Core Components of the AAI: Kokorozashi and Ashinaga Proposal
The Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI) is more than just a scholarship, it is a leadership program that aims to help AAI Scholars unleash their potential and work on causes they consider worth addressing. Ashinaga has created a movement of young and highly driven leaders who are eager to drive positive change on the continent. Throughout their time with Ashinaga, AAI Scholars receive career coaching and the support they need to develop their leadership skills.
To guide this process, Ashinaga built the Leadership Development Framework. This document outlines Ashinaga’s ideal of leadership while reminding Scholars that they can be true leaders even before they reach an advanced stage of their career. In addition to their academic studies, Scholars have a range of activities they take part in. Among these are the Preparation Year, the annual summer camps, called tsudoi, the internship in Africa, and the Ashinaga Proposal. Throughout their academic journey, Ashinaga Scholars can rely on the continuous support from the Professional Network Development, a team dedicated to their professional growth and learning.
One of the pillars of the AAI is Scholars’ commitment to positively contribute to the betterment of their communities. This commitment translates to the development of their kokorozashi, a Japanese concept that stands for a lifelong dream to help others and generate positive change. The Scholars get to follow their intellectual curiosity and research a cause they would like to contribute to. This process is marked by their Ashinaga Proposal, a concrete plan to address an issue they identified and would like to address. This culminates with the Ashinaga Proposal Presentation, which they do before graduation. The goal behind this is for the Scholars to develop the skills that will help them be agents of change, including critical thinking, research and writing skills, entrepreneurial mindset, and problem-solving.
An AAI Scholar from Mozambique recently presented his Ashinaga Proposal, describing his aim to set up an irrigation system in his home country using windmills. The Scholar plans to start the project as a nonprofit and support communities living near rivers. His plan includes contributing to Mozambique’s food self-sufficiency and leveraging the underutilized resources the country has to offer while creating jobs in the agriculture sector. According to the Scholar, developing his Proposal was a rich learning experience. He talked to experts in the field, allowing him to critical think and learn project management skills. He hopes to bring this project to life in the short term and aims to continue contributing positively to his community.
Ashinaga Proposals are a milestone for AAI Scholars who are invited to share their kokorozashi with Ashinaga staff for feedback and guidance. It is the first step for Scholars to work towards turning their dreams for the Continent into reality, and pay forward the support they have received back to their communities.