In this report, JCIE's Dr. Atsuko Geiger finds that the massive disaster that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 triggered a flurry of US-Japan grassroots exchanges that have had a surprisingly large impact on bilateral relations. While there have been some historical cases of exchanges being launched after other disasters, the burst of activity seen after 3/11 has been unprecedented in both scope and intensity, reflecting the depth of preexisting US-Japan grassroots ties and building a broader foundation for greater people-to-people exchanges between the two societies.The report’s key findings include the following:
- At least 151 US-Japan grassroots exchanges between 2011 and 2014 were inspired by 3/11
or operated with a thematic focus related to the disaster. Of these, 83 were new exchanges,
and the rest represented a refocusing and reenergizing of existing programs.
- More than $52 million—a stunning amount—has been mobilized in Japan and the United
States for nonprofit organizations to run these programs, with funds coming from
government agencies, businesses, and individual donors.
- These exchanges have been playing a substantial role in building a stronger base of
grassroots connections between different sectors of Japanese and US society and in
improving perceptions of the relationship at the highest levels of national leadership.
- A key challenge now involves the sustainability of these programs after such a large, onetime
influx of funding. While some organizations have tried to budget funding for the next
several years, it is unclear how many of these new initiatives can be sustained.
- While the funding bubble has allowed many longstanding US-Japan organizations to carry
out programs to help their communities while supporting the Tohoku area’s recovery, there
needs to be more focus on strengthening the institutional infrastructure of US-Japan
grassroots exchange so that experienced organizations dedicated to bilateral exchange can continue to play this role in the future.
- Getting International Disaster Philanthropy Right: Lessons from Japan's 2011 Tsunami (July 2016)
- Strengthening US-Japan NGO Partnerships On Humanitarian Responses: Lessons from 3/11 (March 2015)
- Innovative Disaster Responses: Model Approaches from Japan's 3/11 Disaster (March 2015)
- Annual Survey: US Giving in Response to Japan Disaster Reaches $737 Million (March 2015)
- International Philanthropy and Disasters in Developed Countries: The US Response to Japan's 3.11 Disaster (July 2014)
- Friendship across Borders: Nearly 100 US Sister City Organizations Raise Relief Funds for Japan (September 2012)