Key Understanding

Understanding key concepts.

Since the enactment of the NPO law, many organizations, including the Japan NPO Center, have been striving to create an encouraging and supportive environment for the nonprofit sector to grow and flourish. Here are some examples of key concepts.


The Japan NPO Center defines collaboration as “organizations of different types” bringing together “their respective resources” in order to fulfill “shared social goals” and “work together cooperatively” on “an equal footing.” When a nonprofit cannot solve a particular problem alone, it may collaborate on projects with the government or with a company. This particular meaning of the word “collaboration” (“kyodo”) first came into use in the 1990s.

-Collaboration with the Government

Collaboration with the government includes work in the fields of public health, medicine, and welfare, such as nursing, transportation, and food distribution services. It also includes management of public facilities and parks in the field of town planning, and work in the field of nonprofit support. Collaboration that utilizes the respective strengths of the government and the nonprofit is flourishing. In a collaborative relationship with the government, when “co-sponsored” and “co-managed” activities such as events and courses are held, nonprofits may contribute by using their networks to provide ideas and volunteers, while the government may provide funding and space. Also, when specified activities are conducted independently by nonprofits, the government sometimes uses public funds to contribute part of the cost in the form of “assistance” and “aid.” On the other hand, it has been pointed out that when the government and nonprofits “collaborate,” there is a danger that, despite claims of an equal partnership, it could actually lead to the government using nonprofits as cheap subcontractors in the name of “collaboration.”

-Collaboration with Companies

Collaboration between nonprofits and companies often takes place in environmental and artistic fields. In Japan up till now, this has mainly taken the form of corporate philanthropy, or donations and goods provided to nonprofits, but as the idea of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has spread in recent years, it has been shifting from a one-sided relationship to a mutual one in which nonprofits utilize their know-how on behalf of corporate activities. Specifically, nonprofits have been involved from the planning stage in holding events and creating pamphlets to educate employees on volunteering, developing environmentally friendly products, composing social and environmental reports for companies, and developing financial commodities for nonprofits, and these activities have yielded results.

Information disclosure and accountability

The NPO Law was also revolutionary in that it regulated information disclosure for the first time in the history of the corporate system. Under the previous corporate system, the policy was for the government to supervise project plans, project reports, budgets, and account settlements, and there was no regulation of information disclosure. The NPO Law, however, prioritized citizen supervision over government supervision, and provided detailed regulations for information disclosure. One method is for the government to turn in the necessary paperwork to the jurisdiction office within 3 months following the end of each fiscal year, after which the office offers these documents to the general public for inspection. A second method is to make copies of the documents that have been turned in to the jurisdiction office and store them in the offices of NPO Corporations so that they can be offered in response to inspection requests from interested parties.

NPO Support Centers

These are locally- or regionally-based nonprofits that support nonprofit organizations. They are also called Intermediaries or Management Support Organizations (MSOs). They have various forms of management, including a type in which the government sets up facilities and conducts management, a type in which the government sets up facilities but management is left to a nonprofit through a government contract, and a type that is set up and managed by a nonprofit. They often offer services such as consultation on founding NPO Corporations, courses and training, exchange among local organizations, provision of funding, support for new enterprises, and facilitation of collaborative projects. It is difficult to estimate numbers, but there are over 300 of these NPO Support Centers in Japan. There are also other types of support centers that are not locally based, but work on topics such as the environment and international aid.