JICA’s Panel Discussion on “Workers, Managers, Productivity: Kaizen in Developing Countries” Held at GDN Annual Conference in Germany


The Global Development Network (GDN), a public international organization that supports high-quality, policy-oriented, social science research in developing and transition countries as well as global networking, organized its 19th annual conference on 23–25 Oct. in Bonn, Germany. Under the theme “Knowledge for Sustainable Development: The Research-Policy Nexus,” approximately 500 participants from around 100 countries assembled to discuss knowledge and sustainable development.

Izumi Ohno, director of JICA Research Institute (JICA-RI), and staff from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) participated in the conference and organized a parallel session that explored how Kaizen can be promoted in developing counties. Approximately 40 participants were actively involved in the discussion, and Ohno presented the Japan Award for Outstanding Research on Development to the best young researcher at the end of the conference.

Participants presented 10 Kaizen case studies as parts of the findings of the JICA-GDN joint research project

In addition, Kaizen case studies presented in the parallel session are parts of the findings of the JICA/GDN joint research project on the effectiveness of Kaizen. The research project covers 10 developing countries. Ohno moderated the panel discussion. At the beginning of the session, John Page, senior fellow of the Brookings Institution, gave a presentation on the overall research outputs of the project and concluded that Kaizen tools are innovation inputs that enable firms to experiment and adopt new technology. He also explained that workers are critical to Kaizen’s success. Other panel members included Kimiaki Jin, JICA staff and member of the Kaizen research project; Kosi Yankey, executive director of the National Board for Small Scale Industries, Ghana (a counterpart of JICA project); Rosmi Abdullah, director of Malaysia Productivity Corporation that has rich experiences in productivity improvement; and Cornelia Storz, professor at Goethe University in Germany who researches on industrial development in Africa. A good mix of scholars and practitioners discussed evidence-based studies on Kaizen. Moreover, the floor participants actively interacted through the Q&A session and even after the event.

The messages shared among the participants included: 1) Kaizen is a promising tool to improve firm-level productivity in developing countries across various fields, 2) To facilitate successful promotion of Kaizen, contextualization and adaptation as well as the proactive role of the government are essential, and 3) Considering the poor availability of data in developing countries, indicators to measure the impact of Kaizen need to be improved. The research outputs of this conference will be compiled as an open access book titled “Workers, Managers, Productivity—Kaizen in Developing Countries” and be published by Palgrave Macmillan in the United Kingdom by the end of 2019.

The Japan Award for Outstanding Research on Development is a competitive research grant program administered by the GDN and supported by the Government of Japan. The grant is awarded to selected researchers during the GDN annual conference. In 2019, three finalists out of 32 applicants gave presentations on the first day of the conference. The award winners were announced at the closing plenary session. Ohno made congratulatory remarks and emphasized that “we attach high importance on linking knowledge, information and data accumulated through our development cooperation activities, with practical development policy and actions in developing countries. Making difference at the place where real things happen is our strong motto.” She presented the award to Emmanuel Yujuico from Philippines, whose research proposal is “Exploring Philippines’ use of evidence-based research to influence public health policy.” Nearly 9,000 researchers and development practitioners in developing countries have participated in the competition, and more that 200 awards have been conferred.

JICA-RI Director Izumi Ohno (right) presented the Japan Award for Outstanding Research on Development to Emmanuel Yujuico from Philippines

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