Saturday, 7 November 2009

Working my way back to you

I've been a little light on the work related posts lately, as I've been very busy trying to knock out a working draft of my final report -and that's just the English version. The chief is also looking to publish some of my work before I complete my assignment, so the pressure is on to dot the "I"s and cross the "T"s on my manuscript. Getting this all done within the next three weeks will be no mean feat. I will also be presenting at the next board meeting which will be held on Friday, after I have a meeting with the Secretary-general of one of the big Japanese human/minority rights NGOs.

Anyway, I thought I'd fill you in on a little of what I've been up to. I've hashed out a general idea of the organisational theory of change. Now, the process of a theory of change based evaluation basically involves conducting a context analysis, constructing organisation theories of change, identifying assumptions and testing validity by seeing how well it fits the context.

Tracking down information to test the theory of change has been quite a challenge so far. It's been good work for the noggin though. The basic theory of the organisation seems to be that a transformative change in the opinions and attitudes of a critical mass of the Japanese population will lead to a transformative change in the immigration policy framework. More specifically a change in key individuals in the media (mainly national newspapers) who act as gatekeepers to the dissemination of information can be leveraged (in addition to direct lobbying, or nemawashi as the chief prefers to call it) to change the attitudes and opinions of elites, policymakers, and the population at large. Pressure from elites and members of the public, will lead to transformation on the socio-political level, which in turn will lead to synthesis of new policy framework.

I test the theory basically by asking myself, what needs to be true for B to come as a result of A. For example that articles in national newspapers will lead to a change in thinking about immigration. One of the main assumptions would have to be that newspapers are considered a credible source of information in Japan. Another would be that information and opinion in newspapers have influence.

There is some evidence to support those notions. The mass media remains a powerful institution in the Japanese context. Numerous researchers (Russell 1991, Murphy-Shigematsu 1993; Yamashita 1996; Tsuda 2003; Shipper 2005, Hyung Gu 2006; Maeshima 2009) present information that points to the influence of the mass media over Japanese public opinion.

According to a 2005 survey carried by the Japanese public broadcaster NHK 93% of the population watches television at least once a day, (a 2007 poll by the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association (NSK) puts the figure at 91.3%) while the nation on average watches 3 hours and 43 minutes of television every day. Japanese newspapers have an extraordinarily high diffusion rate, with a per capita circulation of at least 528 newspapers per 1000 people according to the latest data from the NSK. Information from the same organisation provided good evidence that a solid majority of Japanese (60.7%) see newspapers as having influence over society. Though only 36.8% think they can trust the information provided by this medium, newspapers are the single most trusted form of media after NHK which 38.5% of respondents saw as providing trustworthy information.

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