The Yoshiyama Program is focused on entrepreneurs who help low-wealth individuals of a targeted community overcome one or more barriers to economic security in America. Below The Hitachi Foundation describes three terms relevant to the Yoshiyama Program:
Many people in the United States face challenging and persistent obstacles in accumulating assets sufficient to support themselves and their families. For some, these obstacles may be due to inadequate career preparation and limited access to educational advancement opportunities. For others, the obstacles may be a function of their community's economic isolation — limited business growth and development or few jobs. Many face barriers to accumulating savings and assets.
The Hitachi Foundation is casting the net broadly. We want to be confident that the entrepreneurs we discover through this award program are creating businesses that in some way enable low-wealth individuals in America to overcome one or more of the barriers to economic security in America. Characteristics of low-wealth individuals might include but are not necessarily limited to:
- Earnings below 200% of poverty
- Little or no savings and assets
- Limited educational achievement
- Limited attachment to the workforce
- Living in economically isolated communities with limited access to jobs, credit, education, and/or other necessary support systems
The entrepreneurs we seek to identify are distinctive in that they are operating viable businesses with intent to help a community of low-wealth individuals in America achieve greater economic security. The term "community" in this case refers to the group of low-wealth people the entrepreneur seeks to support through the business. For example, community may refer to individuals living in a particular geography — a neighborhood within a city or a region within a state. Community may also refer to a group of people that share common characteristics such as those with little education or limited language and computational achievement. The community may be as tightly defined as the business' employees or customers or as broadly defined as all low-wealth individuals in America. It is the entrepreneurs' responsibility to define the community they seek to impact and their strategy for doing so.
The Hitachi Foundation aims to discover entrepreneurs whose business creates avenues by which low-wealth individuals in America can enhance their economic security. The entrepreneur might incorporate an ownership model that enables low-wealth employees to own a share of the profits; the business might incorporate an innovative approach to cultivating worker skills and career advancement; or the business products and services might be geared towards overcoming obstacles such as access to transportation, education and skills training, or child- and/or elder-care. Our 2010 Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneurs serve as relevant examples to enhancing economic security in this context.