July 21, 2017
On June 12 and 13, 2017, the JICA Research Institute (JICA-RI) hosted the 8th Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) Research Seminar in Okayama Prefecture. The topic of the seminar was "Between Development Cooperation and Global Human Resources Development."
The JICA-RI had hosted a series of public seminars to present the findings of the research project "An Interdisciplinary Study of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV)" seven times. The project involves the identification and analysis of the multifaceted characteristics of the JOCV activities through interdisciplinary research, including psychology, sociology, anthropology and political science.
On the first day of the seminar, held at the Okayama International Center, the research findings were presented to experts and other attendees who have high interest in the JOCV program.
First, Yasunobu Okabe (Visiting Fellow, JICA-RI / Professor, Tohoku University) spoke on the early history of the JOCV program, explaining why the initiative was launched and why its purposes are so diverse. At the beginning, Okabe gave his observations on his question that "Are JOCVs categorized as volunteers?" Based on an awareness survey, he also presented the results of the group research which categorized the JOCVs into types as "Categorization of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers by Motivation - Six Volunteer Profiles".
He explained that the volunteers' motivations are divided into categories, that are consistent with the three objectives of the JOCV program: (1) assisting in the development of developing countries, (2) fostering a global perspective in participating Japanese youth, and (3) deepening mutual understanding. The "Development assistance” type and the "Altruist” type correspond to the first objective, the "Business-minded” type and the "Change-oriented” type correspond to the second objective and "Curious” type corresponds to the third objective.
Next, Mayuko Onuki (Research Fellow, JICA-RI) gave a presentation on "Key Competencies of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and Their Achievement and Impact". This study examined the kind of changes the JOCVs experienced in their activities, and analyzed the JOCV program from the perspective of global human resources development. It investigated changes in their key competencies — initiative, negotiating skills and adaptability — at three points, before dispatch, during dispatch and after returning to Japan. The results of the study indicated that volunteers who were more successful in achieving the goals of the activities had high initiative from the beginning, improved their negotiating skills during the first half of the activities, and improved their adaptability throughout the activities.
In regard to these presentations, Ichiro Tambo (Professor, Kibi International University), who served as facilitator, mentioned that it is noteworthy that only JICA-RI could collect the abundant data. He said, "The panel data deepened my understanding of the six personality categories and competencies. From the perspective of the social capital that connects among people, it can be said that the JOCVs represent soft power in Japan’s foreign diplomacy." Opinions were exchanged actively in the Q&A session. For example, a question was raised by Takayoshi Maki (Associate Professor, Hiroshima University) regarding the research methodology focused on the connection between categorization and analysis of competencies.
On the June 13th, the main participants were the students from Kibi International University, which was the venue for the second day. First, Eriko Sakamaki (JICA-RI staff member and former JOCV) introduced basic information about the JOCV program, and presented what she gained from the JOCV activities of her two years (from 2005) in Benin, and how she developed her career after returning to Japan. Next, Okabe and Onuki respectively made presentations as they did the previous day. A former JOCV commented that "the acquisition of the ability to form networks through JOCV activities resonated with me." Questions raised by the audience included the types of sectors that were currently required in the JOCV program.
Many of the points brought up during the Q&A with participants were enlightening for the researchers as well, providing valuable feedback for the other research project "Contributions of International Volunteers in Bringing Change to Developing Countries and Shaping a Global Civil Society" launched by JICA-RI last year.