2023 Summer School - "Glocalising Kyoto"

From 21 – 25 August 2023 we had 21 GLOCALs attend the 2023 edition of the GLOCAL Summer School. This week-long school takes place at the end of students’ first year of GLOCAL. It is organised by a different partner university each year and includes visiting professors from associate partners from around the world. You can find out more about previous editions of the summer school here.

The topic is decided on an annual basis and relates to trends and issues of the moment. This year’s topic was ‘Transforming Kansai: Resilience, Revitalisation and Reimagining Growth in a Mature Economy’. Read on for more info on this summer school, and a special thanks to Laura Ortiz from our 2021-2023 cohort for the great photos!

As Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto is often (self-)promoted as a repository of Japanese traditional culture, or a ‘kimono-scape of wood, lacquer and manicured stone gardens’ in the words of the Financial Times. However, it’s also a strikingly modern city with a vibrant start-up ecosystem that’s home to many internationally competitive ‘hidden champions’ in the life sciences and creative industries. Together with the neighbouring Kansai cities of Osaka and Kobe, these three cities’ transformations into important hubs of economics, technology, and the arts afford us the opportunity to reimagine an alternative paradigm on growth.

Japan has been at the forefront of dealing with many challenges faced my mature economies, including population aging, social and environmental sustainability, and intense international industrial competition. Through all this, Japan has remained dynamic and resilient in renegotiating its cultural and economic relevance globally, amidst numerous risks and uncertainties, including natural disasters.

As for Kyoto itself, it is in many ways a ‘global city’. Since the late nineteenth century international visitors have flocked to Kyoto for trade and tourism and the city is now world-renowned as a repository of Japanese culture and craft, much of which is now recognized as “World Heritage”. Though Kyoto is better known as a centre of Japanese tradition, it is also a strikingly modern city boasting several leading universities and research institutes and has produced iconic companies such as Nintendo and leading international firms (among them “hidden champions”) such as Kyocera and Shimadzu.

Whilst all of this has emerged during a period of intense globalization, there is a sense that Kyoto has not fully taken advantage of the benefits of its status as a “global city” nor realized its vision in this regard. Kyoto, like much of Japan, has struggled to attract inward foreign direct investment (inward FDI to Japan was 5% of GDP in 2020 compared to an OECD average of 57.8%) and the city is on the verge of bankruptcy.

As a host to several protected heritage sites, including temples and shrines, the city is unable to effectively collect tax revenue from much of the urban landscape. Furthermore, whilst these heritage sites attract tens of millions of tourists to Kyoto each year, boosting the local economy, the city often struggles to cope with these numbers, a phenomenon described as “overtourism”. Residents (and some visitors) complain of problems such as the overcrowding of walkways, public transportation and facilities, as well as the sometimes-behaviour of visitors.

With all of this in mind, participants of this summer school were invited to observe and experience for themselves the current situation of Kyoto as a “global city”, offering their thoughts on the following question:

What can Kyoto (the city, its residents and businesses, etc.) do to better take advantage of the benefits of being a “global city” and alleviate the problems?

Participants were split into groups, with each group making a presentation on the summer school’s final day. They were free to select a format but encouraged to focus on the following:

  • Observations/reflections based on company visits and speaker presentations. What do they identify as problems/solutions for issues that Kyoto, the Kansai region, and Japan face?
  • Reflections from their own experiences living in other cities, including their hometown and other places they’ve lived (for example during their time with GLOCAL). They were asked to consider if there’s anything Kyoto is doing well or badly compared to those places, or if there were initiatives in those places that Kyoto can learn from
  • Reflect on the problem of “overtourism” in Kyoto. Groups visited a specific site on the Thursday and spent time in the city throughout the week, and were asked to comment on their experience, what could have been improved, and what Kyoto was doing well.
  • At the end of the week, students received a diploma upon completing the summer school which you can see in the photos below.

Finally, here are some more of our favourite photos of the week, thank you to Laura Ortiz for taking them.

Teo Does an Internship at Tante Nino in Rotterdam

GLOCAL student Teona Chakvetadze recently completed an internship at Tante Nino in Rotterdam in the Netherlands – she wrote about her experience below.

My internship experience at Tante Nino has been nothing short of transformative. From the moment I stepped into this dynamic cultural foundation, I was welcomed with open arms by the visionary founder, Nino Purtskhvanidze. Tante Nino’s mission to celebrate diversity and foster human connections resonated deeply with me, and throughout my internship, I had the privilege of contributing to its remarkable journey.

What sets Tante Nino apart are the events that I had the honour of organising and participating in. From the captivating ‘Voiceless’ performance to the sustainability-driven ‘The WERF,’ and the mesmerizing ‘South Explorer’ evenings, each event left an indelible mark on me. The pinnacle of my internship was the surreal opportunity to attend the Cannes International Film Festival, marrying my academic interests with real-world connections.

I deeply thank Nino and her husband, Peter Jan Smith, for their unwavering support and belief in my potential. Tante Nino is not just an institution; it’s a family that nurtures growth, celebrates uniqueness, and promotes unity through creative endeavours. My internship has been a life-changing chapter, enriching me both professionally and personally. I am honoured to have been part of Tante Nino’s legacy, and I am excited to see the foundation continue to bridge cultures and create lasting connections.

Collaborative Dissertations: Ken Explores Social & Environmental Impacts of a Sawmill in North Argentina

GLOCAL students have the option to do a collaborative dissertation – these are similar to a normal dissertation but also involve an institution or organisation where a student undertakes a placement. The dissertation then centres around a topic or a field of research that the organisation focuses on, with the materials, knowledge, resources, and expertise on the matter being accessible to the student as they work for the organisation. In short, collaborative dissertations are a unique opportunity to conduct research and learn from an organisation that specialises in that area in the process. You can find out more about GLOCAL dissertations here.

We recently caught up with GLOCAL Cohort V student Ken Goigner, who used his collaborative dissertation to investigate the social and environmental impacts of a softwood sawmill in the north of Argentina. We recently caught up with Ken to talk about his collaborative dissertation, how he found his placement, the skills he gained in the process, and his tips for students about to start their GLOCAL journey – read his thoughts below.

Tell us a bit about your collaborative dissertation subject and why you chose it?

My collaborative dissertation aims to investigate the social and environmental impacts of a softwood sawmill in the north of Argentina. I chose this dissertation subject since the timber industry has the potential to play a significant role in the green transition, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly economy. Timber is a renewable resource that can substitute for carbon-intensive materials and energy sources. For me personally, it is very rewarding to be part of a research project that takes environmental stewardship and emphasis sustainable practices. I am really honoured to be working with Acon Timber in Argentina as this allows me to combine my passions about sustainabilty and timber within a Latin American context.

Tell us a bit about the process of finding your placement?

I started to look for opportunities abroad by consulting the Austrian commerce chambers in Latin America. Through the office in Buenos Aires, I came into contact with Acon Timber, a subsidiary of the Austrian timber company HS Timber Group. After an initiative application, several interviews followed to stake out mutual interests and define the framework of collaboration.

What skills do you feel you have gained as a result of doing a collaborative dissertation?

Engaging in a collaborative dissertation provides an opportunity to develop a diverse set of skills that go beyond traditional academic research. I learnt to effectively communicate my research ideas, progress, and findings to diverse audiences with varying needs. I also gained practical research skills that are directly applicable to real-world situations by adapting research methods to address industry challenges and produce actionable outcomes. Another important skill is the ability to navigate the dynamic nature of industry partnerships, adjust research plans as per evolving priorities, and accommodate feedback from different stakeholders. Finally, collaborative dissertations require adhering to ethical considerations, confidentiality agreements, and professional standards through which I learnt to maintain research integrity and uphold professional conduct.

How do you balance your placement with other elements of GLOCAL and other commitments?

Collaborative dissertations often require coordinating multiple tasks, timelines, and resources. Through effective project management, including setting goals, planning research activities, allocating resources, and meeting deadlines I manage to balance the needs and expectations of both academic and industry partners, ensuring the smooth progress of the research project.

Why should people study GLOCAL in 2023?

GLOCAL allow students to explore and integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines ranging from business, history, and sustainability. It offers a holistic approach to understanding complex global topics, as it combines insights, theories, and methodologies from various fields. This integration can lead to a deeper understanding of the subject matter and the ability to see connections and patterns that might be missed when studying within a single discipline. Furthermore, GLOCAL offers their students the opportunity to immerse themselves in different cultural and academic environments and gain a global perspective. Studying abroad can broaden one’s horizons, foster cross-cultural understanding, and enhance personal and professional development. If you want to become part of the international GLOCAL family, take the next step and apply for this unique opportunity!

And finally, what tips would you have for people about to start their GLOCAL journey in September? Why should they consider doing a collaborative dissertation?

I advise you to think about why you want to participate in the GLOCAL program and to check in with those reasons frequently, to make sure you stick to the goals you established for yourself at the beginning. GLOCAL give much freedom of scope, therefore it’s up to each of us to seize the chance and make the program our own program! I can heartily advise making the extra effort to contact organizations and businesses that express interest in collaborating with you on your dissertation. This will enhance your research, equip you with essential professional skills and provide the opportunity to take part in research that may directly impact industry practices.