Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Japan

The Problem

The Great Eastern Earthquake that occurred on March 11th dramatically changed the way Japanese government, corporations, media, and citizens in many ways. One of those was the change in situation surrounding media, especially regarding risk communication, after the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima.
Before the accident, there was no effective collaboration between the public announcement of data by the government, analysis of those by researchers, and delivery of the messages by the media. The government, as well as the media, had been under pressure to make announcements that the technology is safe. However, citizens realized that there is no such thing as “risk free”, but that we have to understand the consequences of applying new technologies with objective and relative viewpoints.
That motivated the citizens and researchers to apply social media such as Ustream and Twitter to 1) collect information, 2) to send out data, and 3) to arrange them so others can easily understand what’s happening. Some volunteers started collecting radiation data and plotted them on the map, a number of researchers and medical doctors specialized in nuclear technology made Twitter accounts and started giving data and their perspectives about what’s happening in Fukushima, and many people spread those information. The government also opened up their press conferences to social media such as Ustream so that the citizens can view the whole conferences instead of watching the edited TV news to make sure that they know everything that’s out there.
However, as the need for raw information and analysis about the current situation got satisfied, people wanted to know the long term effect of the radioactive pollution, the best mix of energy sources for building a sustainable economy, and how Japan can reconstruct itself. There were a lot of concerns about the future of Japan in many ways after the earthquake, many of which needed objective, realistic, yet forward looking viewpoints. The need for more effective tool to describe and understand the complicated “future” has increased.
However, Traditional media such as TV and newspaper tend to focus on current situations, and their description tends to be narrative, hence sometimes too emotional and not scientific. And there were not enough alternative resources for data and analysis that people wanted. There was a need to change the situation.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The solution was to make a platform of “infographics” that depict the future of our society. The term is the combination of “information” and “graphics”. They are graphics that effectively describe complicated data and information.
There are a large number of researchers in Japan who have great visions for the future, but are not necessarily good at communicating them with the public. On the other hand, there are millions of talented graphic designers whose knowledge had not been applied to social issues. This initiative, “infographics that can communicate (a.k.a. TSUTAGRA in Japanese)”, started with inviting researchers and designers to share visions, data and analysis, to make infographics that can communicate the future visions with the public.
TSUTAGRA offers regular workshops of how to make infographics, talk sessions by invited researchers, web based platform for graphic designers to submit their graphics and to make comments to each other. It works as follows; 1) A researcher gives presentation about his/her research and provide the “theme for the month” along with his data and analysis every month. 2) Graphic designers, who saw his presentation onsite/online make infographics using the data provided, and upload them. 3) All graphics are shared and evaluated by the users. 4) The researcher can use the graphics in his research paper and presentation materials. TSUTAGRA has also adopted Creative Commons licenses so that the submitted infographics can be used freely in media, educational materials, research papers etc.
On the top of that, TSUTAGRA works closely with government agencies such as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Healthcare, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). TSUTAGRA uses the data announced by those government agencies, and promotes to make infographics that the agencies could use in their documents and research papers. It also indicates the importance of “Open Government,” where agencies should deliver their data openly and get commitment from public more effectively.
Although the initiative just started on October 31st, it has already gathered over 1,300 members (as of December 2011). It also brought attention of the traditional media community. A group of newspapers, magazines and TV stations invited TSUTAGRA members to their symposium to learn how they can apply infographics.
This initiative is a win-win-win situation to researchers, media and the government, and graphic designers. Researchers can improve their presentation material from using the infographics that the users uploaded according to the “theme of the month”. Media and the government can also use the infographics to make their articles and research papers visually attractive. Graphic designers can not only improve their skill of delivering complicated matters in simple graphics, but also get credits for being used by government research papers and media.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Mika Takagi, Deputy Director at the Creative Industry Division, METI initially proposed the solution. She had been in charge of promoting design and had always been frustrated at the unused talents of graphic designers in Japan. While seeing the dramatic change in the media after the earthquake, she thought of utilizing the talented designers to offer more effective communication tools with data and analysis for media and the government. She talked to Gaku Moriya, Deputy Director at the IT Project Office, METI, and got him involved. Being frustrated at the lack of progress in their open government initiatives regarding statistics data, he agreed on her idea and decided to take this forward.
They then talked to Chiaki Hayashi, co-founder and COO of loftwork Inc. and Asia-Pacific regional manager of Creative Commons, to check the feasibility of the idea. She also agreed on the idea. As loftwork runs the leading online platform for over 16,000 graphic designers to work together, they were assured of dynamic collaboration with the designers. After official agreement with METI, loftwork Inc. implemented the initiative and designed the whole process of matching researchers with designers, letting designers upload and share their graphics, communicating those with the wider audiences, collaborating with government agencies, etc.
Advisory board is also an important supporting force for the initiative. It consists of professionals from various fields: Toshiya Fukuda, worldly awarded art director of interactive design, and Sadao Tsuchiya, popular concept maker in Japan.
The project eventually got bigger and bigger by involving many people who were inspired by the idea. One of them is Mr. Hiroyuki Kimura, a graphic designer specialized in infographics. He came to the first talk session and has become its supporter. He now offers workshops for TSUTAGRA users on how to make infogrphics. TSUTAGRA also works with professors at art universities for their education and training. Some graphic design classes have joined TSUTAGRA and the students upload their infographics as assignments.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
Its objective was to inspire Japanese government officials, researchers, designers, people in the media industry, and the citizens and improve their media literacy by providing online and offline platforms for learning, making and sharing infographics. There were three strategies to implement this idea;

1. To let designers know that they have more roles in the public, in addition to working for their clients.
Loftwork has more than 16,000 professional designers in its online-based sharing platform. In addition, the company also has been running the “Open Creative University” website, where everyone can teach and learn creative topics on-site/offsite using web technologies such as Ustream. TSUTAGRA fully used these resources and acquired over 1,300 users in the first 2 months.
TSUTAGRA also established an advisory board that consists of opinion leaders in Japan, such as art directors and concept makers. The board members used social media to spread this idea, and also used their connection with professors at art universities to encourage students to join the project. There are 3 institutions that join TSUTAGRA as part of their graphic design classes.

2. To motivate media/government people to use infographics to have more effective communication
TSUTAGRA implemented strategic public communication. It held a press conference and broadcasted the whole thing on internet when the website opened, and got a lot of media attention. (The press conference itself was interactive; they accepted questions from the viewers of live web broadcasting.)
Regarding the collaboration with government agencies, Mika Takagi talked to a number of statistic bureaus in the government that are in charge of providing statistic data and publishing white papers. None of them had cared about how their data is used by the public, or how their papers look. But Takagi worked intensively to persuade them and they gradually came to undertand the benefit of working with designers.

3. To empower researchers by helping them improve their presentation with infographics
TSUTAGRA advisory board searched for researchers who have future visions with supporting data but are not good at communicating those with the general public. The board members then talked them into sharing their stories with designers so that they can improve their presentations. Initially those researchers were reluctant in sharing their presentation file and data on internet, but eventually got inspired by the responses from TSUTAGRA community, and appreciated the infographics made by them.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
March 2011: Concept
Mika Takagi conceived of the idea “Infographics for the future of Japan” while watching the changes of media after the earthquake.

April: Initial research
Mika Takagi talked to graphic designers and researchers to find out their needs and planned the initial structure of the project.

May: Seek funding
Gaku Moriya got involved and he negotiated with Open Government Project to allocate the budget for the infographic initiative.

June: Sought ideas from the public
Takagi and Moriya set the framework and called for companies who could build the website and offline community.

July: Contract
Loftwork Inc.’s application got through and they contracted with METI.

August: First board
Loftwork, along with the officials from METI, gathered board members that could bring researchers, designers, manage the communication, and spread this idea to general public. The board decided to call this project “TSUTAGRA” (abbreviation of Tsutawaru Infographics. Tsutawaru means “Communicable”.) and planned the whole steps going forward.

September: First talk session by two researchers
TSUTAGRA hosted a talk session by two handpicked researchers. One talked about “Eco-Dilemma”, and the other talked about “Shrinking Japan”. These became the first “themes for the month”, for which designers try to make infographics. Key persons such as graphic design professionals attended the talk session, and the project started to spread by word of mouth since then. TSUTAGRA also started bringing in those professionals who came to the event.

October: Site opened
www.tsutagra.go.jp opened on October 31st, with the two themes, presentation videos and related data provided by the two researchers from the first event. Users started uploading infographics related to the two themes.

November: First workshop
Tsutagra hosted a workshop about how to make infographics. The lecturer was Hiroyuki Kimura, who happened to join the first talk session and got involved.

December: Tsutagra Conference
TSUTAGRA invited its users and hosted a conference about sharing and evaluating the graphics they uploaded. Kenya Hara, a globally respected graphic designer, made comments and suggestions. 89 people came (it was oversubscribed and there was a large number of people who could not attend), 176 watched on Ustream. There are 1315 members on Facebook (as of Dec. 26th)

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The main obstacle was to persuade government officials in the statistic bureaus of the government. They had no idea that their statistics and white papers could be improved by working with designers, hence had not thought about separating the design process and pay separately when they print their white papers. They solicit bids from printing companies and take the lowest price offer. Layout and design of the paper is included in the price and the contractors do not put effort on the design since they have no incentive to do so after getting the contract.
When they were asked to collaborate with TSUTAGRA, they were concerned that they would need to pay for something that they had no idea about. They were also concerned that they would have to deal with complicated copyright issues. As they learned that the site was a fully open platform and that they could use Creative Commons License, they finally realized that this was not about money or rights, and that this was more about how the white papers should look, and how they should appeal to and communicate with their readers.
Now TSUTAGRA banner is shown on the top of METI website, and it is planning to collaborate with government agencies to improve their research documents and white papers with infographics.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Financial costs:
It cost about $100,000 for building the effective and secured website, and about $100,000 for running the website, planning and executing monthly activities for 8 months.

Technical costs:
Open source programs are fully utilized for the platform. Key architecture was developed with WordPress, and was added BuddyPress plug-in for community functions. As the website deals with governmental data, security and reliability measures were of some challenges.

Human resources costs:
1 full-time project manager and 2 part-time technical directors for the initial platform development. For running phase, 1 full-time project manager, 2 part-time members for social media management and networking, and 1 technical director. The advisory member spends about one day per month.

All resources are mobilized by utilizing Internet and social network as much as possible. Everybody in the project were heavy social network users and knew how to use them effectively for communication among them and with the general public.
Also, Loftwork uses Project Management Professional (PMP)®, an international credential issued by Project Management Institute in the US. PMI’s Project Management Professional credential is the most globally recognized and demanded certification for project managers in many industries. Loftwork executes all of its projects in conformity with the Project Management Body of knowledge, structured by PMI, which means that the projects are executed in the most effective and efficient way. Tsutagra benefited from Loftwork’s experience in project management in many ways such as the communication among its members using cloud etc.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
TSUTAGRA is financially, socially and economically, culturally, environmentally, institutionally and regulatory sustainable as shown below. Hence the model is totally replicable.

Financial sustainability:
Many companies and organizations offered to sponsor the project so that they can provide the “theme for the month” and gather infographics that can help their documents look better. It can be applied to many different themes that have market opportunities (For example, tourism need good infographics such as metro maps and signage at museums.). Also, TSUTAGRA can be a marketplace for finding talented graphic designers. There are organizations that are willing to pay the designers.

Social and economic sustainability:
There are people who voluntarily want to design and share their infographics, and there are other people who want to comment on, spread to the public, or even improve them under the CC license.

Cultural sustainability:
Users can use TSUTAGRA to exchange their ideas, discuss and make future visions. Hence it develops sharing and forward-looking culture that is needed in Japanese young community.

Environmental sustainability:
TSUTAGRA is an online community and it is totally environmentally sustainable.

Institutional and regulatory:
As described above, it is a win-win-win situation to researchers, media and the government, and graphic designers. It can involve universities, government agencies, media corporations, other organizations, and designers without much cost and with large benefits. Also, it uses Creative Commons to both abide by the copyright and yet enable users to easily spread the graphics or even to make derivative works.

TSUTAGRA has been fully sponsored by METI, but is planning to have organizational sponsors in the second year. Those sponsors will be able to set themes for the month, collect infographics, and use good ones in their documents etc., in return. It had already been approached by media corporations, research organizations, art universities, R&D divisions of manufacturing to look into collaboration opportunities.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The biggest impact is considered to be how it attracted young talented designers and researchers in Japan and created a motivated and forward looking community by the word of mouth effect.
The key element was that the project combined online/offline settings effectively. We tend to overvalue the social network; they are good at connecting people, but we still need to have offline (real) settings to call people into action. Loftwork has lots of experience in this regard. Since they manage their design projects online, they knew how they should offer offline workshops and gatherings occasionally. TSUTAGRA project used Loftwork’s Open Creative University venue for workshops, and that resulted in motivating people to spread the word even further. TSUTAGRA members learned the importance of seeking for the best balance of online/offline settings.

The second yet important impact was that the initiative affected people in the media industry, and public relations officers at the ministries.
The key element for that lies in the project’s openness. It is always difficult to confirm the level of outcome when contracting with designers. That is why most organizations are reluctant to work with designers. With this project, we tried to be fully open to the public. Anybody can see who drew what infographics. But the important part is that they use Creative Commons license; media and the government agencies do not have to worry about the complicated copyright issues. They can pick from what they see on the website, and use the graphics according to the CC license chosen by the designer. It is also beneficial for designers since they can say that their graphics were used by the media or the Ministry and that can be in their portfolio works.
TSUTAGRA project members learned that it is important to investigate the bottlenecks of using design. For that, they needed to talk to the people who they wanted to change and see what they were afraid of. It is not that they don’t agree with the objectives of the project and they do not join; there are usually other reasons for preventing them to do that although they like the idea.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Japan
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Mika Takagi
Title:   Deputy Director, Creative Industries Division  
Telephone/ Fax:   +81-3-3501-1750
Institution's / Project's Website:   www.tsutagra.go.jp
E-mail:   takagi-mika@meti.go.jp  
Address:   1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
Postal Code:   100-8901
City:   Tokyo
Country:   Japan

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