The JA Global Youth Forum Celebrates Youth Entrepreneurship


July 31, 2018

The JA Global Youth Forum Celebrates Youth Entrepreneurship


We're dedicating this entire post to the first JA Centennial event—the JA Global Youth Forum, held July 8–13 in Morelos, México. We start with a wrap-up video (below), and then take you through the event, day by day.

Sunday, July 8
After traveling to the Hacienda Cocoyoc from México City and meeting their roommates, students had the opportunity to hear the story of Magnus Scheving (Iceland), creator and star of LazyTown, who pumped up the crowd with his high-energy presentation.

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Monday, July 9
Bright and early on the morning of the first full day—and every morning thereafter—students assembled in their assigned groups of 25 and earned points by participating in team-building activities.

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Later that morning, flag bearers from each of the 45 countries represented by nearly 600 students marched with the flags of their home countries.

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At the official opening ceremony, JA Worldwide CEO Asheesh Advani (USA and Canada), JA Americas President Leo Martellotto (Argentina), JA Mexico General Director Jaime Santibanez (México), JA Worldwide pioneer Juan Cintron Patterson (México), and OAS Secretary of Access to Right and Equity Mauricio Rands (Brazil) welcomed students and staff to the first JA Centennial event, a historic gathering of global youth.

Mario Domínguez Courtney (México), a JA alumnus who volunteers—year in, and year out—to serve as master of ceremonies for two annual FIE events, showed off his skills in saying “hello” in more than 30 languages.

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Asheesh Advani then introduced Yemi Babington-Ashaye (Nigeria), the former director and head of the Global Shapers Community, a part of the World Economic Forum. In one of the most memorable moments of the entire forum, Yemi helped the audience of young entrepreneurs get used to saying, “Yes!” and reaching for greatness.

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Monday also saw the kickoff of the C&A Foundation circular fashion pitch competition. After hearing details of the competition, students split into teams to develop their ideas to reduce waste and undo the “fast-fashion” mentality so prevalent in the world. Steven Lang and Alastair MacGregor (UK) from InSpring, JA’s partner in this endeavor, spent the next four days working one-on-one with students, co-sponsoring a workshop with SAP volunteers, and arranging a presentation by Douwe Jan Joustra (Netherlands) of the C&A Foundation, all to get student teams ready to pitch their best circular-fashion business concepts in the competition on Thursday. 

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That night, students displayed the food, dress, and other cultural uniqueness of their countries at the “This Is My Country” Expo.

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Tuesday, July 10
First thing Tuesday, JA Worldwide moderated a panel of social entrepreneurs, including Shane Chase (USA) of UCLA and VeryNice, Juan Del Cerro (México) of Socialab, Jesús Esparza (México) of Enactus, Amisha Shahra (India) of tGELF, and Kim Olds (USA) of Winterline. This was followed by two workshops—one on social responsibility and one on building a business model—lead by Socialab and VeryNice.

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After a trivia competition, Luis Hernandez (México), retired national-team football legend, inspired students with his speech (and his footwork), and then students participated in a changemaker networking activity.

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Wednesday, July 11
Wednesday at the JA Global Youth Forum was officially alumni day. The morning began with an alumni panel, moderated by JA alumnus Leo Martellotto, that included Mario Escutia (México), Rodolfo Andrade (México), Kirkland Steinberg (Canada), Manuel Alejandro Reyes Ortega (México), and Sarah Rapp (Germany) and Asheesh Advani, both of JA Worldwide.

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This exciting panel was following by a presentation by Larry Farrell (USA), author of JA’s Centennial book, The Entrepreneurial Attitude, in which 70 JA alumni are interviewed, as well as the official launch of Gather, the JA global alumni community, by Erin Sawyer (USA) and Sarah Rapp. Individual JA alumni, established alumni networks, and local JA offices can all benefit from Gather, which includes options to connect and network, and offers further JA opportunities. Join us at

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Students then had an opportunity for one-on-one conversations with entrepreneurs. Later that afternoon, at a keynote event, Maryam Edah-Tally (USA)—Ernst & Young's 2017 Teen Entrepreneur of the Year—joined JA alumnus David Meltzer (USA), co-founder and CEO of SportsOne Marketing.

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Dave joined bestselling author Steve Rodgers (USA), serial entrepreneur Brian Sidorsky (Canada), JA Worldwide’s Margie Wang (USA), and Robert McPhee (USA) to introduce forum participants to JA University, a program that delivers fundamental principles of success to JA alumni in a way that supplements the programs delivered by JA. The intention of JA University is to deliver valuable personal and professional wisdom from well-respected and globally renowned authors/speakers/coaches, who make up the university’s chancellors.

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NEXA, JA Americas regional alumni network, organized its second summit at the JA Global Youth Forum, hosted by NEXA Mexico. Representatives from seven countries discussed the development, growth, and establishment of more alumni networks in the region. El Salvador, Argentina, Colombia, and Canada all announced that they will launch local alumni networks in the coming months.

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Thursday, July 12
On the last full day, executive coach Ben Olds (USA) taught students how to have difficult conversations that lead to successful outcomes.

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Khadija Ali (Somalia and USA), President & CEO of Global Language Connections, took the stage to share her journey, from fleeing the Somalian civil war to living in a Kenyan refugee camp to becoming an American global entrepreneur.

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Soon after, the circular fashion pitch competition was in full swing, with one member of each of the five team finalists presenting their unique ideas, including a sharing-economy model, a new application for blockchain, a clothing line for the physically disabled, and more. Douwe Jan Joustra, Head of Circular Transformation, confirmed that the innovations from these students represented some of the best he has heard across the fashion industry! The eventual winning concept was based on employing transparency throughout the entire life of a garment, using advanced technology.

Students then took up their country flags one more time in order to greet the JA Worldwide Board of Governors, as they arrived for their triannual board meeting. 

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In the afternoon, keynote speaker Kenny Imafidon (UK) told the inspiring story of his wrongful imprisonment for murder at the age of 18, his subsequent acquittal, and the social-justice company he formed as a result. 

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The Gala Dinner was a sight to behold, with JA’s new “JA 100” Centennial logo in the background, and spectacular hosts Erin Sawyer and Leo Martellotto keeping students, speakers, and board members entertained. 

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The talent show—held during dinner—brought local culture to the wider world through song, dance, and brilliant costumes. 

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Lord Michael Hastings of KPMG gave a rousing keynote address about changing the world. On every table was a sampling of eight UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development that JA is impacting through our work, each in 18 different languages. Quoting Nelson Mandela, Lord Hastings told the crowd that, “The purpose of life is to plant trees in whose shade another generation will sit . . . As much as you will do wonderful things, you will liberate others to do even greater things.”

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Board Chair Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi wrapped up the Gala with thanks, congratulations, and high expectations for the next JA Global Youth Forum!

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Friday, July 13
Friday morning brought final awards, a JA 100th birthday cake, the official closing, and hundreds of goodbyes. Until next time.

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Special thanks Delta/AeroMexico—the title sponsor of the JA Global Youth Forum—for its generous support, including regional scholarships that allowed students from 45 countries to attend. We literally couldn’t have done it without you. Also a hearty thanks to our other incredible partners, including HSBC, Scotiabank, Dell, SAP, IBM, KPMG, and the Organization of American States (OAS).

Photos: JA Worldwide/Kate Carlton Photography