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Sunderland enterprise experts are big in Japan

Date 29 Nov 2007

Sunderland-based enterprise agency SES has been called on to help boost job opportunities in hard-pressed areas in Japan. In a case of Far East meets West, a group of officials from Japan travelled to Wearside on a fact-finding mission to find out how worker-owned businesses – social enterprises – can help create employment.

SES is already well-known among Japanese academics for its expertise in starting and supporting social enterprises in hard-pressed areas in Sunderland and the North East over the past 24 years, and has even been featured in publications produced by Tokyo University.

The Japanese delegates spent half a day talking to staff at SES to learn more about setting up social enterprises and community enterprises, to help local regeneration across Japan.

Professor Ichiro Tsukamoto, from Meiji University in Japan said: "SES is very well know in Japan for all the successful work it has achieved with social enterprises. Research groups from Japan have already been over to visit SES and published articles about what they have learned and we wanted to come back and learn more.

"In many ways we face similar problems in Japan to what you have faced in Sunderland - we have jobless people in areas where there is not a major employer and we want to create new opportunities for people there."

The Japanese trip was organised by the Centre for Development of Power Supply Regions in Tokyo, which has a close relationship with government agencies in Japan.

SES operations director Kevin Marquis said: "For all our cultural differences there are similarities between the North East and parts of Japan in that in the past we have traditionally relied on major employers whereas recently this has changed. At a community level parts of Japan have issues similar to what we encountered in our recent industrial past and they are interested to learn from our experiences."

After their sessions in Sunderland the group went on to visit social enterprise organisations in Cumbria and London before returning to Japan.

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