Daichi Konuma and Yuka Matsushima founded Cross Fields in May 2011. From the time the two first encountered nonprofits and businesses in the developing countries, to when they established their organization with the mission, “To develop leaders who make a difference to their organizations and create social value,” the journey was long and winding.
The gap he felt after returning from Syria
Aspiring to be a teacher since high school, Konuma first participated in the volunteering program of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to broaden his perspective after graduating from university. There, he met two business management consultants from Germany, who were delegated from their company as temporary CEO and CFO of the NGO where he worked. Witnessing the way the consultants passionately addressed issues with the local community, Konuma discovered that something extraordinary happens when the world of business and nonprofits come together.
After returning to Japan, Konuma passionately recounted his experience in Syria to his friends. To his surprise, the reaction of his friends who began their life as corporate employees was detached and distant. He was shocked to find how much they have transformed from the time they enthusiastically talked about changing the world for the better. Determined to uphold the passion of his friends, he began the study group, “Compass Point,” where they meet and discuss with social entrepreneurs.
The attraction towards nonprofit since childhood
Matsushima’s first encounter with a nonprofit was back in middle school, when her father founded an organization in Cambodia. When she went to visit the local site, what she saw was charismatic grown-ups toiling away to make the society a better place. Excited by her experience, she told her story to her friends, but their remark was, “Nonprofit sounds fishy.” Disheartened by not being able to share her enthusiasm, Matsushima began to dream of a society where nonprofits and their values are more accepted.
After entering university, Matsushima joined a nonprofit for international cooperation. There, she saw a new type of nonprofit that operates with both passion and knowledge, and supported by pro bono. Realizing that the power of business will accelerate the activities of nonprofits, Matsushima resolved to aim for the world of business to gain business skills.
Bridging nonprofits and businesses
The life of these two founders, who led different lives, accidentally crossed path at an unusual place: a job interview at a consulting firm. When they shared their ideas of building their own capacity by acquiring business skills to change the society, they connected instantly. Konuma invited Matsushima to his study group, “Compass Point.”
After three years of its operation, some key members of Compass Point began a project to support a nonprofit with Matsushima as a project leader. While planning and managing the project with the members, she realized there are many corporate employees who wanted to contribute to the society with their skill and time. The project saw success, and Konuma and Matsushima strengthened their belief that business skills can bring benefits to nonprofits and their activity. They began to envision a model where there are more opportunities for nonprofits and businesses to connect.
At last, the decision to start an organization, but…
After numerous discussion with members of Compass Point, Konuma and Matsushima’s vision became the mission of Cross Fields. They came up with the idea of “Corporate Volunteering Program” which delegates Japanese corporate employees to NGOs/Social Enterprises in emerging countries. With it as the main activity of their organization, the two began the preparation. In order to determine if there was needs for such program, the two met with corporates during the daytime to make their proposals, then reconvened for meetings at night, day after day. After multiple visits, one company finally said they would consider it, and with this, they decided to start an organization. And on March 11, Konuma just finished writing his emails to notify his resignation from his company, when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck.
With the disaster of unprecedented magnitude, Konuma and Matsushima saw their schedules as well as the possible launch of the program falling into pieces. The two was flabbergasted with such a sudden turn of events. Determined to do what they can, they began to support a nonprofit for emergency assistance.
In May, after Konuma returned to Tokyo from the disaster-stricken area, he and Matsushima hid behind the door of a rental meeting space and began to revise their business plan. This is the very moment Cross Fields began its journey.
The passion that gradually spread to their fellows
When the two founders were toiling away to make CVP a reality, the members of Compass Point were there to support them. The members began to introduce companies for the two to present their activity. Even after 100 and many more rejections, the founders were able to persist and continued proposing their ideas because of the support and encouragement of their fellows.
Then came the big turning point. The two met an employee of Panasonic Corporation that was considering the launch of CVP. This employee had the passion to solve social issues of emerging countries through his work. Sharing the concept of CVP with the founders, the employee actively began work to get internal consent. This worked the magic and in February 2012, the very first CVP volunteer was dispatched from Panasonic to a Social Enterprise in Vietnam.
The challenges of Cross Fields going forward
In five years since the very first project of CVP, Cross Fields saw collaboration with more than 60 organizations across Asia, with the participation of 100 volunteers from nearly 30 Japanese corporates.
At Cross Fields, where everything began with the passion of two people, team members, NGOs/Social Enterprises and corporate partners who share the aspiration have come together, and more projects are beginning after CVP.
Cross Fields will move forward step-by-step with our partners and team, as we aspire for the society where every person realizes one’s passion through his or her work, as well as the world where nonprofit and businesses collaborate to solve social issues