One day, I received an individual strawberry as a gift from someone in Tokyo.

While this was a lovely gesture, there was one slight issue…

The strawberry was — no joke— wrapped in 5 pieces of plastic.

A single strawberry wrapped in 5 pieces of plastic. Hmmmm…

A few hours later, I was sat on my living room floor, trying to mentally digest what was going on here… How could it take 5 pieces of packaging (which would take hundreds of years to decompose) to safeguard one, albeit beautiful, strawberry? Is the Japanese fruit industry really that fraught with danger?

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry… But after…

Isn’t it kind of strange that organisations define themselves first and foremost by what they are NOT?

That would be like me saying “Well, I am NOT a doctor” when people ask me what I do for work.

The word “profit” comes from the Latin word prōfectus, which means progress.

So, in an etymological sense, a “nonprofit” or “not-for-profit” organisation would actually focus on non-advancement… Hmmm.

To be clear, I am not saying in any way that we should abolish non-profit organisations. Coming from a professional background in this sector, I can confidently say that these organisations provide enormous value…

$30,000. 30 days. 1 mission. What I learnt from running a Kickstarter campaign that was funded in 48 hours.

I’d always wanted to do a crowdfunding campaign. Having seen so many brilliant ideas come to life through the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, I’d been drawn to the idea for years.

That being said, the conversations I had with experienced and crowdfunding-savvy friends all had one thread in common: crowdfunding is hard work.

Having heeded this warning, my co-founder and I cautiously embarked on our own campaign with a small team of eco-warriors and a delusional sense of optimism.

The experience was exhausting, exhilarating, and terrifying — but ultimately very rewarding, in so many ways. We hit our target…

Launching something is never easy. Here are some important (and sometimes painful) lessons I’ve learnt building mymizu.

I should start off by saying that I don’t have all the answers.

This is not a “how-to” guide. We’re still very much figuring things out, so these are more just some honest reflections after 16 months of launching and running mymizu — a social venture with a mission to reduce single-use plastic, starting with PET bottles.

First, I’ll lay out the facts. As of January 2021:

  • We’ve tracked the reduction of 100,000+ PET bottles, gained users across 45 countries, and built a network of 200,000 water refill points around the globe, including 750+ partner cafes, restaurants and other businesses.

To survive and thrive in the 21st Century, companies must manage physical, transition and liability risks from climate change.

Over the past few years, I’ve been researching climate and disaster risk as a consultant at an inter-governmental organisation. While I’ve been involved in this space for almost a decade, the things I’ve learnt have never felt so relevant than they do today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only turned society on its head, but it has also served as a strong reminder of the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) of the modern world — characteristics that embody the exact opposite of an ideal operating environment for business.

While many companies — both big and small — will not…

COVID-19 is impacting communities across Japan. Here’s how you can support those who are most affected and vulnerable.

10 ways to donate to coronavirus relief in Japan

Along with much of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to wreak havoc in Japan. The healthcare system may soon be tested to its limits, and there will likely be serious implications for the country’s economic and social welfare.

As with any large-scale disaster, it’s often the most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected; whether it be loss of income, food insecurity, or gender-based violence, there are many people in a tough situation right now as we try and quell the spread of the virus.

As a former humanitarian aid worker, people have been reaching out asking if I know…

Stay connected even when communication lines are down

Damage from Typhoon Faxai (台風15号) in September 2019 (Photo: MSN)

Sending, sharing and accessing information is critical in emergency situations.

If your area is hit by a major disaster, there’s a high chance that mobile communications networks will go down due to either damage to infrastructure or overcrowding.

After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, for example, I only managed to get through to my family after using Skype, as phone services were out of action.

Introductory video about 00000Japan (in English)

This is an example of how Japan’s free disaster WiFi service “00000Japan” (Five Zero Japan) can help those affected by large-scale disasters, whether it be flooding or an…

A guide to volunteering, philanthropy and social impact opportunities in Japan.

Whether you’re living in or travelling through Japan, there are plenty of opportunities to give back to the community and connect with like-minded people around social and environmental issues. Below is a list of volunteer opportunities, fundraising challenges and events where you can get involved — even if you don’t speak Japanese.

Volunteer Opportunities

From animal welfare to organic farming, here’s a list of volunteer opportunities for non-Japanese speakers in Japan.

1. Second Harvest Japan

Japan may not be known for its thriving social entrepreneurship scene, but if you know where to look, there’s a lot going on…

But wait — what exactly is a ‘Social Business’?

A simple, comprehensive definition is:

“A business whose purpose is to solve social problems in a financially sustainable way.”

Unlike a traditional corporation, the prime aim of a social business is not to maximize profits — it is to address a social or environmental challenge (such as those embodied in the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals).

And unlike a non-profit, a social business is not dependent on donations or grant money to survive and operate. Profits in…

Japan, known as the land of disasters (災害大国), is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. From earthquakes to tsunamis and typhoons, these natural phenomena are deeply ingrained in the nation’s history, culture and consciousness (e.g. the myth of the earthquake-inducing catfish).

Over centuries, Japan has accumulated invaluable knowledge and experience in coping with all sorts of disasters; a skill-set that is becoming increasingly important given the rise in climate and disaster vulnerability across developed, middle- and low-income countries alike.

One concept that has gained significant attention from around the world in recent decades is the “Jijo, Kyojo…

Robin Lewis

Co-founder @ mymizu | Co-founder @ Social Innovation Japan | Consultant @ World Bank | Social Impact, Disasters, Climate, Humanitarian Aid, Storytelling Japan

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