This was originally an article on the JCI Denmark news website “JCI Nyt”. The translation is not a direct translation but my interpretation of the original text.
The question was posed by Ole, a new friend of mine in JCI. You probably know the type. The guy who asks all the right questions – including the ones that take extra work to answer! But, as I just wrote – Ole poses the right questions. The necessary questions. Necessary questions must by their nature necessarily be answered and since I am responsible for the Active Citizenship Framework in JCI Denmark this year, I will do my best to answer the question.
The first time it dawned on me what Active Citizenship is really about was last Summer when I attended the JCI Global Partnership Summit in New York. 450 members of JCI from all over the world were discussion the JCI partner to the UN status and our responsibilities in aiding the United Nations in reaching the Millennium Development Goals.
Our mission as members of JCI (“jaycees”) is to make a positive impact on the world. By taking responsibility in our local communities we are better able to create the solutions to the problems, we are witness to. Active Citizenship Framework (ACF) is a method to develop, execute and follow up on the initiatives so we make sure that we are delivering sustainable solutions to the problems the world faces. The implementation of ACF in JCI Denmark takes place through Impact Trainings and shorter Active Citizenship trainings (the former is an official JCI training – the latter are trainings tailored to the specific event by the trainers) and information through relevant communication channels.
Community projects? Not necessarily
I imagine that your thoughts are now drifting towards something along the lines of “But, we are a little fed up with that whole ‘Community’ stuff – and why is that mosquito-net woman* going on about sustainable projects? 2012 is over – 2013 is rolling!”
You will not be the first person to think along those lines – and you probably wont be the last. Fortunately for you (and me and the world!) you can easily be an Active Citizen and concentrate all of your JCI energy on Business projects. The ideal Business project creates growth, growth creates work. An Active Citizenship Business-projekt creates sustainable growth. Does that make sense? It is not the project itself, I am advocating – it is the project method.
JCI should be more visible locally, regionally and globally
Created on the basis of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the JCI Active Citizen Framework is a platform for measurable, result driven initiatives that result in making a positive difference. Junior Chamber International has made a commitment to enter into partnerships with the business, government and civil society. The idea is that by focusing on needs in our local communities we can mak ourselvs visible for relevant partners and to show that we are making a serious difference by measuring our results on a regular basis.
But what is new?
One could easily make the case that Active Citizenship is not new to JCI. Since 2010, we have been “a network of young actice people who take responsibility and make a positive difference for ourselves and our community”**. Internationally our mission is “To provide development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change.” Our vision is “To be the leading global network of young active citizens.” The difference is in the approach to the vision and the mission. The method (there it was again!).
Active Citizenship is the foundation of our work in JCI. It is, when we commit ourselves to help the communities, when we listen to our fellow human beings and find out where our help is most needed, when we use our competences to solve the problem and include our network and community in the solution that we are Active Citizens.
So, back to that day in New York where it finally dawned on me what the concept of Active Citizenship is. It was on the last of three hectic days with intense discussions with “jaycees” from all over the world, hard work and interesting talks by those who really make a difference in the world. We discussed how JCI as partner to the UN can contribute to help the World reach the MDGs. Of course I had at some point in the discussion taken charge of the felt pen and written the group’s short but precise input and as a consequence was asked to present our words of wisdom to the rest of the participants.
So, there I was. The other two representatives had already done their presentations and I was left up there with a microphone in my hand in front of the auditorium with 450 people, the JCI Secretary General Edson Kodama, the World President Bertolt Daems and a Danish delegation of friends who where absolutely sure that I would ace it (I was not so sure). The Danish delegation was ready with their cameras, shooting away and uploading pictures and status to facebook (rats!). The World President Bertolt Daems was ready with his questions (OMG!).
“We commit to identify problems and actively offer our skills in providing sustainable solutions in our local communities.”
That is how simple our input was that day in New York. That is how simple it is today. It is about listening to those who need our help and sparring. It is about finding out what each and everyone of us do best and identify where partnerships should be made. I honestly don’t remember what Bertolts question was but I remember my answer. The key is not about inventing a problem or aquiring new Sustainable impact is about finding the real problem in corporation with the local community and identify our own competneces and lack of same so we can enter into relevant partnerships. Biggest impact with smallest effort!
*I was responsible for the Nothing But Nets campaigns in JCI Denmark as Nothing But Nets Director 2012.
** This is a very free hand translation of the original Danish text.