Lessons Learned: The 2011 Disaster in Tohoku, Japan

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Over the past year there has been an influx of volunteers, organizations and money to help Tohoku. This paper aims to look back at the response to the March 11 (“3.11”) disaster and share Give2Asia’s lessons learned. Through this, we hope to help philanthropists identify opportunities for further impact and the general improvement of organizations working in Tohoku and other disaster-affected communities around the world.

  1. Build Back Better:

    To some extent, philanthropy and volunteers have closed the gap vacated by the government in building Tohoku back better. There is a new movement of organizations and entrepreneurs working together across Japan to help increase innovation and enterprise for the economic revitalization of the disaster-affected region.

  2. Understand Local Contexts & Involve Local Communities:

    Build trust with local leaders and organizations for effective delivery of assistance. Respect and involve survivors. Understand and respect local cultures and norms.

  3. Strengthen Local Capacity:

    Philanthropists responding to the disaster should consider how their support can build the capacity of the social sector in Japan, thus strengthening its ability to respond to future natural disasters, continue recovery from this disaster, and better manage everyday issues.

  4. Balance Relief & Recovery:

    The recovery in Japan will take many years. Survivors need ongoing support to rebuild their lives over the medium and long term.

  5. Assess & Support Unmet Needs:

    One role of philanthropy after a disaster is to address unmet needs and serve the most vulnerable. As a rule of thumb, after a disaster, previously vulnerable populations become more vulnerable and social or systemic issues are typically exacerbated.

  6. Support Social Leaders & Leadership Development:

    Out of necessity and uncertainty, people are stepping into new leadership roles. This is an opportunity for philanthropy to support change agents and innovators.

  7. Consider Volunteer Training & Coordination Programs:

    Philanthropy should consider supporting volunteer training and coordination programs that will better prepare volunteers for future relief and recovery efforts.

  8. Support Disaster Preparedness & Planning:

    Disaster preparedness and planning is applicable to all organizations and projects. In Japan, although there is a government mandate for disaster planning, the neighborhood associations responsible for managing the disaster planning vary.

Download the Full “Lessons Learned” Report

“Lessons Learned: The 2011 Disasters in Tohoku, Japan” is written by Give2Asia’s disaster response lead Gillian Yeoh, and expands on Give2Asia’s lessons-learned from working within Tohoku. The report identifies the unique challenges and opportunities of disaster response in Japan. Click here to download. (PDF, 169Kb)

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