Carissa McLane Connelly, MUP/MDes 2018

Summer 2017

Organization: Ibasho, Washington, DC

Sponsor: Doebele Community Service Fellowship

“About Ibasho: Ibasho’s work is rooted in unlocking the potential elders can contribute to improve the physical and social infrastructures of their communities. Implementing and managing an Ibasho project empowers elders, providing a way for them to become useful and relevant members of the community. It also strengthens the community by drawing on a new pool of knowledge, experience and volunteer hours that make it stronger—and more resilient in the event and aftermath of a natural disaster.

The first Ibasho project, founded in Japan in 2010 after the tsunami, includes an elder-created and managed community hub, a café, a vegetable garden, a farmers’ market, a ramen noodle shop, a daycare, an evacuation center, and a community resource center in which elders teach cultural traditions to younger people. Ibasho projects are in development in Nepal and the Philippines.

Short-term goal: Within the next three to five years, Ibasho will add demonstration projects in several countries. We will also develop toolkits and training materials driven by lessons learned from implementation and research in those countries. In order to adapt what we have learned and scale the Ibasho model with local community members in a cultural sensitive manner, we will first need to invest in some basic infrastructure for the effective operation.

Long-term goal: Our social goal is to create a shared future in which we do not have to fear becoming isolated and socially irrelevant as we age. To achieve this goal, we envision creating both networks of local elders who contribute to their own communities and a global peer-to-peer knowledge/skills exchange network among groups of elders.

Week 1 fellowship activities: Ibasho Founder, Emi Kiyota, and I took a few days during my first week for a working retreat in New Hampshire. We spent the time processing historical information about Ibasho, doing market research, and discussing key findings. This included comparable organization models and services, costs, and what fees could be reasonably charged as a non-profit and as a social enterprise. By the end of the week we had a draft concept paper that combines Ibasho’s current non-profit work with a mission-driven for-profit arm that would diversify financing options.”