Dare to Act in 2013

January 12, 2013

JCI President Chiara Milani shares her words of welcome for a new year of positive change.

There’s no future without remembering the past. In a world full of challenges, to understand how JCI can create a positive impact in 2013, we should refer back to the origins of JCI. We must think about those who founded JCI and their goal to be active citizens, improving their local community of St. Louis, USA.

JCI’s history starts in 1915, when Henry Giessenbier called a meeting attended by 32 young men to set up an organization called “The Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association.” His goal was to encourage young people take responsibility for the future of their city.

Then, JCI became international at the end of the World War II, when a group of young active citizens understood that the world was full of challenges to address. Nowadays, because of the devastations caused by the global economic recession, natural disasters, diseases, discriminations and civil wars, there’s still the world to rebuild. And young active citizens from all over the world are called to do it here and now. This is why, in 2013, we are called to do something more heroic than to protest; we are called to have the courage to propose solutions to such problems and to act according to those solutions.

UN Millennium Development Goals (UN MDGs)
By creating awareness about the eight UN MDGs and by taking action at the local, national and international levels in all four JCI Areas, JCI members are honoring their history. This is not only theory, as we can demonstrate through concrete examples. JCI members are conducting poverty simulations in Missouri, USA to create awareness about the need to end poverty and hunger (UN MDG #1).

At 2012 JCI Conference of the Americas, which I chaired in Curitiba, Brazil, the support given to the students of a very poor village (by giving them books, cleaning and painting their school, creating a vegetable garden for their lunch and inviting students to study) is just one of the many examples of what JCI members do to promote Universal Education (UN MDG #2).

The JCI Nothing But Nets Campaign, which we promote to support the UN Foundation’s campaign to eradicate malaria through the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, is a concrete example of our commitment to protect child health and to fight malaria. (UN MDG #4 and #6) When we started this campaign in 2008, every 30 seconds a child died because of malaria. Now, the statistic has changed to every 60 seconds, demonstrating the impact we have created through our efforts
All of our “green” actions such as planting trees, supporting environmental preservation and cleaning up our communities show our commitment to sustainability. (UN MDG #7).

The promotion of UN Global Compact and commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility in the workplace is a concrete tool JCI members have used for years to promote a global partnership for development (UN MDG #8).

Honestly, so far I believe we can create more awareness and actions related to UN MDG #3 and #5, which are gender equality and maternal health. I strongly believe that these are not “female goals.” Gender equality means equal opportunities for all genders and maternal health involves every human being, because everybody has a mother. I think that the 2013 JCI Board of Directors, which for the first time in our history has half male and half female members, will act as a great ambassador to ensure that we give these two UN MDGs the same importance that we are already giving to the others.

JCI Operation Hope
JCI launched JCI Operation Hope in 2005 after the tsunami in Southeast Asia and activated this reconstruction fund for other natural disasters in Japan, Haiti, New Zealand, Pakistan and the Philippines. This is another concrete example of how our global network of young active citizens can have a positive impact when communities face the challenges brought about by natural disasters.

The Power of a Smile
Last but not least, I believe that in JCI, we are full of young people who desire to have and to create development opportunities that empower not only themselves, but also other young people to create positive change. Enthusiasm is contagious. Therefore, I believe in the power of a smile, which is a symbol of how we look at life. Someone thinks that to be strong means to show their muscles and to raise their voice. I believe that to be strong is to be able to smile at life and at JCI members when maybe you think that there’s not even a single reason to smile at yourself in the mirror. We must think positive and act positive to create positive change. A positive attitude is the first way to overcome any crisis. In 2013, despite all the dark clouds, thanks to each and every JCI member, I can see bright rays of sunshine ready to burst through the sky.

Individual Social Responsibility (ISR)
The 2013 JCI Plan of Action includes this concept of using personal development to create positive change by having a sense of individual social responsibility. The Japanese spirit of OMOIYARI inspired this concept of ISR, meaning every JCI member is responsible for his or her family, friends, JCI organization, business, community, environment and future. When you are taking action, what kind of impact are you creating? Is it good only for you and harmful for everybody else, or is it good both for yourself and everybody? It is very important to pay attention to your surroundings. We create better active citizens to create better societies.

Just as businesses have focused on Corporate Social Responsibility to contribute to economic prosperity within the community, JCI members should focus on ISR to highlight the individual duties that contribute to development within the community. I also believe that ISR could be a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures to create one global team.

JCI Active Citizen Framework as a Social Plan
The JCI Active Citizen Framework is a road map for sustainable development and by defining it as Social Plan, just like a corporate business plan, can JCI members take action to improve their communities on a local, national and international level. We must identity the needs of our communities, brainstorm possible solutions, find partners to make it happen, turn our ideas into concrete actions and then analyze the results and report them to improve our impact. Considering that a “Social Plan” is not yet a popular concept, JCI can lead the change, instead of following it.

As you know, in the JCI Active Citizen Framework, partners have a key role. But who could be our ideal partners? According to recent research concerning workforce dynamics, Generation Y (which is the generation born between 1980 and 2000) resonates most with the Baby Boomer and World War II generations, which was exactly the period during which JCI became international. Furthermore, they value diversity and multiculturalism, social concerns and responsibility, which reflect the JCI world. Therefore, governments, companies, NGO’s and other organizations that are interested in Generation Y can be potential partners for JCI.

The Conceptual Age
As I mentioned during my presentations at the 2012 JCI Area Conferences, after the Industrial age and the Information age, now the Conceptual age is emerging where high tech, high touch and high concept are the keys of success. It’s all about people and JCI is about people: young people who can change the world. As candidate, my decision to choose 2013 theme and color through online polls went in the direction of a bottom-up process: everybody has the right, but also the duty, to say his or her opinion. Everybody can and must be willing to take responsibility for the future of JCI. Let’s build it together, because in 2013, we will have the JCI Strategic Planning Committee recommendations, which will lead us for the next 5 years.

In 2013, I’m Daring you to Act!
Is the 2013 Plan of Action ambitious? The Chilean writer Luis Sepùlveda wrote: “Only those who dare can fly”. So, according to our 2013 slogan, chosen for the first time in our history by JCI members in an online vote, in JCI, we must… Dare to Act!