JCI London 2015 President Soraya Bowen
Junior Chamber International (JCI) has had a London chapter for over 60 years but has remained somewhat of a secret gem. Jack Stewart sat down with 2015 President Soraya Bowen to learn more about JCI and find out how they plan to spread their name.
What do Al Gore, Bill Clinton, John F Kennedy, Kofi Annan and half of the Japanese parliament have in common? No, this isn’t the set up for a bad joke - they were all members of personal development network Junior Chamber International (JCI).
JCI may not be a common name in London but this year marks its 100th anniversary; the first chapter was founded in St Louis, USA, and London has had a chapter for over 60 years.
For the record JCI is an international network with 200,000 members in over 80 countries offering young people opportunities to develop themselves whilst creating positive social change “but we still remain fairly unknown in London. We like to say we are London’s best kept secret,” says Soraya Bowen, JCI London’s 2015 President. “But 2015 is the year we really want to put JCI on the map. It really is a chance for people to create their own projects with the support of like-minded people.”
Through JCI young people (aged 18-40) can improve their CV, develop leadership ability, expand their contacts across the globe, increase self-confidence and do social good. JCI members come from all walks of life but they are united around a common aim: to challenge and develop themselves.JCI encourages the creation of different projects that will allow members to gain practical experience that may not be available in their current profession.
“The projects are the really exciting part of JCI. They give you a great deal of responsibility and force you to push yourself in new areas in order to achieve something amazing.” says Soraya. “In 2013 we partnered with a JCI chapter in Ghana and raised money to provide 1,000 malaria bed nets. As part of the project I learnt how to market events and developed my public speaking which has since helped in my personal career.”
The projects are suggested, designed and coordinated by members and offer a diverse range of opportunities from organising the annual TEDx Square Mile to submitting a team for the Prince’s Trust Million Makers challenge.
It is one of 2015’s projects that is hoped will help put JCI on the map. On July 18 JCI are hosting an Adventure Race across Central London, in collaboration with the Inspired 50, another London network that does good through adventure. The race will have 100 participants and aim to do 100 good deeds across the day as well as the not so small task of breaking a Guinness World Record - for solving the world’s largest word search puzzle and raising some money for charity.
One of JCI’s biggest selling points is the fact that it is a truly international network and members are encouraged to take advantage of that.
“We have had members that have moved to another country and have transferred to the local JCI chapter. This instantly provides them with a network of people with similar mission and aims. It can really make a difference when moving somewhere completely new. We regularly have international members joining in with JCI whilst in London – we currently have members from Ecuador and Monaco who are in London for work and have joined us for social activities,” explains Soraya.
Many of those who have ‘graduated’ from JCI have become great leaders, outstanding professionals and successful entrepreneurs. The list of notable former members includes various heads of state( or government) of at least 11 countries from President Richard Nixon to Jacques Chirac of France as well as royalty, Prince Albert of Monaco, and pioneers such as Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh.
“I have been a JCI member for several years and it has really opened my eyes to the different ways young people can benefit society. It has also given me confidence in myself and taught me a number of new skills. Now, as President, it is my job to spread our name far and wide.”