December 11, 2013
Interview with Research Fellow Yukimi Shimoda
Research Fellow Shimoda has been engaged in two research subjects: a re-examination of CD (capacity development) approaches and South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSC and TrC) based on case studies. On the subject of SSC and TrC, she has introduced a case between Turkey and neighboring countries in the field of energy conservation, which JICA supports. She has contributed a chapter on the case study in a booklet entitled “Tackling Global Challenges Through Triangular Cooperation.” This publication was distributed at the UN Global South-South Development Expo held in Nairobi from October 28 to November 1, 2013.
In the following interview, Shimoda talks about her activities with a focus on SSC and TrC that she was in charge of at the JICA Indonesia Office, along with her involvement in the on-going research projects of JICA-RI.
Could you talk about your work at the JICA Indonesia Office from 2004 to 2007?
I was in charge of SSC/TrC as a Program Formulation Advisor at the Indonesia Office at the right time when the SSC task force was established at JICA to promote SSC/TrC. In Indonesia, I was mainly responsible for planning and managing the third country training programs and the dispatch of experts that were implemented through TrC. In the Indonesia Office, about 80 staff including national staff used to work there, which was quite a large office among JICA overseas offices in those days. I coordinated with the Japanese side over the exchange of information with the Indonesian government agencies, need surveys on SSC and TrC and training in general, and reception of the relevant missions, while the daily tasks were carried out by experienced national staff. Prior to SSC and TrC is highlighted in the field of international development in recent years, JICA has already promoted TrC. In Indonesia, in collaboration with its government, JICA has not only conducted various forms of training for those from agencies in Asian and African countries, but also dispatched Indonesian experts to these countries upon request. In this environment, I could learn about SSC/TrC and the training programs from scratch.
I also participated in the JARCOM (Japan-ASEAN Regional Cooperation Meeting) where JICA played a leading role in supporting for formulating effective TrC projects in cooperation with partner organizations from ASEAN member states. Although this meeting took place only for a couple of days every year, I had the opportunity to meet directly with and take time to exchange opinions with people from partner organizations, as well as the staff of JICA offices in Southeast Asian countries, which was a valuable experience for me.
What specific area did you study in the PhD program at the Graduate Research School of the University of Western Australia? And what brought you to JICA-RI?
I got my PhD at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia, which is geographically close to Indonesia. The theme of my PhD thesis was on the relationship between Japanese expatriate employees assigned to Japanese corporations and organizations in Indonesia and their national staff. It was a study from the micro perspective of anthropology on the interaction between host nationals and expatriates, who are believed to live and work being cut off from the host society. This is based on the idea that the live and work of expatriates, especially expatriate employees, are supported by host nationals. Without the benefit of my experiences at the Indonesia Office, I would not have done research on this topic. Experience in working together with the national staff, learning from them, and being supported by them led to the theme of my PhD thesis. While working as an intern at a Japanese organization in Jakarta for one year, I conducted research and wrote a thesis based on the data collected through the participant observation and interviews with more than 130 Japanese and Indonesians.
I learned of a job vacancy at JICA-RI when the result of my PhD thesis examination was about to come out. A job vacancy in the research field of “Capacity Development (SSC)” was posted in the database of human resources called JREC-IN. I applied for the post because I thought I could utilize my experience as a Program Formulation Advisor at the Indonesia Office and what I had learned at the university. All the factors—the timing of the job vacancy at JICA-RI, my experience with TrC in Indonesia, and my studies at graduate school—resulted in getting a job at JICA-RI.
What research project are you currently involved in at JICA-RI?
I have been in charge of case studies of SSC and TrC, and CD since 2012. In 2013 (from October 28 to November 1), in Nairobi, Kenya, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and JICA jointly co-organized the UN Global South-South Development Expo 2013 for the first time in Africa. JICA-RI prepared a booklet on TrC this year for the Expo as we had done in 2012. The booklet introduces many cases related to the theme of the 2013 Expo “a green economy.” I contributed a chapter entitled “A Process of Scaling Up: Initiatives for Energy Conservation by Turkey and Neighboring Countries,” which illustrated a TrC project in the field of energy conservation that Turkey has been working on with neighboring countries in collaboration with JICA.
Regarding CD, I have been engaged in research on CD for public services delivery towards local development in Sulawesi, Indonesia. In Indonesia, decentralization has rapidly been promoted under the strong initiative of the government since the late 1990s. The government of Indonesia in cooperation with JICA and other donors has undertaken various activities for local development by using the bottom-up approach. This research project attempts to examine how they have conducted related activities and how these activities have influenced on relationships among local stakeholders. I am reviewing literature and gathering information from them, who have participated in these activities. I will publish the result of the research as a JICA-RI Working Paper.
Lastly, could you tell us your future plans and your personal motto, if any?
Also, please give some advice to young people who are interested in the field of international cooperation and development research.
I may not call it my aspiration, but I would like to engage in a study that connects “research” with “practice.” In reality, however, there exists a gap between researchers and practitioners in what they seek in “research,” and I find it hard to achieve a balance between them. How to intermediate between the two is my challenge.
I have my motto, which is “Your dream will come true if you keep pursuing it.” Another one is “Think from other peoples’ perspectives,” the words of Mr. Kaheita Okazaki who strived for Japan-China friendship. This is, I believe, the basis of human relations, and I do the work keeping these words in mind.
Although I can say only from my experience, my advice to those who plan to work in the field of international cooperation is that there are a variety of forms of involvement in the international cooperation area. The activities will vary depending on the agencies that you join—governmental organizations, the private sector, or NGOs. Your experience will help you find out which areas you want to engage in, and what kind of strength you have. I am currently with JICA-RI after several career changes. I would say that we do not have to narrow our choices without challenges, and that it is OK to sometimes take a different path in order to make a decision.