As Global Shapers of the World Economic Forum, we have the ability to observe local and global issues on the ground. As 20-year-olds, we can act rapidly and shape the new tomorrow.

The Global Shaper’s Tokyo Hub has indeed been acting rapidly to identify ways in which it can support Japan, especially after the 2011 earthquake, which devastated parts of the country.

In January, Global Shapers visited Tohoku in north-east Japan to see first-hand some of the areas hit by the disaster. The Global Shapers spent time talking with local people about how the region could move forward. We were inspired by local entrepreneurs taking leadership roles in the recovery efforts.

Ryo Umezawa, one of our Global Shapers, described her experience:

Due to the land collapsing after the earthquake, some parts of the coastal areas in the city of Kesennuma are still flooded and only some of the land can be used for commercial purposes. One of the consequences is the lack of product availability, which has lead to the increase in living costs. However, despite the harsh situation, I met Mr Onodera, an entrepreneur from the city, who is doing his best to jump-start the local economy and increase the rate of employment by rebuilding his coffee shop business. He told us that “wealth” has not returned, but that they can still find happiness. One of the most unforgettable words I heard was that “we cannot live by ourselves, we should live together as a community”.

Tamako Mitarai, a Global Shaper who participated in the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2012 in Davos, Switzerland, organized an event with Noble Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, and Japanese social entrepreneurs in March 2012. The meeting focused on the importance of financial availability for citizens in disaster-affected areas and how local businesses can collaborate with social businesses.

During the session, Yunus said:

The business world is glued to the idea to make more, rushing to make money. Money-making has become an obsession, an addiction…This gives a limited interpretation of people as we are not money-making robots. We need to end this way of thinking and start creating a new kind of business to solve problems. Social business should be an opportunity for everyone, whenever people want to solve problems.”

These words inspired us, especially as many of the Global Shapers in the Tokyo Hub are entrepreneurs working in the field of social business.

The Tokyo Hub also met with former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan during the year, thanks to one of our members, Kazuma Nakatani, who used to be his secretary. The former prime minister shared his experience from the earthquake tragedy. Most of our discussion was about the flow of information during the crisis, how the media was not always accurate and how he had to go to Fukushima to lead recovery efforts. His advice to the Global Shapers: Keep challenging the system for change to come about.

As the next generation, we are the ones who need to act. We will continue to share our activities in the Tokyo Hub with the hope of “shaping the world by connecting with each other”.

Yuito Yamada is a business analyst with McKinsey & Company in Japan and a Global Shaper in the Tokyo hub.