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The 1% Support Scheme in Ichikawa City

Change management

The driver of the 1% scheme was the former mayor, Mr. Chiba Mitsuyuki, who worked as a dentist before he entered local politics in 1991, when he became assembly member of Chiba County, where Ichikawa City is located. In 1997 he was directly elected as Ichikawa’s mayor and was subsequently re-elected for three consecutive mandates.

Mr. Chiba has been particularly active in promoting a strong civic society, as his strong participation in many publicly-minded activities shows - he was part of the IT Revolution Movement Committee which pushed for the spread of the e-government across Japan, and was a board member of the Chiba Medical Association for the Elderly and of the Health City Association. From the early years of his mandate in Ichikawa city, he sought to strengthen the local community by working in partnership with local nonprofit organisations. In 1999 he created a vision which the Japanese refer to as Kyo-do (literally translated as “work done in co-operation”). Kyo-do involves partnership working between local authorities and local nonprofit organisations. This requires a financially stable nonprofit sector, as Mr. Chiba soon realized – but in the late 1990s Ichikawa City was not in a very sound financial situation. Therefore, the local authority did not feel able to direct funds from one service to another service, without seeking the permission of the taxpayers.

The 1% scheme was seen by Mr. Chiba as a solution which would help to address this challenge: the local taxpayers themselves could decide which NPOs to support and which not. This would also make citizens aware of the importance of paying taxes. The introduction of the scheme in 2004 showed that many taxpayers in Ichikawa city were not actually fully benefitting from local services, because many were business people (often men) commuting to the Tokyo area to work for 5 - 6 days a week. Local women and children, on the other hand, were those who were most involved in civic activities. Indeed, many women also volunteered for local nonprofit organisations while their husbands were away at work but were excluded from the scheme. This encouraged the local authority to re-design the scheme by extending the right to vote on which nonprofits should benefit to all those who were engaged in volunteering work within the city (and therefore earning “eco-points”), even though they were not taxpayers. This change proved to be important for the success of the scheme and was integrated into the local ordinance.

In order to implement the 1% scheme the local council of Ishikawa City had to pass a local ordinance in 2004. (In local authorities in Japan, any prefecture or municipality may pass a Local Ordinance as specified by Article 94 of the Japanese Constitution). The ordinance made it possible to allow citizens (both tax-payers and residents who are involved in voluntary activities) to vote on the allocation of the funds received through the 1% scheme.

The scheme includes two main players: Taxpayers who reside in Ichikawa city and local nonprofit organisations. Ichikawa City has a total of 230,000 individual taxpayers with about 38 billion yen worth of municipal tax collected annually (figures from 2013). Local taxpayers are given the opportunity to choose up to three nonprofit organisations to become potential recipients of their 1% tax donation, which amounts to 380 million yen maximum. However, the donation to the selected organisations must not exceed 50% of the organisation’s total operating costs. Also citizens who have subscribed to Timebanking (see the Briefing Note on Hureai Kippu by Nakagawa, Laratta, and Bovaird, INLOGOV, University of Birmingham, 2011) may use their collected time credits to donate to the selected nonprofit organisations.

Nonprofit organisations which are interested in taking part in this scheme have to submit an application to become eligible for funding. An assessment committee consisting of four academic experts and three selected citizens will assess the application. (The members of the panel are selected by local officers based on their experience with volunteering and nonprofit organisations, as demonstrated by their CV, following an open call by the City of Ichikawa for people to apply for this task).

Organisations who are entitled to receive the donations must adhere to the following criteria:

  • have an active office in Ichikawa city;
  • have been continuously active for more than a year at the time of application;
  • not be an illegal organisation or involved in illegal activities;
  • not have conducted activities that impair public order and moral values; and
  • not have taken part in any political or religious activities.

Steps of the application process

  1. From January to February candidates fill out an application form to become eligible. In this application they have to specify their programme or activities. The application must be submitted to the City Office.
  2. A short-list of eligible nonprofit organisations is be announced on the website of Ichikawa City after the examination committee agree that the organisation meets the requirements as explained above.
  3. In June, it’s voting time for local taxpayers. They have several options for voting: a) Fill out the voting form that is included in the local newspaper; b) complete the form in the 1% magazine and flyer; c) submit a voting form in person (showing an ID to sign the sheet) in the Town Hall; d) as a taxpayer, fill out the postcard which they receive along with their tax notice in the post. Votes can also be submitted electronically.
  4. The organisation must submit a performance report for review by the City when the project is completed.

The report is published on the municipal website as the photo below shows.

In 2014 117 local nonprofit organisations received funding through the scheme, including:

14 organisations supporting older people;

12 supporting people with disabilities;

25 providing support to parents;

12 environmental organisations;

21 culture and arts organisations;

8 sport organisations;

14 organisations involved in “machizukuri” (community development);

11 others.

The 1% scheme is managed by the Citizen Volunteering Unit of the Directorate for Relations with Nonprofit Organisations of Ichikawa City Municipal Government. This unit was established in April 1999 and has been responsible for managing the 1% scheme since 2005, when this scheme was implemented. The activities of the unit include:   

  • public marketing of the programme to increase public awareness and participation in the 1% support scheme;
  • assessment and selection of qualified community groups and nonprofit organisations;
  • supporting local communities and nonprofit organisations which are interested in participating in the programme;
  • guiding and assisting citizens during the voting period;
  • evaluating the 1% support scheme and developing the scheme further.

Since the mayor who initiated the project is no longer in power, the branding of the scheme is being reevaluated in 2014 in order to disassociate the programme from the previous administration and give it a new image.

Obstacles to overcome have included citizens` reluctance to participate. One reason identified was the necessity of including the number from the tax form in order to cast a vote. Alternatively, a copy of the driving license or health insurance was required. These requirements were perceived as ‘red tape’ by taxpayers and deterred them from voting and are currently being re-evaluated by Ichikawa City.

About this case study
Main Contact

Rosario Laratta, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Meiji University, Tokyo


Rosario Laratta wrote this case study in August 2014.

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