Fujitsu Group started tropical rainforest regeneration activities on Malaysia's island of Borneo in 2002. This report describes Fujitsu's first ideathon workshop there, where under the theme of "Using Technology to Grow Forests," a team composed of members from many countries developed various ideas.
Fujitsu Group's Tropical Rainforest Regeneration Activities
Since 2002, Fujitsu Group has been conducting tropical rainforest regeneration activities in the Fujitsu Group Malaysia Eco-Forest Park located on Malaysia's island of Borneo. These efforts have been carried out in cooperation with the Sabah Forestry Development Authority (SAFODA) to conserve and restore biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Activities include the planting of 37,500 saplings of native species across an area of about 150 hectares in order to regenerate the original tropical rainforest of a secondary forest where invasive species had grown. The project has been in the nurturing and maintenance phase since 2007; the team has been taking care of the seedlings. Now, the Fujitsu Group's many years of activities have borne fruit, and the state of Sabah certified the Eco-Forest Park as a forest reserve * in 2016.
In addition, the Eco-Forest Park is used as a place for environmental education, where Fujitsu Group employees acquire hands-on experience by participating in eco-tours to deepen their understandings of the current state of tropical rainforests and the issues such rainforests face. Altogether, over 2,000 people have participated in the project thus far, including Fujitsu Group employees and their families as well as local stakeholders.
*: Areas designated to be permanently managed as forest land by the legislative assembly of the state of Sabah, Malaysia.
Why an Ideathon in Social Contribution Activities?
The Fujitsu Group's brand promise—shaping tomorrow with you—is about giving shape to a more prosperous future. As the first step, it is important for Fujitsu Group employees to consider global environmental issues together with locals.
Fujitsu Group employees and their family members from around the world voluntarily assembled to participate in these tropical rainforest regeneration activities. People from local educational institutions and the Forestry Development Authority also lent their support to participate. Through this unique opportunity, members from various backgrounds pooled their time toward the common goal of tropical rainforest regeneration.
Hoping to realize synergistic effects through the interactions among participants, Fujitsu Group held a workshop on November 1, 2016 under the theme of "Using Technology to Grow Forests." This workshop incorporated an ideathon **, which is a method of solving problems and generating innovative ideas.
**: A portmanteau of "idea" and "marathon"; an event in which various members exchange ideas on a specific theme through dialog to convert them into reality.
An Icebreaker to Overcome the Language Barrier
A total of 89 members, including 60 who were Fujitsu Group employees or family members thereof from six different countries and 29 local university students, attended the workshop. To make the workshop a success despite having members with different mother tongues who had never met each other before and who had to communicate in English, an icebreaker *** was important.
As the icebreaker, all members planted saplings of native species in the Eco-Forest Park together. Before starting to plant, Fujitsu workshop office staff members explained the purpose of tree planting and related precautions. Then, the members divided into 15 teams (about seven people per team) and planted 200 saplings.
As rain had continued to fall until just before planting started, the Eco-Forest Park was slippery, and its steep slopes offered poor footing. Digging holes was hindered by deep-rooted plants. However, by working together on a common objective, the teams overcame the language barrier and had built friendships by the time they had finished planting all saplings.
***: An activity (e.g., a game, quiz, or physical exercise) for people who are meeting for the first time to ease tensions.
Expressing Ideas by Overcoming the Language Barrier
After the tree planting at the Eco-Forest Park, the teams moved to a lecture room at Universiti Malaysia Sabah to conduct an afternoon workshop. Universiti Malaysia Sabah is a state-run university established in 1994 with a large campus. The workshop participants were mainly professors and students who specialize in IT and forests.
First, Sayaka Kawaguchi from Fujitsu Laboratories, who served as moderator, explained that, in addition to verbal languages, methods for communicating ideas include drawing pictures and body language. As an exercise, participants were divided into 15 groups and drew pictures on worksheets as they liked, then showed the pictures to each other.
Next, each participant drew a picture of a problem he or she had identified through the planting experience at the Eco-Forest Park in the morning and shared it with his or her team. Then, the participants combined the problems they had identified using ICT technologies on technology cards that had been distributed, and they described ideas for solving these problems.
From among the many ideas, each group selected one that touched its members' spirits for reasons such as the following: "It seems to be a feasible solution," "I think it will be a new experience," or "We just want to try it." After selecting a core idea, members collaborated with each other to quickly create prototypes using paper and simple tools, idea sketches, and explanation cards. Afterwards, they presented the results in an exhibition. University professors in Malaysia, Forestry Development Authority employees, and Fujitsu staff members served as judges at the exhibition. Each group also watched the other groups' presentations.
Drones and Robots—Many Ideas from the Ideathon
The ideas below won the ideathon:
- Virtual Eco Tour
It is difficult for many people to visit conservation sites. Planting trees using drones and robots as well as sharing such activities virtually allows more people to participate and promotes regional reforestation.
- Vehicles for Forest Conservation Activities
Conservation sites are dark and dangerous with steep slopes. Combining smart goggles with vehicles will enable workers to measure slopes and select safe routes to avoid dangers at afforestation sites.
- Forest Cooling System
To protect forests from droughts and to prevent the spread of forest fires, sensors measure forest temperatures and issue alerts.
Understanding Issues from Diverse Perspectives to Improve Future Social Contribution Activities
There are two advantages in holding events such as ideathons for social contribution activities.
One advantage is that we can identify problems and solutions from diverse perspectives. Many innovative ideas came to light in the ideathon that some members who had been involved in conservation activities had never thought of before. We will use these ideas as new suggestions when considering future environmental social contribution activities.
The other advantage is that it leads to building stronger, deeper relationships with local stakeholders and participants. Participants shared many comments, expressing their joy at interacting with employees from other countries and local students. Environmental and social challenges cannot be resolved quickly; they can only be addressed through the long-term cooperation of many people. We shared many ideas through this workshop, and we believe that we can apply the results to our social contribution activities in the future.
Going forward, Fujitsu Group will work to resolve environmental and social challenges together with its employees and local residents using diverse approaches.