of fear of negative consequences in case of non-compliance [3]. When saying that leadership requires power, it is, however, not this authoritarian capability of incurring costs (for example in the form of punishment) for the people who refuse to obey [1]. Authoritarian regimes as examples of tight leadership in the form of control and prescription are generating poor results for the people. Instead, it is the ability to inspire for a voluntary fellowship by unforceful means that is resulting in individual prosperity, well-being, and peace through personal self-determination and fulfillment. Real leadership allows people self-leadership.

Leadership goes beyond the leadership aspects practiced in business administration

When the sum of the leadership structures followed by society is called culture [1], then the sum of management structures of market-participating organizations can be seen as the economy. Leaders create culture through the leadership structures they leave behind ([1], p. 11), while managers build administrations through the organizational patterns they establish. This thinking is in line with the terminology used in managerial education, where the top courses for aspiring or acting executive officers award for the title of the Master of Business Administration. Increasing parts of businesses consist of technology and digital resources, whereas human aspects tend to be further pushed into the background. Emotional and organic elements are taken out from the management of resources in favor of optimal planning accuracy. Again, although there may (but doesn’t have to) be some deal of leadership involved as well in steering a business, a real leader would never be reduced to be an administrator in that sense.

The irrelevance of leadership in the management of expectations

As Rudy Giuliani once put it, leaders first figure out what’s right, and then explain it to people, as opposed to first having people explain it and then just saying what they want to hear ([2], p.3). Indeed, managers tend to behave in a manner more or less in line with the management style endorsed within their country, industry or organization [4]. Firms choose new executives whose values are consistent with their own. If an executive is not filling the role as expected, he will be replaced with somebody who adheres more closely to expectations. From that perspective it is essential to have a rider, to use this metaphor, who holds the reins of a horse put before a cart, but any other rider who follows the relatively simple rules how to guide a horse and carriage can carry them as well. You can even let a child play the carter. It can be observed that the horse’s, respectively the organization’s personality, to come back to the organizational context, is actually more important than the “leader” himself [2].

Leaders emerge when there is an urge for change or the need to resolve a crisis or conflict

Leadership creates change, often of dramatic dimensions, such as when completely new market dynamics are developed, societal perceptions are shifted, or more diverse cultures emerge. Management on the other hand often is concerned about maintaining predictability and order [2]. Let’s think about why and how changes are managed in organizations. A big part of organizational administration deals with tracking changes to protect the status quo of power balances and interests of stakeholders and resources that contribute most to the profitable business. Such times of contentedness and stability are not calling for leaders whose strength is to move towards widening the range of beneficiaries. It is the time of crisis, in which leaders emerge. Managers monitor operational excellence of their subordinates typically in periods of economic strain. Charisma arises when there are heightened levels of distress among an increasing number of people that can be of not only financial but also psychological nature, constituting an individual and collective crisis of meaning that demands answers. If the problem is sought to be solved by somebody else, the ground is fertile for people to follow a leader who convincingly directs toward a comforting solution [3]. It has to be carefully evaluated whether these promises are meaningful and serving the common good, or whether there is an overemphasis on leader-reliance for whatever reason. Leaders are also required in situations of conflict. Conflict as the opposite of leadership is characterized by the absence of a functioning leader-follower relationship, typically because of disagreements related to a common course of action [1].

There is little leadership required and even possible in corporations

Following the argumentation so far, it is conceivable to suggest, assuming a bit a black and white perspective, that in organizations, at ordinary times there is little leadership required and even possible. Instead, what is required is a disciplined management that administers an organization to stay on track without visioning any significant change that would require leadership. Abraham Maslow regarded leaders as self-actualizing individuals who are self-determined, independent of culture, and following their inner guidance to help their fellow humans. For a leader of such qualities a narrow corporate environment likely would be unsatisfying at least and possibly over longer or sooner and would also be ethically conflicting. Executives of big corporations have contributed to the mistrust in corporate ethics due to their perceived focus on self-promotion and excessive greed. What seems to be required is more compassionate leadership in the service of others respectively in the view of the broader society and humanity beyond an institutional context [5].

The difference between moral, ethics, and professionalism

Ninety-nine percent of the global wealth is controlled by the top one percent of richest people. The issue is that this causes, for example, the daily death of tens of thousands of innocent children who are left without the necessary means to survive, such as food or health care. Unfortunately, as long as it is a tolerated practice that the already highly concentrated wealth is invested almost exclusively in opportunities that further accentuate this income and wealth inequality, there is little hope that compassionate (moral) and ethical leadership will prevail. Corporate social responsibility struggles to demonstrate a positive impact on the single measure bottom-line of financial profit generation, why it remains not much more than an afterthought. On the one hand, public relations and marketing communications of organizations increasingly use language that includes terms like ‘sharing,’ ‘love,’ ‘community,’ and ‘better world for all,’ to brand themselves socially towards consumers who are willing to pay a premium for such labels. This is true even for industries such as tobacco and arms. On the other hand, corporate ethics training is poised to be mere professional instruction on how to operate within legal constraints without jeopardizing business performance. This may be diligent management to serve capital, but not leadership to improve the human condition.

Shaping the role of genuinely great managerial leadership

Again, in all kinds of organizational settings, there may be a necessary mix of administrative and leadership qualities at work, suggesting a combined role of a ‘managerial leader’ [2].

Maybe the understanding of managerial leadership as based on self-actualization could further evolve to increasingly focus the help of other people in the organizational context while also not losing sight of the fairness towards and the well-being of people in the broader national societal and even global humanitarian context. Importantly, we should not forget that such a broadening of the benefits of leadership requires courageous first-/early-moving followers, who lead others not to remain passive bystanders but to support change towards growth and development of all actively. Asking managerial questions for organizational survival is foundational, but without further questioning on what basis, to what extent, and at whose cost, it is difficult to see real leadership added to management. The more inclusive and compassionate questions get expanded to the scope of all humanity, the greater the leadership involved.

In the current economic and competitive context, cooperation may indeed risk losing some battles in the field of short-term inter-organizational rivalry. However, already today more than ever, genuinely great managerial leadership also can become a competitive advantage and an opportunity for priceless emotional rewards for our all well-being. I think we are on the way to return to a more overall life-relevant philosophical understanding of leadership in which everyone’s full human potential is embraced. In that sense, leadership beyond management is relevant and possible for all of us. If we all assume a managerial leadership role, we don’t need managers anymore. Let’s take the chance.


[1] Paschen, M., & Dihsmaier, E. (2013). The psychology of human leadership: How to develop charisma and authority. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

[2] DuBrin, A. J. (2015). Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, and Skills (8th ed.). Cengage Learning.

[3] Doyle, M. E., & Smith, M. K. (2001). Classical models of managerial leadership: Trait, behavioural, contingency and transformational theory. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/leadership/traditional_leadership.htm

[4] Dorfman, P., Javidan, M., Hanges, P., Dastmalchian, A., & House, R. (2012). GLOBE: A twenty year journey into the intriguing world of culture and leadership. Journal of World Business, 47(4), 504–518.

[5] Soni, B., & Soni, R. (2016). Enhancing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for Effective Leadership. Competition Forum, 14(2), 259-263.

Implementing the Co-operative Digital Economy

When presenting Platform Cooperativism as a fairer user-/worker-owned model of running online platforms, I often hear answers like “that’s a great idea, but it’s too difficult to realize.” However, technology to implement the co-operative digital economy is emerging. Solutions become available to sustainably crowd-source, share value, and govern democratically. Hexalina.io is one such example.

(from hexalina.io website)

It is now generally admitted that income inequality is one of the biggest problems of our world and a peril to the fabric of our society.
A few years ago, the rise of the “sharing economy” gave great hopes to change this: soon everybody would be self-employed, and benefit from the new opportunities unlocked by the internet, technology and platforms.

Today, unfortunately, the reality is bleaker: millions of people have indeed become self-employed and provide the services that increase –sometimes dramatically- the value of these platforms thanks to the network effect they create and the customer adoption they generate.

However, neither the contributors, nor the customers of the platforms have the opportunity to own a share of the value they create.

A lot of people realize this is counterproductive and eventually unsustainable. However, there seems to be no easy solution that can address the problem and scale to match its rate of expansion.

What we propose is a technology that can be integrated into platforms, allowing them to adopt a more collaborative approach where interests of owners, customers and contributors are aligned, because a fraction of the created value is shared fairly between them.

Think of it as the “Fairtrade” label for a platform. We call it the “sustainable network effect”.


Industry adaption of Platform Cooperativism is the goal of the Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) Consortium. Although awareness and motivation for the co-operative way is crucial, if there is no easy way to act upon, good intentions don’t get realized. That’s where technology solutions come into play.

The PCJ Consortium supports the cooperative digital economy through research, experimentation, education, advocacy, documentation of best practices, technical support, the coordination of funding, and events.

Connect with us:

Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) Consortium
Website: www.platformjpcoop.wordpress.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/platformcoopjp
Loomio: www.platformcoopjp.loomio.org

(Platform) Worker Co-ops as a Solution for Business Ownership Successions. The Context in Japan.

mathias-sager-platform cooperativism Japan


The percentage of employees employed by small and medium enterprises (SME’s) decreased from 80% to 70% in the last 20 years. Issues regarding the ownership succession of businesses are essential in the light of an aging society and the need for sustainable socio-economic development. The SME Cooperative Act of 1949 is for small and medium enterprises that lack financial resources in the conduct of joint businesses based on a spirit of mutual-aid to raise their economic status. The creation of a worker co-operative law would allow the further formalization of the opportunity of business conversions into worker cooperatives in any business sector. Business successions to employees would create a fairer economy where the trinity of ownership (investors), management (managers), and value creation/utilization (workers, users) is balanced for the benefits of its active membership.

Number of SME’s in Japan has fallen by 1 million during the last 20 years

It would be great if we could already discuss co-operative ownership succession of large organizations. However, I’m not aware of a “buy-twitter-initiative” in Japan so far. So, the more immediate opportunity for Platform Cooperativism may lie with small and medium businesses. Over the past 20 years, the number of SMEs in Japan has fallen by about 1 million and the number of SME employees decreased from 80% to 70% percent of overall employment (White Paper on Small and Medium Enterprises in Japan 2016). I am not sure how much the demographic challenges of the aging society would be the cause of such a decline in the digital sector especially, as increasing eliminatory market dominance of the big corporations is an inherent feature of many digital platforms.

Opportunity for ownership succession to employees

I experience that Japanese observers are regretting the disappearing of SME’s due to a lack of successful succession management. A similar issue represents the continuing rural exodus. There is mentioning of that when the business successions among SMEs are becoming issues, business successions to non-family persons, such as employees, are increasing (Kubota, 2010). So, I feel there are lots of opportunities to promote the co-operative way, although the predominant family business succession models are to the family or third parties other than employees and are separating ownership and management. Japan is currently still one of the few developed countries without a worker coop law, which is certainly not helpful.

For example, in agriculture, the succession and inheritance aspect is (globally) less researched because there is a view that family farming is heading towards extinction anyway. However, as still many farms are owned and managed by families, there may be renewed interest in intergenerational and intra- and inter-family cooperative solutions such as worker co-operatives.

Japanese business cooperation

Japanese small businesses are typically strongly cooperating and sub-contracting between companies, also for the rehabilitation of (struggling) small enterprises. There is a system of Small and Medium Enterprise Cooperatives based on the SME Cooperative Act from 1949, facilitating small and medium enterprises that lack financial resources in the conduct of joint businesses based on a spirit of mutual-aid to raise their economic status. The joint business cooperatives are, e.g., joint store associations, chain business associations, joint investing companies and voluntary groups.

The Japanese business system, also described as “co-opetition”, a mix of severe competition and collectivist Japanese culture, may be a fertile ground for #platformcoopjp. On the other hand, tendencies of specializing employees to contribute to a collective raise the question of how easily employees can assume initiative and more active (intrapreneurship) roles in case of becoming part of an employee-owned/managed organization.


The Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) Consortium is continuing to collaborate and research for the exploration of opportunities in applying co-operative (platform) solutions to business successions and share the lessons learned also outside of Japan.

For an overview of Japanese socio-economic situation and the #co-operative landscape, please see the following articles (https://mathias-sager.com/2017/10/19/cooperatives-in-japan-article-series-overview/)



Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (2016). White Paper on Small and Medium Enterprises in Japan 2016. The Small and Medium Enterprise Agency

Kubota, N. (2010). 非親族承継における所有と経営の分離. 日本経営診断学会論集, 9145-151. doi:10.11287/jmda.9.145

Toot, no tweet anymore! Mastodon: The co-operatively run Twitter alternative


Social networking, back in your hands

The world’s largest free, open-source, decentralized microblogging network

How awesome is that!

For more information, check: https://joinmastodon.org/

Sticker 1.png

Find your perfect community

Mastodon isn’t one place and one set of rules: it’s thousands of unique, interconnected communities to choose from, filled with different people, interests, languages, and needs. Don’t like the rules? You’re free to join any community you like, or better yet: you can host your own, on your own terms!

Take control of your content

With powerful tools to control who sees your posts and a 500-character limit, Mastodon empowers you to share your ideas, unabridged. The best part? All posts are in chronological order, not “optimized” to push ads into your timeline. With apps for iOS, Android, and every other platform imaginable, Mastodon is always at your fingertips.

Putting the user first

You’re a person, not a product. Mastodon is a free, open-source development that has been crowdfunded, not financed. All instances are independently owned, operated, and moderated. There is no monopoly by a single commercial company, no ads, and no tracking. Mastodon works for you, and not the other way around.

Feel safe in your community

Mastodon comes with effective anti-abuse tools to help protect yourself from online abuse. With small, interconnected communities, it means that there are more moderatorsyou can approach to help with a situation. This also means you can choose who sees your posts: friends, your community, or the entire fediverse.

Additional features

  • Robust anti-abuse tools
  • Flexible post filtering
  • A huge audience
  • Easily deploy your own
  • They’re called toots
  • Embed media in your posts
  • Built on open web standards
  • Spoiler warnings
  • You decide what’s relevant


Satodigi(tal): The Vision of Co-operative Platform-Enabled Sustainable (Digital) Production Landscape Management

Draft formulation of a Japan-specific vision from a Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) perspective.

PCJ legend

PCJ strategy

Save Net Neutrality

Your internet connection might slow down after December 14th.

On that day, the FCC will vote on Ajit Pai’s proposal to reverse Title II in the Communication Act.  Title II ensures that the government monitors all ISPs, so they cannot throttle your connection or charge you more money. If Ajit Pai’s plan passes, then internet providers will be able to block or slow down whatever websites they choose.

This could potentially cause a lot of websites to lose traffic and revenue, and it changes the freedom of the internet.

Since only five people on the FCC can vote (and there’s a good chance that the three Republicans will vote for Pai’s plan), it’s up to the public to stop it.

Internet neutrality infographic.png

Cooperatives in Japan (Article Series): Part 4/4 – Overview of the Japanese Cooperative sector

Overview and Conclusion article for Part 1 – Part 4, please see here.

In this article, several Japanese co-operatives of different types and from various sectors are briefly introduced. The goal is not to create a directory in the sense of a comprehensive list, but rather to distill essential characteristics of the co-operative sector and the solidarity economy in Japan. The facts presented in this article need to be understood in the context of the specific Japanese conditions and challenges as documented in Part 1, cooperative advantages as shown in Part 2, and the laws and customs applicable to the social economy in Japan as depicted in Part 3 of this article series.

Overview of Cooperatives in Japan 

japan coops infograph 1.pngInfographic 1. Overview of Cooperatives in Japan (1/2) [1]

japan coops infograph 2.pngInfographic 1. Overview of Cooperatives in Japan (2/2) [1]

Examples of Japanese Cooperatives

The examples chosen for the second part of this article do not represent a complete picture of the cooperatives in Japan. The selection, however, provides the opportunity to illustrate important characteristics of the cooperative economy in Japan across different types and various industry sectors in which co-operatives are operating. A focus is put on worker cooperatives as particularly relevant for digital businesses in the sharing economy (for further details, please see LINK Platform Cooperativism)

Table 1. Co-op examples by type

GeneralJapan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
ConsumerJapan Consumer’s Cooperatives Union (Nisseikyo)
Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union
WorkerWomen’s Worker Cooperative (WWC)
Japan Worker’s Cooperative Union (JWCU)
Japanese Institute of Co-operative Research (JICR)
Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union’s Depot’s run by workers’ collective
Fukushi Club
Independent worker cooperatives
NPOs managed by workers’ collectivesAtsugi Human Support Network

Table 2. Co-op examples by industry sector

AgricultureNational Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (ZEN-NOH)
Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (Nokyo)
Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JAC, JAs)
FinanceAgricultural Cooperatives Credit Division (incl. the Central Agriculture Bank)
Mutual aid co-ops
The women and citizens’ community bank
Eitai Credit Union
Green Coop Fukuoka
Health, CareJWCU Home Helper Training Centers
Cooperative hospitals
Senior Co-operative (Koreikyo)
Ayumi Care Service
Fukuoka Elderly Person’s Co-op (EPC)
Enjoy Sports Club Uonuma
FoodChisan-Shisho movement
TransportWorkers cooperative taxi cab business in Fukuoka
Electronics R&DAssociation of Super-advanced Electronic Technology (ASET)

In general, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is an overarching organization that is collaborating with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan, for example for research related to cooperation and co-operatives [2].

Co-op Examples by Type

Consumer Co-operatives

Japan Consumer’s Cooperatives Union (Nisseikyo)

The figures of the largest consumer cooperative in Japan are impressive with its 60 million members (of which the majority are women), it’s JPY 1 trillion (USD 10 billion) capital and annual sales of JPY 3 trillion (USD 30 billion) in 2,668 shops across all prefectures in the country. Because of lower prices, the organization is even importing vegetables and processed food. Because Nisseikyo’s members do not have a voice in the leadership of the company, it can’t be counted as being part of the real solidarity economy organization [3]. One of the exceptions among Japanese co-ops that can be seen to genuinely belonging to the solidarity economy is the Seikatsu Club Consumer’s Co-operative Union as presented next [3].

Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union 

The Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union is only a small part of Nisseikyo but has still 310,000 members in 29 co-ops across 19 prefectures. The Seikatsu Co-op won the Right Livelihood Award in 1989 [3].

Worker Co-operatives

Although worker-owned businesses have increased in number and size, only 30,000 workers are working cooperatively in whole Japan, with a concentration in the urban centers Kanto and Kansai. The growth since the 1970s is prolonged and small, compared to the overall working population [4] that is today around 76 million people. One problem that needs to be addressed is that there is no proper legislation for worker co-operatives in Japan [5] as detailed in Part 3 of this article series. Furthermore, the social movement may be not very well unified and orchestrated as some worker-owned organizations prefer the term ‘collective’ over ‘cooperative’ to emphasize the sovereignty of the individual [5]. It is though not only Japan struggling to grow the worker co-op movement. It is estimated that in the US around 350 worker cooperatives employ just 5,000 people [6].

If the cooperative worker movement doesn’t gain traction soon, it will, despite its proven potential, always stay marginal and irrelevant. Respectively it will be too late to solve the economic, social, and environmental issues resulting from cheap labor, inequality, and undemocratic practices by shareholder profit maximization that are aggravating from a global perspective.

Women’s Worker Cooperative (WWC)

The Women’s Worker Cooperatives with its 12,000 worker members accounts for the largest single group of organizations in the Japanese worker cooperative landscape. These WWC cooperatives allow the housewives to work part-time and therefore solve existing labor market constraints, tax issues, and equal employment opportunities, although they mostly don’t need the additional salary for a sufficient overall household income, albeit they are contributing significantly to the new middle-class lifestyle. The success of the WWC and the target women it helps to find suitable work indicates a huge potential of hundreds of thousands of Japanese women who might welcome such opportunities as well [4].

Japan Worker’s Cooperative Union (JWCU) 

After the WWC, the Japan Worker’s Cooperative Union (JWCU) represents with 9,000 members in 2005 the second largest account of worker cooperatives. The union innovatively remodeled itself into a business owned and democratically run by its workers who are provided with work contracts with an array of other organizations. “What had once been a labor union of the unemployed had been gradually transformed into a business owned and managed by its members as a worker’s cooperative [4, p. 7]”. The JWCU provides work crews into consumer co-op distribution centers, hospitals, and park cleaning and maintenance businesses. It has also expanded into more capital and knowledge-intensive industries such as home helper training centers and construction cooperatives [4]. Further examples are a high-school cooperative, a shoemaking collective, a bakery, and a theatrical company, etc. [5].

The JWCU publishes a newspaper ‘Rokyo Shimbun’ (Workers’ Co-op Newspaper) that is issued three times a month, and a bi-monthly magazine ‘Shigoto no Hakken’ (Discovery of Work), both of wich are promoting the worker co-ops activities in Japan and abroad [4]. The JWCU is pushing since years the agenda for adding a distinct worker-owned legal form to the currently available forms of personal ownership, partnership, and limited liability joint stock corporation. Hopefully, joint effort together with the WWC will make a new law possible. What would still be missing then is the mobilization of the young people who are currently underrepresented in the JWCU’s membership [4].

Japanese Institute of Co-operative Research (JICR) 

The Japanese Institute of Co-operative Research (JICR) was founded in 1991 by the JWCU. It serves as the central national and international research organization for its member activists and worker cooperatives. The Institute’s monthly journal ‘Kyodo no Hakken’ (The Discovery of Cooperation’ promotes worker cooperatives and their benefits for workers’ rights and communities’ thriving, including news from around the globe, with a traditional focus also on the European worker cooperative movement [4].

Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union’s Depot’s run by workers’ collective

The Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative contains various smaller groups like the ‘depots,’ which are run by members who organize as workers’ collectives built on democratic decision-making processes. The depots, therefore, constitute worker cooperatives within the broader Seikatsu consumer co-op. Such workers’ collectives’ membership basis is increasing fast [3].

Fukushi Club

The Fukushi Club is another group of workers under the umbrella of the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative. In the Fukushi Club’s case, women who provide care organize as cooperative organizations to institutionalize the ‘shadow work’ and empower both the care receivers and providers [7].

Independent worker cooperatives

There are also some independently established Japanese worker cooperatives, such as the Paramount Shoe Company that was rebuilt through its union after a business failure. EcoTech that span off from the Toshiba conglomerate is another example of employee union initiated democratic worker cooperative [4].

NPOs managed by workers’ collectives

Atsugi Human Support Network

Only after 1998 citizens’ organizations could become legal entities through the NPO Promotion Law that started to encourage volunteering work for vulnerable people without tangible support though. Member housewives of the Seikatsu Club Consumer’s Cooperative in Atsugi city (Kanagawa prefecture) wanted to initiate a ‘local party’ to organize for local elections. The Atsugi Human Support Network became an alliance of 22 NPOs that are managed by workers’ collectives [3].

Co-op Examples by Industry Sector

Agricultural Co-operatives

National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (JAC Zennoh) 

The National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (JAC ZEN-NOH) with its 3 million national farm household members and the 12,500 employees is the world’s largest co-op organization [8]. It represents the top of the pyramid of the agricultural cooperatives organized on local, prefectural, and national level [9]. The JAC Zennoh is in charge of sales activities on the national level for its farmer’s co-operatives (JAC) members [10].

Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JAC Zenchu, Nokyo) 

The farmer’s co-operatives (JAC) are organized under the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JAC Zenchu, Nokyo). The central union, as well as the farming co-operatives, don’t give voting rights to their individual members to participate in the leadership of the organization, which is organized like a corporation [3]. The JAC Zenchu is in charge of planning on national level for its JAC members [10].

Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JAC, in short, the JAs)

It has to be differentiated between traditional village farming cooperatives, farmers’ groups organized as “cooperative farming groups,” and the members of the national entities JAC Zennoh and JAC Zenchu, which are the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JAs).

Financial Co-operatives

Agricultural Cooperatives Credit Division (incl. the Central Agriculture Bank)

The Agricultural Cooperatives Credit Division including the Central Agriculture Bank with the related prefectural credit unions providing mutual credit and insurance services are one of the most profitable operations of the Japanese agricultural cooperatives. Their members are farming-related organizations and non-farming individuals residing in cooperative communities [11].

Mutual aid cooperatives

The mutual aid cooperatives are organized into the national ‘Zenrosai’ federation and count 46,340 units. Although they use the terms mutual aid and cooperatives, they are not adhering to member voting rights and therefore instead have to be affiliated with commercial banks than with the solidarity economy [3].

The women and citizens’ community bank

These organizations are operated by women providing services exclusively for women, i.e., providing loans to according NPOs. In Japan, there is no legal status for non-profit citizen banks as this was so far not supported by governments, why the women and citizens’ community bank operates under a normal moneylender license [3]. However, problems in the commercial banking sector have increased the interest in the possibility to establish non-profit banks. There are now Shinkin (small and big loans) and Shinkumi (small loans) banks who provide services to citizens and SMEs [12], able to revitalize deprived communities [14], and which are of considerable importance in the Japanese financial market [13].

Eitai Credit Union

It is necessary to facilitate inter-cooperative mutual financial aid for developing the social economy. The Etai Credit Union in Tokyo is such an institution providing loans to cooperatives and collectives in consultation with NPOs [5].

Green Coop Fukuoka

Green Coop Fukuoka lends money to both member and non-member indigent people by using assets from members. The government of the prefecture Fukuoka is considering the initiative as crucial to develop financing of an inclusive society [15].

Health, Care

The government has encouraged co-operatives to provide welfare services as a business because they saw the rural and urban potential that could be unlocked from female care workers in the co-op memberships. Today, co-operatives make for about 1% of elderly care services provided under the Act for Long-term Care Insurance LTCI [16].

JWCU Home Helper Training Centers

Care for the elderly involves help at home. For the training of home helpers, the JWCU offers licensing programs that allow the certified home helpers afterward to reimburse their services through the national homecare insurance program [4].

Co-operative hospitals

In association with the Japan Communist Party, there exist member physician-run hospitals. These are the hospitals that were mentioned before as where JWCU worker co-operatives provide their hospital services such as cleaning, shop management, and office staffing [4].

Senior Co-operative (Koreikyo)

As of 2006 each of the Japanese prefectures had opened a Senior Co-operative (Koreikyo) chapter totaling in over 100,000 members nationwide with high growth expectations. The co-operative is, as the name is telling, by and for the elderly, supporting them to stay at home as long as possible and wished through education and home care [4].

Ayumi Care Service

In response to a shrinking and aging population, a 40-year-old woman set up a care business in her town in 2000. Ayumi Care Service today has 35 full-time workers, most of them member-owners who invested the equivalent of USD 500 as share capital and earn a monthly salary of around USD 1,700. Ayumi Care Services accepts any service requests, therefore being often caring about lonely elderly with no relatives and even taking care of difficult death situations [16].

Fukuoka Elderly Person’s Co-op (EPC)

Grown out of the JWCU workers’ co-operative movement, the Elderly Person’s Co-op (EPC), today there is a national federation of 22 EPCs with 45,000 members, of which 32,000 are workers. All the care workers are members, albeit the legal status of the co-op is a consumer cooperative. The services rendered include in-home and community-based care and vocational education for elderly and handicapped. The EPCs entered the LTCI scheme in 2000, and its members are rapidly increasing. Also, as many members did not have co-operative experience, the organization is investing a lot in cooperative education.

Enjoy Sports Club Uonuma

Although the Enjoy Sports Club Uonuma is instead a loosely defined interest group than a real co-operative, it is an excellent example of how citizens can organize to address social issues. In this case, the club achieved significant health prevention effects such as reduction of depression with children and elderly, addressing inactivity (especially in winter) with sports programs [17].

BioBank Japan (BBJ) Project

The BioBank Japan (BBJ) Project represents a cooperative research project implementing a patient-based biobank, having collected the medical data over a 5-year period from over 200,000 patients. The registry allowed the analysis of diseases for improved personalized medicine [18]. Although not a co-operative owned by the patients, it shows the potential of user cross-institutional collaboration and user registration for sharing health data for research purposes, as Midata.ch in Switzerland is a parade example of letting the data providers own and decide on the use of their data as co-op members.


Chisan-Shisho movement

The chisan-chisho movement promotes local food consumption since the 1990s as a response to the concern of disappearing local farms and scandals in the food sector. The initial grass-roots movement is today organized by government and farmers’ cooperatives. Despite its success, the chisan-chisho still needs to find additional ways on how to better capitalize on the local appeal of agrifood to become a more powerful political force [10].



EcoTech is an interdisciplinary co-operative that unites scientists, engineers, technicians, business people, and advocates for co-operatives and community activists. They create energy-efficient products that help clean the environment. An example of EcoTech’s international products is the bio-active home composter that decomposes organic waste into water and CO2. EcoTech has the aspiration to become the center of a social business movement including all industry sectors and types of players, including worker, consumer, and producer cooperatives [4].


Workers cooperative taxi cab business in Fukuoka

Similar to counterparts in different cities around the world, a taxi cab business emerged as a worker cooperative in Fukuoka, as also the Research Institute’s journal was reporting already in 2005 [4].

Electronics R&D

Association of Super-advanced Electronic Technology (ASET)

The Association of Super-advanced Electronic Technology (ASET), a Japanese electronics R&D co-op headquartered in Tokyo, got USD 300 million in Japanese government funding for research on semiconductors, magnetic storage, and display devices.


After the economy bubble from the late 1980s when it became difficult to purchase land, housing “rental-type” co-operatives in the form of condominiums became popular. The system is favorable for letting elderly living in their apartments although they do not own it [19].


After the study of cooperative examples in Japan in the context of identifying success factors for promoting the co-operative organizational form for a fairer future of work, the following points seem important to keep in mind for future efforts to advance the cooperative and social economy overall:

  • Worker co-operatives need to get a clear and supportive legal basis in Japan, and themselves need to develop strategies to gain influence on the social agenda [5].
  • I think it should be more clearly distinguished when using the term co-operative, as in cases of so-called big Japanese co-ops that do not grant member’s a voice in the leadership of the organization. One member one vote is, however, the most vital element of cooperative governance as only ownership and decision rights are effectively empowering the contributing citizen members.
  • Although the young people are primarily affected by the challenging labor market, they don’t seem to be connected to the worker cooperative movement. Some few examples constitute JWCU worker groups consisting of primarily young people [4]. For co-operatives to be successful, they need to be able to speak to the youth not only as volunteering organization but as a competitive better alternative to the neo-liberal capitalist economy.
  • Increasing the awareness about co-operatives should be a priority as often the young people just don’t know about its possibilities [4].
  • Millennials may appreciate opportunities for work-life balance. Co-operatives might be able to provide such a balance in addition to purpose and identification. Furthermore, co-operative governance can be designed to reward performance, therefore supporting personal growth in any ways.
  • Solidarity between older and younger generation should also enable financing of co-operative start-ups of young people by the member funding of older more affluent people. Social impact investment should account for such opportunities.
  • While grass-roots efforts are essential, the co-operative way should also be supported top-down as a political priority. A co-operative economy can not only be profitable but by not passing excess profits to just a few it is also able to provide for welfare benefits and community development where often tax paid government efforts failed in demonstrating sufficiently sustainable effects.
  • All the co-operative seeds should be honored, but it has to be stated that the co-operative economy is negligible and toothless compared to the overall economy. There is no reason for the co-operative movement to rest on its laurels.
  • Implementing democracy in organizations by giving the member-owners (and employees) a voice and a share are just natural. Therefore, the co-operative way, rather than being an extreme alternative movement, has the potential to be common sense across many political directions.
  • Inter-cooperative cooperation is crucial to bundle the efforts for maximum effect on the growth of the movement. While modest scale for NPOs in welfare services and the solidarity economy is a positive feature, big-scale commercial markets have to be given back from shareholder exploitation to the citizens. Any business can be organized co-operatively.



[1] International Cooperative Year Commemorative Cooperative National Council (n.d.). Welcome to the Cooperatives Japan Website. Retrieved from http://www.iyc2012japan.coop/whatsnew/101217_01.html

[2] Mizuta, D. D., & Vlachopoulou, E. I. (2017). Satoumi concept illustrated by sustainable bottom-up initiatives of Japanese Fisheries Cooperative Associations. Marine Policy, 78143-149. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2017.01.020

[3] Kitazawa, Y. (2010). Japan’s lost decades and a women-led socio-solidarity economy. Development, 53(3), 416-420. doi:10.1057/dev.2010.46

[4] Marshall, B. (2006). Japan’s worker co-operative movement into the 21st century. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (23),

[5] Ishizuka, H. (2002). The Social Economy Sector in Japan. Annals Of Public & Cooperative Economics, 73(2), 241.

[6] Abello, O.P. (2016, January). NYC Set to Triple Number of Worker Cooperatives. Retrieved from https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/nyc-worker-cooperatives-jobs-increase

[7] Lord, A., & Mellor, M. (1996). Women and the cooperative provision of care: the example of the ‘Fukushi Club’ in Japan. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 17(2), 199-220.

[8] Chesnick, D. S., & Liebrand, C. B. (2007). Global 300 list reveals world’s largest cooperatives. Rural Cooperatives, 74(1), 28-31.

[9] Gherman, R., Dincu, A., Milin, A., & Brad, I. (2016). Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives in Japan – A Model for Cooperativization of Agriculture from Romania. Scientific Papers: Animal Science & Biotechnologies / Lucrari Stiintifice: Zootehnie Si Biotehnologii, 49(2), 212-216.

[10] Kimura, A. H., & Nishiyama, M. (2008). The Chisan-Chisho Movement: Japanese Local Food Movement and Its Challenges. Agriculture And Human Values, 25(1), 49-64. doi:http://dx.doi.org.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10460-007-9077-x

[11] Klinedinst, M., & Sato, H. (1994). The Japanese Cooperative Sector. Journal Of Economic Issues (Association For Evolutionary Economics), 28(2), 509.

[12] Glass, J. C., McKillop, D. G., Quinn, B., & Wilson, J. S. (2014). Cooperative Bank Efficiency in Japan: A Parametric Distance Function Analysis. European Journal Of Finance, 20(1-3), 291-317.

[13] Yamori, N., Harimaya, K., & Tomimura, K. (2011). The Roles of Outside Directors in Cooperative Financial Institutions: The Case of Japan. Banks And Bank Systems, 6(4), 11-14.

[14] Chris, M., & Sachiko, N. (2010). How can co-operative banks spread the spirit of co-operation in deprived communities?. Social Enterprise Journal, (2), 162. doi:10.1108/17508611011069284

[15] Sachiko, N. (2015). A ROLE OF SOCIAL FINANCE BY A COOPERATIVE: A CASE STUDY OF GREEN COOP FUKUOKA, JAPAN. ACRN Oxford Journal Of Finance & Risk Perspectives, 4(3), 1-18.

[16] Kurimoto, A. )., & Kumakura, Y. ). (2016). Emergence and evolution of co-operatives for elderly care in Japan. International Review Of Sociology, 26(1), 48-68. doi:10.1080/03906701.2016.1148341

[17] Iguchi, S., Niwayama, M., & Takahashi, H. E. (2015). A conference report of the interprofessional satellite symposium in Uonuma, Japan: an international exchange on the future of community care. Journal Of Interprofessional Care, 29(3), 284-287. doi:10.3109/13561820.2014.966541

[18] Nagai, A., Hirata, M., Kamatani, Y., Muto, K., Matsuda, K., Kiyohara, Y., & … Kubo, M. (2017). Overview of the BioBank Japan Project: Study design and profile. Journal Of Epidemiology, 27(3S), S2-S8. doi:10.1016/j.je.2016.12.005

[19] Ekuni, T., & Jung, J. (2015). 日本初の賃貸型コーポラティブハウスの居住者主体による賃貸システム 改変の変遷に関する研究. 都市住宅学, 2015(91), 124-129. doi:10.11531/uhs.2015.91_124

Cooperatives in Japan (Article Series): Part 3/4 – The Japanese Social Economy, Policymaking, and Co-operative Governance

The “Third Sector” (Social Economy)

Overview and Conclusion article for Part 1 – Part 4, please see here.

The “third sector,” or social economy, is the space of social issues that are left by government and private sector (corporate) failures. It is the arena in which the two actors after-negotiate how to share the burden to resolve the problems they feel could fire back if not addressed.


Japanese governmental statistics (SNA, System of National Account) defined ‘industry’ as for-profit businesses only until 1998, why there was no clear concept for a non-profit organization (NPO) [1]. Since then the NPO Law allows civil society organizations to easily acquire nonprofit corporation status [10]. The social sector represented by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), NPOs, and cooperatives is thought to cover social problems like community development, environmental protection, and social movements. Unlike informal associations, NGOs, and NPOs, cooperatives are the only organizational form that represents the ‘Institutionalized’ Social Economy. Therefore, the cooperatives should be assigned a leadership role in the social economy sector. In Japan, the caption NPO is more prominent than social economy [1].

Cooperatives are by definition only a resource for their members; they cannot take the place of the state as a universal provider, without having the responsibilities and resources of the state [14].

In East Asian countries state influence on social enterprises including cooperatives has been stronger than in other regions. This bears the risk for social organizations to lose independence from public agencies. Another threat is that businesses focusing on financial independence and market performance can lose sight of their social responsibility [2]. This might be less the case for cooperatives that are consequently governed of, by, and for their active members.

Positioning of social enterprise for three regions

Figure 1: Positioning of social enterprise for three regions [2]

The “ideal-type” social enterprise underlines a participatory dynamic in the governance structure [2].

As the social enterprise concept is starting to further develop in Eastern Asia, it is essential to answer the question about the most suitable governance model. It was found that in Eastern Asia, even more than in the US, a participatory governance model, and cooperative principles inspired organizational forms could represent the ideal-type of autonomous social organizations. More innovative and flexible types such as, for example, multi-stakeholder cooperative models require more research and experience [2].

Cooperatives are always “collectives” as they involve member participation in the governance structure. But “collectives” don’t necessarily provide for member ownership structures as inherent in the co-operative. The same is true for so-called buying (or other) clubs whose members carry out an activity together, whether organized as an NPO social club or as a cooperative.

There is simply no easy, legal way to organize worker co-operation in Japan yet, and this must surely be a barrier to their spread [3, p. 16].

Co-ops in Japan are traditionally regulated by sectors, e.g., the Consumer Co-operative Act (1948), The Agricultural Co-operative Act (1947), and the Fishery Co-operative Act (1948). Worker cooperatives are particularly promising to address inequality of income and opportunity, as well as for employee motivation, performance, and in-house innovation. However, in Japan, they lack legal recognition, why worker members often organize in organizations incorporated under the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Co-operative Act (1949) or the NPO Act [4]. In other words, it is not forbidden anymore for workers to cooperate for consumption, credit and marketing purposes, but there is also no law positively supporting such aspirations. That’s the reason why the Japan Institute for Cooperative Research (JICR) does promote a new worker law [3].

As discussed in the article “Japanese Cooperatives: Part 1 – Challenges” too, Stock Ownership Plans are not available in Japan to restructure ownership, and the requirements for establishing a joint stock corporation are difficult in Japan as elsewhere. An unusual but clever way went the Senior Cooperative “Koreikyo” that is a consumer co-operative assuming features of a worker co-operative. A currency-like ticketing system achieves the hybrid type of cooperative operation. Members buy books of tickets and use the tickets for paying for co-op services. The services providers redeem later the collected tickets to cover their compensation [3].

Policy Making in Japan

The labor market in Japan has become more challenging. Besides vocational education, career coaching, and traditional start-ups, a new system to incorporate NPOs and worker cooperatives should be prioritized by policy makers [5]. Other countries are also starting to invest more than ever into the development of worker cooperatives that foster dignity and wealth for all as the example of New York initiative for tripling the number of worker cooperatives shows [6]. Also, the conflict between fiscal policy constraints and social policy development can be best resolved by developing the social economy sector and mobilizing its resources and communities [1].

Contracted employees today in Japan don’t enjoy a legal basis that is protecting them as employees; the Civic Code needs still to be adjusted for protective provisions going beyond a service contract and including social welfare for contractors who in fact are engaged in work as employees [5].

The “iron triangle” of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politicians, bureaucratic ministries, and vested interest groups—still represents a formidable and functioning element of Japan’s central governing process [7].

Regarding policy making it was found to be challenging to get access to locked circles of party-bureaucracy-interest-group policymaking in economic and social sectors. This situation stemmed mainly from the example of closed-door decision making in the agricultural policy triangle. The Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) reform intended to no longer view the JA as the sole voice of the farming sector and to reduce JA’s most dominant position as a pressure group. The reform is considered to be radical, but ultimately also quite limited in its effect [8]. The differing interests of large international corporations and the local small-scale businesses (farmers) have slowed down (agricultural) policy reforms. Therefore, the JA-Zenchu will likely remain the most powerful and influential interest group in Japanese politics [9]. However, the autonomy of JA is limited too because of its traditional receipt of state donations [1].

Co-operative Governance

Cooperatives are guided by their identity, values, and principles.

Co-operative Identity: A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise [10].

Co-operative Values: Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Co-operative principles: 1. Voluntary and Open Membership, 2. Democratic Member Control, 3. Member Economic Participation, 4. Autonomy and Independence, 5. Education, Training and Information, 6. Co-operation among Co-operatives, 7. Concern for Community

In general, cooperative governance can be clarified with a model of four pillars.

TeamingSuccessfully working together to achieve common purpose
Accountable EmpowermentSuccessfully empowering people while at the same time holding them accountable for the power granted.
Strategic LeadershipSuccessfully articulating the cooperative’s direction/purpose and setting the organization up for movement in this direction.
DemocracySuccessfully sustaining a culture in which people choose meaningful ways to participate for both individual and common good.

Table 1. The four pillars of cooperative governance [11]

When a co-operative bank acts as “community organizer”, undertaking tasks which are outside its usual sphere of activities as financier, and its board includes members of the social enterprise sector, its positive impact on community development is more effective [13, p. 162].

Capable management is important. Some literature from Japan reports on the need in different sectors for cooperatives to upgrade their management methods [1]. According to research in 2006, 63% of past co-operative bankruptcies were due to management problems. It was also found that the presence of outside director on the board of directors had a positive influence on management performance. However, there is usually no pressure from the membership to require outside directors. Therefore, some suggest that authorities such as the Financial Services Agency (FSA) shall stress this need [12].

To make raising equity for cooperatives easier, it appears to be important to understand the nature of the transferable membership capital method [15].

In general, it is known that cooperatives have it harder to get funding as compared to traditional capitalist businesses [15], although there are signs that social impact capital, or purpose capital, is on the rise. Indeed, co-op member’s favorite survey response to work at a co-operative was the one of seeking “ikigai”, i.e., “a purpose in life” [3]. It might be, as a general pattern, that where the money can come from, capitalist monetary values predominate social considerations. Therefore, due to limited profit maximization for single individuals, limited financing is a significant growth limitation for the cooperative economy, although a membership market could provide for the same economic potential. To solve this problem, some cooperatives have resorted to the method of issuing transferable membership capital, e.g., a housing cooperative raising equity capital by issuing shares and investing it in the construction projects, and after that trading the shares on the open market [15]. It is also necessary to create financial mutual aid systems in the social economy such as initiatives started by the Eitai Credit Union in Tokio [1].

How independent are SME’s in Japan?

Japanese SME’s for their survival need to form alliances with major firms that are dominating the markets. Subcontracting is so extensive in Japan that SME’s independence needs to be questioned. Such domestic loyalty networks often served as de facto trade barriers [16] and also need to be taken into account by any new co-operative businesses.

What is needed for the solidarity economy in Japan is to form loose networks, like the Atsugi Human Support Network, at the regional, national and global levels, and to engage in political action to fight against neo-liberalism [17].

Often genuinely collaborative loose networks do, tragically, not evolve without exceptional circumstances. For example, The Emergency Job Creation (EJC) program as a response to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake disaster achieved the collaboration among stakeholders as diverse as NPOs, NGOs, social welfare corporations, and other companies [18]. It is to hope that the solidarity economy can be more successfully promoted in the future on local, regional, and global level [17]. Ways must be found how to convince also private corporations who currently value monetary profit instead of social orientation to contribute to solidarity more consequently [1].

As per the co-operative governance principle of cooperation among cooperatives, it is critical to act on this aspect more intensively. Shared interests and synergies can be used better to intensify inter-cooperative cooperation. For example, all forestry, agriculture, consumer, and fisheries have been concerned about improved water environments. Similarly, any cooperative as connected to the member-community can facilitate access to and provision of in-home services such as healthcare together with other cooperatives [1].

the extension of the coop movement.png

The Japanese Cooperative Council (JCC) links to the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), a similar systematic national connector is missing [1]. For the cooperatives and related organizations in the broader digital economy, the Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) Consortium has started to assume such a role. There is the risk that cooperatives appear old-fashioned in the eyes of the younger generations. Increased openness, exciting and influential networks of co-operatives might be a means to rejuvenate and strengthen the movement. Academia and national innovation networks that dare to learn from and promote to an also international dimension [19] may play a vital role in that journey too.



[1] Ishizuka, H. (2002). The Social Economy Sector in Japan. Annals Of Public & Cooperative Economics, 73(2), 241.

[2] Defourny, J., & Kim, S. (2011). Emerging models of social enterprise in Eastern Asia: a cross-country analysis. Social Enterprise Journal, 7(1), 86. doi:10.1108/17508611111130176

[3] Marshall, B. (2006). Japan’s worker co-operative movement into the 21st century. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (23),

[4] Kurimoto, A. )., & Kumakura, Y. ). (2016). Emergence and evolution of co-operatives for elderly care in Japan. International Review Of Sociology, 26(1), 48-68. doi:10.1080/03906701.2016.1148341

[5] Nogawa, S. (2012). The Great East Japan Earthquake and a Future Vision for Labor Law in Japan. Japan Labor Review, 9(4), 105-123.

[6] Abello, O.P. (2016, January). NYC Set to Triple Number of Worker Cooperatives. Retrieved from https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/nyc-worker-cooperatives-jobs-increase

[7] Mulgan, A. G. (2016). Loosening the ties that bind: Japan’s agricultural policy triangle and reform of cooperatives (JA). Journal Of Japanese Studies, 42(2), 221-246.

[8] Mulgan, A. G. (2016). Much ado about something? The Abe government’s reform of Japan’s agricultural cooperatives (JA). Japanese Studies, 36(1), 83-103.

[9] Jamitzky, U. (2015). The TPP Debate in Japan: Reasons for a Failed Protest Campaign. Asia Pacific Perspectives, 13(1), 79.

[10] International Co-operative Alliance (n.d.). Co-operative identity, values & principles. Retrieved from https://ica.coop/en/whats-co-op/co-operative-identity-values-principles

[11] CDS Consulting Co-op (n.d.). Four Pillars of Cooperative Governance. Retrieved from http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/cooperative_governance/4pcg/

[12] Yamori, N., Harimaya, K., & Tomimura, K. (2011). The Roles of Outside Directors in Cooperative Financial Institutions: The Case of Japan. Banks And Bank Systems, 6(4), 11-14.

[13] Chris, M., & Sachiko, N. (2010). How can co-operative banks spread the spirit of co-operation in deprived communities?. Social Enterprise Journal, (2), 162. doi:10.1108/17508611011069284

[14] Lord, A., & Mellor, M. (1996). Women and the cooperative provision of care: the example of the ‘Fukushi Club’ in Japan. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 17(2), 199-220.

[15] Mikami, K. (2015). Raising Capital by Issuing Transferable Membership in a Consumer Cooperative. International Journal Of Social Economics, 42(2), 132-142.

[16] Dana, L. P. (1998). Small but Not Independent: SMEs in Japan. Journal Of Small Business Management, 36(4), 73-76.

[17] Kitazawa, Y. (2010). Japan’s lost decades and a women-led socio-solidarity economy. Development, 53(3), 416-420. doi:10.1057/dev.2010.46

[18] Nagamatsu, S., & Ono, A. (2017). Job Creation after Catastrophic Events: Lessons from the Emergency Job Creation Program after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Japan Labor Review, 14(1), 112-131.

[19] Miotti, L., & Sachwald, F. (2003). Co-operative R&D: Why and with Whom? An Integrated Framework of Analysis. Research Policy, 32(8), 1481-1499. doi:http://dx.doi.org.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/S0048-7333(02)00159-2

[20] About NPO Law (n.d.). How the NPO Law came about and why it is important. Retrieved from http://www.jnpoc.ne.jp/en/nonprofits-in-japan/about-npo-law/

Cooperatives in Japan (Article Series): Part 2/4 – Cooperative Advantages

Overview and Conclusion article for Part 1 – Part 4, please see here.

To make it clear right up front: cooperation isn’t just an idea; it is instead a universal need and natural law for human thriving, be it in one’s spiritual connections, interpersonal relations, or business matters. Member-owned cooperative organizations as they are institutionalized are not only an alternative to shareholder directed corporations; they are necessary for a fairer working world. The cooperative values and principles have the potential to let the pendulum switch from the pure capitalist to the cooperative inclusive side. Just, the few powerful and wealthy who are profiting so immensely from the current system won’t give up their privileges for the benefit of more people. However, there are so many reasons why co-operatives are the better way for all to organize any endeavor and business. Once the movement gained traction, people will wonder how it was at all possible to accept undemocratic, inequitable and unsustainable practices around the world that caused so much injustice and destruction for such a long time. Therefore, the shift will mark a real evolutionary step. Now that the digital age is at a cross-road how to be organized in the future (see Platform Cooperativism), we have an opportunity to decide on the overall direction of society, not only in the virtual world. The following article outlines some main points that make the fairer co-operative way preferable to the extractive capitalist system from both economic, social, and environmental perspectives.

Socio-ecological integration enhances not only the long-term sustainability of businesses but also supports environmentally conscious consumption. [1]

“Sato” in Japanese means the area where people live, and “umi” means the sea. ‘Sato-umi’ describes a holistic approach that fosters sustainable and competitive human-ecosystem interaction with the result, as demonstrated by the Fisheries Cooperative Associations (FCAs), of increased biodiversity and productivity and consequently a healthier environment and economic ecosystem. Sato-umi may be unique in how established the practices are: therefore, ready to be further spread in Japan and promoted globally [1]. Many of the advantages of the cooperative way presented in this article may be linked or linkable to Sato-umi. It seems most important to further seek a best of all approach by building on existing (Japan specific) strengths and mitigating weaknesses to elevate the cooperative movement to the next level.


Source: satoumi.net

Satoumi-related activities promote lifelong learning opportunities, social and economic inclusion, and equality within communities and countries. Long-term involvement nourishes the desire to protect and promote through innovation, and harmony between human and ecosystem factors foster collaboration [1].

Acting as a rural development agency, the government makes loans to the farmers at a low interest rate through the cooperatives, which is called a ‘system loan’ [2, p. 512].

One of the primary services of agricultural co-ops in Japan is mutual credit and insurance that helps develop agrarian projects and the industry overall. Cooperatives can stimulate the cooperative sector by providing low-interest rate system loans [2]. Such investments may bear lower profits in the short term, but cooperatives have proven that, by benefitting their members instead of their investors, they are fitter for the long-term survival of the business [3].

Cooperatives continued to extend their successful operations even 30 years in business in highly competitive service industries through times of stagnation in Japan’s national economy [5].

Locally anchored participatory businesses demonstrate sustainable productivity through a combination of traditional knowledge and innovation [1]. The instability that is all too often a tendency of new and small businesses can be mitigated by a cooperative working style. For example, the Seikatsu Club Consumer Co-operative grew their services sustainably from the 1980s to over a quarter of a million members already in 2006. Among the members mostly women who otherwise have difficulties to find suitable work (see article “Japanese Cooperatives Part 1 – Challenges“), against all the adverse economic conditions that caused other businesses to stagnate or even collapse in the same competitive sectors [4]. Evidence shows that firms which combine employee ownership and participatory governance outperform other companies [5].

mathias-sager about seikatsu club japan.png

How to build the necessary new extensive welfare services while keeping corporations unaccountable and taxations low? 

Where the government nor the private sector want to compensate for welfare services, cooperatives (besides various private firms and NPOs) fill gaps by establishing flexible strategies such as ‘registered helpers’ who are rendering services as paid volunteers, ‘mutual assistance schemes,’ and ‘welfare clubs’ [6].

To stay competitive against increased globalization, e.g., cheap import of rice, policies to professionalize and scale agricultural businesses were implemented by the government through the promotion of cooperatives. While the co-ops fulfill the government’s New Institutional Economics requirements of relevance, appropriateness, durability, and fairness, cooperative farming did not meet the normed expectations of efficiency, profitability, and competitiveness, which led to some drawbacks in the plan [7].

Market power and asymmetric information appear less influential in the formation of food processing cooperatives [8].

It might be the right direction to start with fairness and then make the business a profitable one too. Agricultural cooperatives operate food processing businesses that are more transparent to the consumer, also regarding the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. People have become more sensitive to food security and request symmetric information distribution between the farmers and the buyers. This is best possible if the food producer (farm) and the food processing businesses controlled by the same owners, respectively cooperatives [8]. Organic farming and food processing have become a business model allowing for attractive premiums. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster was very harmful to organic farmers in the region though. Teikei consumer groups (consumers buying directly from farmers) and small cooperatives practicing “teikei” found a way to inspect radiation contamination independently to restore trust in food security [9].

Finally, it is all about solidarity between the people, which is contrary to neo-liberalism as the most extreme form of capitalism that is seeking to maximize profits through large corporations and financial institutions instead of protecting also the environment, human rights, and discriminated workers [10] (see article “Japanese Cooperatives Part 1 – Challenges“).



[1] Mizuta, D. D., & Vlachopoulou, E. I. (2017). Satoumi concept illustrated by sustainable bottom-up initiatives of Japanese Fisheries Cooperative Associations. Marine Policy, 78143-149. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2017.01.020

[2] Klinedinst, M., & Sato, H. (1994). The Japanese Cooperative Sector. Journal Of Economic Issues (Association For Evolutionary Economics), 28(2), 509.

[3] Chesnick, D. S., & Liebrand, C. B. (2007). Global 300 list reveals world’s largest cooperatives. Rural Cooperatives, 74(1), 28-31.

[4] Marshall, B. (2006). Japan’s worker co-operative movement into the 21st century. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (23),

[5] Marshall, R. C. (2003). The culture of cooperation in three Japanese worker cooperatives. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 24(4), 543-572.

[6] Lord, A., & Mellor, M. (1996). Women and the cooperative provision of care: the example of the ‘Fukushi Club’ in Japan. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 17(2), 199-220.

[7] Yoshitaka, M. (2016). The Failure of Cooperative Farming Development Policies in Tōhoku, Japan. Journal Of Resources & Ecology, 7(2), 137-143. doi:10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2016.02.009

[8] Mikami, K., & Tanaka, S. (2008). Food processing business and agriculture cooperatives in Japan: market power and asymmetric information. Asian Economic Journal, 22(1), 83-107.

[9] Kondoh, K. (2015). The Alternative Food Movement in Japan: Challenges, Limits, and Resilience of the Teikei System. c(1), 143-153.

[10] Kitazawa, Y. (2010). Japan’s lost decades and a women-led socio-solidarity economy. Development, 53(3), 416-420. doi:10.1057/dev.2010.46

Cooperatives in Japan (Article Series): Part 1/4 – Challenges and the Necessity for Cooperatives

Overview and Conclusion article for Part 1 – Part 4, please see here.

The article presents Japan-specific details related to economic, demographic, and cultural challenges that can potentially be addressed by a more cooperative economy. Despite national peculiarities and unique cultural phenomena, the background against which the issues have to be seen should not be forgotten. When analyzing why social and environmental problems cannot be improved, one will always be led back to the observation of excesses that are caused by the capitalist economy’s ultimate fight for maximum profits. Where is the limit between acting responsible and exploiting natural resources and workers? Unfortunately, the answer is that there will never be a healthy balance resulting from a system that seeks maximization of monetary profits for a small elite above anything else.

“Japan has experienced ‘two lost decades,’ with zero or minus growth (Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) and price deflation (Consumer Price Index (CPI)).” [1, p. 416] 

minus growth and price deflation.jpg

Figure 1. Minus growth and price deflation [10]

After the burst of the economic bubble in 1991, many of the small and medium-sized enterprises have gone bankrupt, and consumers’ buying power declined. The big corporations haven’t maintained the diverse vitality and innovation of the SME’s [1], despite the continuous pressure to innovate and create new markets in Japan, especially in information and communication technology sectors [2].

The real winner of the 2014 reform package (deregulation of farmland) could be land-hungry companies with little or no interest in the future of Japanese agriculture [5]. 

land-hungry companies Japan.jpg

The political system is considered to be in need of further procedural and methodological upgrades, especially on local levels [3]. For example, there exist unresolved conflicting goals related to the aspired consolidation of farmland (respectively enlargement of farms for increased productivity) by the local actors and regarding the deregulation of farmland, which makes it accessible to corporations [4]. The essential Japanese cooperative sector for agriculture is threatened by recession, deregulation, and ease of trade barriers [5].

Japan is one of the largest importers of farm products, and its record-low food self-sufficiency contradicts the many agricultural fields that lay idle [13]. More local sourcing through cooperatives would be beneficial.

“The most important and useful alternative to resolve a deadlock of fiscal policy and social policy by the governments is to develop the social economy sector” [3, p.263]

 social economy.jpeg

“The humanization of labor also is considered as the way toward the self-realization of individuals.” [3, p. 262]

Japanese culture includes a strong sense of mutual obligation and loyalty and a collectivist way of relating to others. Even for small and usually, in Westerner contexts, independent small businesses, there exist most often some business alliances (Dana, 1998). These cultural specifics may speak for a naturalness of cooperation to Japanese individuals and organizations. On the other side, also in Japan, there are tendencies towards more individual lifestyles and the desire for improved work-life balance (Ishizuka, 2002). The former possibly a negative aspect for community building, the latter speaking for more co-operatively organized work.

“It is ironic that the countries who have fared best in industrial and economic development are now facing a crisis in personal care, particularly for the elderly.” [7, p. 199]

 elderly care

Japan’s care situation is worse than in comparably wealthy nations, for example in Europe. Governments’ positions are still referring to welfare to be provided by the family, private employers, and today increasingly also by voluntary organizations. However, the daughters who used to care for their parents are entering the corporate workforce too, and only one-third of the corporate workforce is having access to the system. Japan faces the challenge of a high need for welfare services while keeping low taxation rates. The relegation of welfare services to non-profit organizations (NPO) and cooperatives is one strategy taken [7].

The capitalist economy is increasingly using women in its drive for profits but chooses to ignore the burden of reproductive work which they carry. [7] 


In fact, the super-aging Japanese society has an aging rate of more than 25% (i.e., every fourth person is 65 years or older, with most extreme situations in rural farming communities [13]). Japan lacks enough doctors [8] while the hidden asset of family welfare is not available anymore as women are absorbed by their work life and corporate careers [9].

“It is deeply worrying that youth are unable to find regular jobs for decades after graduating from school. They are called the lost generation, and many call themselves freeters (‘free part-timers’), as they look for miscellaneous part-time jobs.” [1]

youth unemployment

Although criticized by neo-liberal voices, the Japanese lifetime employment has led to comparatively low unemployment rates: while for heads of households it was 3%, for the rest of the family it was more than 8%, and unemployed people are increasingly becoming more extended term cases. Long-term employment offers are decreasing while non-standard jobs are on the rise [11]. More than half of all female workers of any age were already in 2009 non-regular workers, usually cheap part-timers, which is a peculiar characteristic of the Japanese labor market [1].

Women call for more “independence” and “self-reliance” and therefore decry the discriminating Million Yen Wall that is incentivizing women staying at home. [12]

Care cooperatives such as the Fukushi Club are often the only possibility for women with elderly parents to find some work [7]. Another reason for women being forced to work part-time is the fact that few jobs are paying more than $20,000 to woman over 35. And, a tax wall set at $10,000 means that it financially doesn’t pay off to earn $20,000 because all earnings above $10,000 are going to taxes of some form. There seems to be nothing on the Equal Employment Opportunity legal horizon that is likely to change the wide salary differentials between men and women of the same age and education level [12].

“Japanese company-ism has been destroying gradually the relations among persons in the family and the community by obliging adult males to spend most of their waking hours at work.” [3]


Company-ism on the one hand side and contract work on the other have led to decreased job satisfaction [11]. Employee participation program intended to address that problem were far from enabling more democratic working environments and are already outdated again [3]. Worker cooperatives can be an excellent answer to the call for a system that makes it easier to establish businesses responsive to the needs of citizens.

Acting on symbols like ‘help’ without their being explicitly differentiated from the work itself is a condition of smooth cooperative operation. [14]

Leadership issues have harmed cooperatives and their reputation overall. For example, there were legitimate accusations of management incompetence [3]. It is vital to manage cooperatives well and to foster full democracy in the organization [5]. If the democratic decision and economic participation right is seen as a common good that cannot be taken away, for example, even not in case of fluctuating performance, there the behavioral problem of free-riding arises. Therefore, proper management of cooperatives includes leadership using symbols such as ‘help’ instead of monitoring methods that are often rejected by the employees, and which is building the moral community with perpetuating pro-social values enabling cooperation [14].



[1] Kitazawa, Y. (2010). Japan’s lost decades and a women-led socio-solidarity economy. Development, 53(3), 416-420. doi:10.1057/dev.2010.46

[2] Knowledge-based view of corporate strategy. (2007). Strategic Direction, (5), doi:10.1108/sd.2007.05623ead.003

[3] Ishizuka, H. (2002). The Social Economy Sector in Japan. Annals Of Public & Cooperative Economics, 73(2), 241.

[4] Jentzsch, H. (2017). Abandoned land, corporate farming, and farmland banks: a local perspective on the process of deregulating and redistributing farmland in Japan. Contemporary Japan – Journal Of The German Institute For Japanese Studies, Tokyo, 29(1), 31-46. doi:10.1080/18692729.2017.1256977

[5] Klinedinst, M., & Sato, H. (1994). The Japanese Cooperative Sector. Journal Of Economic Issues (Association For Evolutionary Economics), 28(2), 509.

[6] Dana, L. P. (1998). Small but Not Independent: SMEs in Japan. Journal Of Small Business Management, 36(4), 73-76.

[7] Lord, A., & Mellor, M. (1996). Women and the cooperative provision of care: the example of the ‘Fukushi Club’ in Japan. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 17(2), 199-220.

[8] Iguchi, S., Niwayama, M., & Takahashi, H. E. (2015). A conference report of the interprofessional satellite symposium in Uonuma, Japan: an international exchange on the future of community care. Journal Of Interprofessional Care, 29(3), 284-287. doi:10.3109/13561820.2014.966541

[9] Kurimoto, A. )., & Kumakura, Y. ). (2016). Emergence and evolution of co-operatives for elderly care in Japan. International Review Of Sociology, 26(1), 48-68. doi:10.1080/03906701.2016.1148341

[10] Market Monetarist. (2017). The scary difference between the GDP deflator and CPI – the case of Japan. Retrieved from https://marketmonetarist.com/2012/11/06/the-scary-difference-between-the-gdp-deflator-and-cpi-the-case-of-japan/

[11] Nogawa, S. (2012). The Great East Japan Earthquake and a Future Vision for Labor Law in Japan. Japan Labor Review, 9(4), 105-123.

[12] Marshall, B. (2006). Japan’s worker co-operative movement into the 21st century. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (23),

[13] Kimura, A. H., & Nishiyama, M. (2008). The Chisan-Chisho Movement: Japanese Local Food Movement and Its Challenges. Agriculture And Human Values, 25(1), 49-64. doi:http://dx.doi.org.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10460-007-9077-x

[14] Marshall, R. C. (2003). The culture of cooperation in three Japanese worker cooperatives. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 24(4), 543-572.