June 2018 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues:

This month, we’re launching the JA Labs Innovation Fund, an initiative to encourage creativity and outside-the-box thinking throughout the JA network. The selection committee for applications to the Innovation Fund includes the Senior Leadership Team, which is comprised of the leaders of the six regional operating centers and executives at JA Worldwide. Our intention is for this to be a truly global competition that is open to anyone within the JA network. Good ideas can come from anyone reading this newsletter!

This initiative is funded by Citi Foundation, and the donor’s intention is help JA Worldwide serve as a catalyst for innovation within JA, which is consistent with the commitments we described in our strategic plan. We were delighted to identify a truly global funder that is as committed to this objective as we are.

So what does innovation mean? Does it mean lower-cost delivery methods for high-impact student programs? Does it mean access to underserved populations for our programs? Or does it mean technological enhancements to our core student experiences? Yes, yes, and yes! The criteria for selection gives 25% of the total score to replicability of the innovation within the JA network, not just to innovation for the sake of it.

Here’s an example: Today, JA’s total cost per student is about $30, on average, across the network, but many high-impact, high-engagement programs cost much less per student, due to program design, delivery method, or the location of the youth we serve. (Last month, I provided a summary of technology-related initiatives at JA Worldwide in my CEO letter.) Are you using technology to replicate a successful program, or to pilot a new student experience that has significant potential? Perhaps one of our high-cost, low-impact programs can be modified with the use of blended learning and digital programs. What role can JA play in growing these programs using our distribution network?

We hope that the JA Labs Innovation Fund will help us answer questions such as these by attracting the best and brightest minds in our network to submit ideas.

Until next time,
Asheesh


May 2018 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues:

Technology, technology, and more technology. This month, I’m going to outline the latest developments at JA Worldwide that relate to technology. If you’ve been following my previous letters and our OneJA newsletters, you may have noticed an increase in the number of tech-related initiatives that we’re introducing, such as OneJA.org (JA’s internal website for collaboration), Gather (JA’s alumni community), and pilots for JA Connect (eight member countries that are piloting JA USA’s learning management system).

To keep things simple and clear, I like to differentiate between technology for internal usage by leadership and staff at JA’s member countries and technology for external usage by students, volunteers, and alumni.

Internal

When we surveyed the JA network in 2016, we heard loud and clear that there was an urgent need for more operational tools for collaboration, communication, and training. We launched OneJA.org at the Global Leadership Conference in July 2017. Since then, more than 2,000 visitors from 114 member countries have viewed over 10,000 pages on OneJA! Some of the most popular elements of OneJA are the sections on Brand, Impact, and JA’s Centennial book, The Entrepreneurial Attitude. The section on Brand includes collateral for the JA Global Youth Forum, web banners for The Entrepreneurial Attitude, and JA brand collateral. The section on Impact includes the JA Global Goals booklet, including an editable file for translation or other customization. The Human Capital section includes onboarding and training materials that JA leaders can customize and use for their own new board members, new staff, or existing team to explain the JA brand and network. The section on the Centennial will be updated extensively on June 30 to include updated brand and design elements, a Centennial version of the JA Brand Guidelines, and a calendar of events, campaigns, and speaking engagements around the global network.

Jobs change the world-wide.png

Operational technology at JA Worldwide also includes several additional systems for donor management (Salesforce), data analytics (Hewitt), file sharing (Dropbox), and human resources (Workday). Some of these systems have widespread adoption across JA (for example, Hewitt is used by most of the JA network for gathering data that is used for the JA Worldwide Factbook, JA Worldwide Annual Report, and regional annual reports. Other systems have growing adoption across the network like Salesforce) or are focused on specific regions (for example, Workday, used in the U.S.).

JA Connect is the learning management system (LMS) that was developed by JA USA in collaboration with CrossKnowledge, the distance-learning division of John Wiley & Sons. Since it is an LMS, it can be used for internal needs (like training videos) and external needs (such as JA blended learning programs for youth). It was introduced in the U.S. region in 2015 and is now being piloted by selected ROCs and member countries that have expressed interest, including JA Americas, INJAZ Bahrain, JA Brazil, JA Bulgaria, JA Canada, JA Europe, JA Greece, INJAZ Kuwait, JA Lithuania, JA Romania, INJAZ Saudi Arabia, and JA Spain.  JA Worldwide and many of the pilot participants have met in Madrid for training and coordination. We will, of course, report back about what we learn from the LMS pilots as they progress, both for internal and external use cases.

External

In addition to the pilots for JA Connect focused on serving staff and students, we’re also gearing up to launch Gather, an online community for JA alumni, at the JA Global Youth Forum in July. For JA Worldwide, this is a collaborative project with the JA regional operating centers and our alumni associations around the network. For example, JA Europe and the European alumni associations are helping us introduce Gather in the European region, including at the upcoming alumni conference in Tallinn, Estonia. INJAZ Al-Arab and the newly formed alumni associations in the MENA region are also early adopters. Our aspiration is to build the community to include at least 100,000 alumni in 2019.

At the October 2017 JA Worldwide Board of Governors meeting, held at the LinkedIn world headquarters, we asked consultants to examine JA’s approach to technology and make recommendations. One of the conclusions of the presentation and board discussion was to guide innovation within the JA network both by funding common platforms and modernizing selected programs. In other words, providing common platforms for serving students, staff, volunteers, and alumni is only part of the solution. Using technology to improve our programs is an essential next step.

We’re in the process of testing several new initiatives to modernize our programs and introduce tech-forward, mobile-first experiences that retain the benefits of experiential learning. JA Europe and JA Worldwide, for example, are collaborating with InSpring on a new innovative partnership structure. JA Asia-Pacific and JA Worldwide are collaborating with our partner in India, TGELF, to understand how to deliver programs at scale in resource-constrained settings using technology. JA Worldwide and INJAZ Al-Arab are collaborating on a funding proposal related to gamification, coming on the heels of the promising announcement with Google last month. Finally, JA Worldwide is collaborating with JA USA to ensure the continued access to JA USA–owned intellectual property and popular programs that are primarily digital (such as JA Titan), following the introduction of the LMS.

There is a delicate balance between developing a technology strategy that is forward looking, responsive to donor interests, and moving at a pace that is welcomed by the diverse JA network.

Until next time,
Asheesh


April 2018 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues:

Wow! The last 30 days have been a whirlwind of productivity and progress for JA. This month’s newsletter provides a glimpse into how much is happening at JA Worldwide and across all our six regional operating centers. I’d like to shine a spotlight on two key initiatives that will help us magnify our impact: the book launch for The Entrepreneurial Attitude and the alignment of JA’s activities to the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development Goals.

People keep asking me about the “story” behind the book about JA alumni and how the project all came together. Here’s the inside scoop. Larry Farrell approached us in 2016 about doing a book about JA. At the same time, we organized a committee, comprised of leaders from across the network, to plan JA’s Centennial celebrations. The committee concluded that focusing on JA’s alumni would be a smart theme to tie together our activities for celebrating our 100th anniversary.

From my perspective, this made a lot sense, because JA Worldwide was already focused alumni engagement as part of our strategic plan, including promoting the growth of JA alumni associations across the network, building an alumni community platform, and organizing benefits/discounts/events for JA alumni. Larry was aligned with us on those goals from the very beginning. He loved the idea of focusing the book on alumni stories, making it truly global in scope, and helping share the stories of our impact by travelling around the JA network. He is an extraordinary public speaker with the energy to captivate an audience. So, as they say in Hollywood, we did a deal! Larry has kindly agreed to donate 50 percent of the royalties from the book to support JA.

The book is now launched, and Larry has been traveling all over the network to share JA’s stories of impact. For example, he was in Brussels earlier this month speaking to board members, partners, youth leaders, and staff from European countries during JA Europe’s Leaders for a Day event. JA Europe was able to offer copies of the book to guests who attended the event, and Larry delivered a dynamic speech that was well received. Even the shipping cost for getting books to Europe was provided at no charge, thanks to our generous partnership with FedEx. (To learn more about how to order books and receive free shipping, please visit www.oneja.org/attitude.) All in all, the “story” of our collaboration with Larry Farrell is a classic example of harnessing the generosity and energy of our supporters to do something of substantial value for the JA network during the Centennial year. Thank you, Larry, and everyone who is using the book to further your development, alumni, and marketing goals!

On the other end of the spectrum of the “Impact Communications” part of our strategic plan, JA Worldwide has launched a project that clarifies our alignment with the UN Global Goals. This is a priority for several reasons. I answered some questions about the need to be a good partner in this interview with the CEO of Devex, discussing how The Global Goals have made it easier for foundations, corporations, and NGOs to collaborate with clear impact objectives as a priority, rather than acting out of a narrower self-interest. Our Board of Governors, representing some of our largest global funders, have been very supportive of our passion for aligning activities to The Global Goals. This is the beginning of a journey for our network to articulate how we align, measure our impact on the dimensions recommended by The Global Goals, and create collaborations and partnerships that leverage our strengths and fill our capability gaps. I’m delighted that the Global Marketing Committee, representing all six ROCs and JA Worldwide, has agreed that this is a shared priority and released this wonderful booklet. Lord Hastings from KPMG, Nicky Major from EY, and Mmantsetsa Marope from UNESCO are also featured in the accompanying videos. A hearty thank you to each of them for their collaboration on this project!

Until next time,
Asheesh


March 2018 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues:

How do we prepare young people for 2030 and beyond? This question is no longer the domain of futurists. Today’s first grade students will graduate in 2030, which is the same year that the United Nations set as the target date for achieving many of the commitments in the Global Goals. This was also the question that was covered at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai (GESF) which was attended by over 20 individuals from the JA network. For me, one of the key takeaways from the conference was that there is an urgent demand for schools and school systems to partner with NGOs and corporations to deliver programs that prepare youth for the future of jobs.

The JA network was well represented at the conference, with leaders from all six regions, the full Senior Leadership Team, all six JA Worldwide Fellows, and even one member of the Board of Governors in attendance. JA Worldwide was asked to organize a panel on the topic of the “Future of School Partnerships” and featured speaking roles for Caroline Jenner, CEO of JA Europe, and Akef Aqrabawi, CEO of INJAZ al-Arab (JA MENA). The full panel discussion can be viewed here.

Some JA conference participants also took advantage of experiences to learn about virtual reality and augmented reality companies working in schools and universities to improve education. One of the JA Worldwide Fellows, Alison Gottsch-Walton, is working with Tere Stouffer, our Global Head of Marketing, to explore how to bring VR/AR to JA in a productive manner.

After the conference, the Senior Leadership Team made time for our (now annual) management retreat. We covered topics such as:

  • Partnerships
  • Upgrades to Hewitt
  • Program strategy, learning pathways, and impact measurement
  • Centennial planning
  • LMS pilots around the world
  • Micro-credentialing
  • Future orientation at JA

It was a collaborative and productive set of meetings in which all leaders from all six JA regions came together on many important topics. In addition, we agreed to celebrate our diversity of viewpoints on other topics. For example, some JA regions are progressive and forward thinking on the need to partner with other NGOs in order to gain access to best-of-breed programs and to maximize impact. This collaborative/partnership strategy has been a priority encouraged by many of our largest global funders and by our Board of Governors—and it is a key element of the JA Worldwide Strategic Plan. While this is not yet embraced fully by all ROCs, there is forward momentum following this retreat to establish incentives and guidelines for good partnerships. It was fortuitous to have this strategic discussion following the GESF conference in which the 2030 Global Goals and the need for impactful partnerships was highlighted. There is so much that the JA network of teams can achieve when we agree to collaborate internally and externally.

Until next time,
Asheesh


February 2018 CEO Letter

Are you a maker or a manager? Does your job involve creative work, or does it involve managing people? Increasingly, nonprofit professionals, entrepreneurs, and social innovators are called upon to be both makers and managers. (Paul Graham of Y Combinator first drew this distinction between those doing creative work and those overseeing others). At JA Worldwide, our human capital strategy intends to cultivate the talents of both makers and managers—talents that sometimes reside within the same person.

This month, we’ve announced the selection of the first group of six JA Worldwide Fellows. Many of these outstanding individuals are both makers and managers who will be doing projects designed to help JA Worldwide provide more value to the network.

We were delighted to receive such an outstanding range of applications. Even though the fellowship was designed for future leaders, we received many applications from existing leaders within the JA network, including some applications from outstanding individuals who could teach an entire course or write a book on leadership, rather than participate as a student. So this got us thinking that we should offer additional fellowships for senior leaders, including those who are seeking new challenges. Watch this space for forthcoming opportunities.

In the meantime, I recommend reading this thoughtful article about time management for both makers and managers. I think you’ll love this article as much as I do because it highlights the complexity of playing both roles—a common scenario in JA’s network of teams. With each team in each geography numbering from 5 to 50 people, we are a collection of both makers and managers, balancing the complexity of working on creative projects that require concentration and reflection on some days, and managing projects and people on other days, dealing with the barrage of email, meetings, and coordinating with peers, volunteers, schools, and funders. Learning to thrive in this environment is as fulfilling as it is impactful, but we’re all making progress. At JA Worldwide, for example, the management team just agreed to avoid meetings on Mondays and Fridays in order to help each other thrive as both makers and managers.

I’ll close my letter with Arnold Bennett’s words just like the article does:

“You have to live on this 24 hours of time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use . . . is a matter of the highest urgency.”

Until next time,
Asheesh


January 2018 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

JA Worldwide’s plans during 2018 include new and unique experiences for students and JA leaders from across our network. For example, one of the first events of the JA Centennial (which begins in July) is the JA Global Youth Forum. We’re expecting students from over 50 countries to attend this event in Morelos, Mexico, July 8–13. In addition, we’ve launched the JA Worldwide Fellows Program for six high-potential JA leaders from the network. I’m pleased to tell you that we received over 50 applications for the six fellowships from all over the JA network! The quality of applications and the caliber of the candidates is impressive, and it will be difficult for the selection committee, which is run by consultant Jeff Hittner, to select our six Fellows in February.

In addition to planning these two new JA Worldwide initiatives, we’re working on additional projects that are forthcoming in 2018.

  • In our February newsletter, you’ll find links to the 2017 JA Worldwide Annual Report, Online Year in Review, and Factbook. These contain stories, photos, and funder recognition from all six regions; a look back at last year’s accomplishments; and  analytics and data from the JA network, including metrics on students, volunteers, programs, and more.
  • We’ve also had a wonderful opportunity, through Alan Kelly—the Chair of the Marketing Committee of our Board of Governors—to engage an executive MBA class of 44 working professionals in a strategic review of our brand and offer tactical suggestions for elevating it. We’re now following up on several of the ideas generated by the class.
  • We continue to make global efforts to raise our profile, including an article in last week’s World Economic Forum blog and strong representation at the World Philanthropy Forum in Beijing, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, the Arab Forum for Youth Leaders in Kuwait, and the Microsoft GirlSpark Camp in Hong Kong.

Can you feel the excitement building, as we move closer to the kickoff of our 18-month-long Centennial celebration? What a thrilling time to be a part of the JA network!

Until next time,
Asheesh


November-December 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

Imagine a day when JA’s experiential learning programs can be delivered to students with virtual-reality goggles, or when augmented reality can be used to enhance JA experiences and events for students and staff. Imagine a day when we can share data analytics about the impact of our programs with everyone in the JA network so that we can invest in our best programs and retire programs that are no longer relevant. Imagine a day when the best stories about the impact of our work are available on-demand and are updated regularly on social media. We’re doing our part to bring these ideas from imagination to reality by launching a new initiative called the JA Worldwide Fellows Program.

This fellowship program, funded by JA Worldwide, is intended to leverage the best emerging talent in the JA network to deliver global projects. Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi, JA Worldwide Board Chair, was the first to suggest to me that we should find a way to identify emerging leaders in the JA network, instead of hiring more staff or consultants at JA Worldwide HQ to execute projects in our strategic plan. Initially, I was hesitant, because I know how busy everyone in the JA network is with their current roles and how difficult it might be to take on new assignments. However, after speaking with many of JA’s leaders and with the People Development Committee of the JA Worldwide Board of Governors, it became clear that there is an opportunity to reward the best talent in the JA network with leadership-development opportunities by means of a fellowship program. In addition, we learned that it’s possible to select a few impactful projects that are not full-time engagements, but that do require specialized knowledge of the JA network suited to high-potential leaders. So we have designed a program that will require only a few hours each month, with a long gestation period spread over 18 months. This program is modeled on the best leadership-development programs offered by the Aspen Institute.

Through the launch of this new program, six high-potential JA leaders will deepen their leadership, mentorship, and strategic skills. Our global fellows training program will include:

  • An all-expense-paid trip in March 2018 to the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, with training and networking included
  • A week-long leadership development experience at the Global Institute for Leadership Development in California in Q4 2018
  • Leadership of a global initiative, collaborating directly with JAWW leaders, Board of Governors, and external experts
  • Membership in an elite pool of high-potential leaders across the globe

If interested, your first step is to complete this simple signup process (log-in required). Qualified candidates will then be asked to complete a more detailed application, beginning in early January. If you’re not sure if this opportunity is right for you, please check out FAQs about the program (log-in required).

It’s worth noting that this is one element of a broader human-capital strategy that JA Worldwide is championing, led by the People Development Committee of the Board of Governors. The goal of the strategy is to enable the JA network to grow and amplify our student impact by investing in the people who do the work—that is, the staff who are part of the network of teams among JA member countries. For those who attended the Global Leadership Conference in July, this will be familiar to you because we launched our leadership-development program at the conference. We plan to continue to provide some of the world’s best meeting facilitators and leadership coaches to run workshops at regional conferences around the world.

The JA Worldwide Fellows Program is not the only leadership program we plan to launch. Stay tuned for other programs for more experienced JA leaders who have been in their leadership roles for over eight years and have wisdom and mentorship to offer to newer leaders.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to work for the Virgin Group and participate in amazing leadership-development programs. Virgin mastered the simple task of investing in people, and I’m committing to similarly invest in JA’s human capital, which is a priority in the JA Worldwide Strategic Plan.

Until next time,
Asheesh


September-October 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

Everyone likes to receive free stuff. Here at JA Worldwide, we’ve been fortunate to find things to offer the JA network for free—for example, registration to conferences that normally cost hundreds of dollars are sometimes offered to us—and we do our best to share them with the JA network.This month, we have been offered free registration access for JA attendees to the WISE Summit, which is one of the top education conferences in the world and will be held on November 14–16, 2017 in Doha, Qatar.

Thanks to the generosity of INJAZ Qatar, we have been provided with a discount code (INJ2017) that can be used to register for the conference. The cost of the registration is normally USD $1,500, so this is a significant value for the JA network. I’m particularly excited about this opportunity, because I often feel as though JA leaders and staff don’t have the resources and time to learn about the latest trends in education. The theme of this year’s WISE Summit is “Co-Exist, Co-Create, Learning to Live and Work Together,” and they are expecting over 2,000 attendees. If you can fly to Doha, I encourage you to make time to attend this conference and meet colleagues from the JA network.

At JA Worldwide, we’re constantly looking for value-driven offerings for the JA network. For example, we have been negotiating an agreement with one of the leading alumni-management software platforms that is used by corporations to engage their alumni. We’ll soon be making an announcement to offer this software platform to the JA network. This will allow JA offices, ROC offices, and JA alumni associations to offer mobile-friendly engagement opportunities to alumni in your own backyard. We’ve selected a platform that addresses privacy regulations, and a vendor that has experience to manage the newest privacy laws in Europe. Watch this newsletter for the upcoming announcement.

On OneJA.org, we have additional free offerings. For example, check out information and infographics for communicating our impact. In addition, for training and onboarding new staff or new board members, we’ve developed free training videos, PowerPoint slides, and materials about JA that are currently in beta. These materials are designed to be customized at no cost, in order to adapt the content to meet your local needs. One new board member told me how the videos made it much more clear what JA does! Another new staff member told me how the slides helped her understand her role in the organization more clearly. Be one of the first to try these new materials while they are being piloted and adapted.

What other “free stuff” do you want or need? Let us know and we will do our best to identify it and share it with the network.

Until next time,
Asheesh


August 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

During the month of August, two significant events for JA young alumni and students are drawing attendees from all over the world. Last week, I attended the Next Generation Leaders (NGL) Forum in London, Ontario, Canada, along with over 100 JA students and young alumni, who flew in from Latin America, the Caribbean, China, North America, and Europe. This week, I’m also attending the JA Alumni Europe Conference in Prague, a multi-day conference organized by the JA Europe alumni board and attended by alumni from other JA regions, too. Spending time with our alumni has reinforced my view that our alumni are an untapped asset for the JA network.

  Photo courtesy of JA Next Generation Leaders Forum.

Photo courtesy of JA Next Generation Leaders Forum.

In London, I also attended a reception for about 50 local JA alumni who fondly remembered attending the Canadian National Junior Achievement Conference (CANJAC) in their younger years. For many of them, the conference was a life-changing experience. They were delighted to reconnect with other alumni at NGL and experience the energy of the students. In my remarks, I had a chance to tell them about many of the initiatives that JA Worldwide and the JA Centennial committee are launching to help re-engage local alumni all over the world, including the "I Am JA” initiative," the Centennial book by Larry Farrell, the generosity of the Chancellors of the nascent JA University, the preferential discounts for programs such as Harvard’s HBX program, the videos, stories, and studies showcasing the impact of JA programs by tracking our alumni and, of course, the formation of alumni associations and the events in every region of JA that model themselves on the success of MENA and European alumni initiatives. Many of them were happy to hear about these initiatives and offered to help. All we need to do is ask!

Many of our alumni were interested to learn that JA had expanded outside of North America over the years. They were genuinely curious about how JA can be a force for good, training job creators, driving economic growth, and reducing poverty (in English and Spanish). We are lucky to have this network of 100 million+ alumni who have the potential to become volunteers, sponsors, classroom speakers, mentors, coaches, supporters, board members, and living examples of our impact. Again, all we need to do is ask!

At the same time that I’ve been traveling to meet with alumni, about 10,000 people marched through the streets of Boston, Massachusetts, not far from the JA Worldwide office, to protest racism and neo-Nazi rhetoric. This rally followed on the heels of a much more politically divisive and contentious protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which dominated headlines all over the world. I read and watched news coverage of both events while on the road, received emails from members of our Board of Governors, and heard from staff about how JA’s core values call on us to be inclusive and to reject racism in all of its forms. In fact, one of our core values is to have "respect for talent, creativity, perspectives, and backgrounds of individuals from all backgrounds." It was heartening—as I watched cities around the U.S. stand up to groups that have no interest in respecting and honoring our differences—to meet JA students and alumni from all over the world who uphold our values of respect, nurturing, and inclusivity, even many years after they participated in JA programs and attended JA events.

Until next time,
Asheesh


July 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

A famous quote from Confucius is along these lines: "I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” It’s appropriate for JA, not only because of our learning-by-doing programs for student, but also with regard to staff development and the Global Leadership Conference (GLC). The best nuggets and takeaways from GLC included wisdom from a world-class lineup of speakers, including Marshall Goldsmith, Mark Thompson, and Peter Schwartz, all of which we livestreamed. While it was best experienced by being in the room and doing the exercises (like FeedForward from Marshall Goldsmith, like the Breaking the Drama Triangle from Michael Bungay Stanier, and others), I’ll summarize some of the memorable quotes and takeaways in this letter, within the context of the four global priorities of the JA Worldwide strategic plan.

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If you were unable to attend, we missed you. If you attended, thank you for sharing your feedback and kind words of encouragement. A hard-working team from JA USA, JA Worldwide, and JA Georgia put this conference together, and they appreciate your input.

Global Priority #1: Define and Communicate Our Impact

The JA network told us that they would like JA Worldwide to lead the process of articulating our impact, providing a framework for measuring it, and communicating it more aggressively with alumni stories and brand building. We provided this in multiple GLC sessions. On the first day of the conference, we outlined the unifying impact theme of Activating Youth for the Future of Jobs and described the buy-in for this theme with all six regional leaders on stage. On both the first and second days, we heard presentations from Peter Schwartz, Mark Thompson, and the (very impressive) plenary panel who highlighted the soft skills/competences that are relevant for the future of jobs.

On the third day, we revealed that these skills have been measured by JA Europe for the Entrepreneurial Skills Pass and are now being “globalized” via pilots in JA areas and member countries across all six regions. In addition, we released OneJA.org, which includes a section on Impact that will include infographics (such as this one), reports, and other information to accelerate the cohesiveness of impact measurement and communication across the JA network.

We also outlined a strategy for communicating our impact more aggressively in our Centennial year, through the “I am JA” alumni-engagement campaign and our Centennial book, The Entrepreneurial Attitude: Lessons from Junior Achievement’s 100 Years of Developing Young Entrepreneurs, by Larry Farrell. Read more about both on OneJA.org.

Global Priority #2: Support Human Capital to Accelerate Sustainable Growth

While regional conferences focus on program-level training, our global conference focused on leadership development and mindset shifts. NGOs like ours find it difficult to raise funding for human-capital investments, so we decided to focus on this aspect of leadership, particularly as it helps us serve as a catalyst for sustainable growth. We were fortunate to find the top leadership coaches in the world, such as Marshall Goldsmith (see here for slides), and workshop leaders such as Michael Bungay Stanier (whom I’ve heard from many of you provided exceptional take-home value) to lead sessions with practical advice for teams and individuals. The GLC included over 30 speakers over the three days—and all of them were willing to do this for JA waiving their speaking fees, which are normally over $50,000!

One of the veteran attendees provided this lovely testimonial about the conference:

It was an incredible week of learning, inspiration, and connecting with the One JA family. The topics were relevant and the speakers, world class. Our team left the conference feeling more invigorated, confident, self-aware, and better prepared to take their leadership to the next level. Thanks, again, for your leadership and for preparing such a feast for us!

Global Priority #3: Expand Funding Base

Several breakout sessions focused on fundraising. Not surprisingly, these sessions were among the most popular. For example, Brandie Conforti led two back-to-back sessions related to fundraising and featured best practices from experts in the UK, Egypt, and Nigeria. The Q&A discussion was just as valuable as the presentations with practical advice for leaders. We also featured a global funder panel that included candid advice from some of our largest multi-region donors. Many regions had separate breakout sessions for their members who attended the conference, providing information on new regional programs. JA Americas, for example, has succeeded in attracting a commitment of funding from the InterAmerican Development Bank, representing our first successful instance of JA receiving significant funding from a multilateral development bank (MDB), which was one of the original aspirations for the establishment of JA Worldwide and the ROCs.

In addition, individuals are stepping up to share their expertise and contacts with the entire network. Stefania Popp, for example, has made the generous offer to share her formidable fundraising experience and management expertise with JA leaders as she travels around the world after she retires next year—a bold and brilliant idea. Many JA leaders have already invited her to visit so, she’ll have an interesting and impactful year of travel. And John McNutt, from JA Peterborough, Lakeland, Muskoka (Canada), offered to help connect JA locations with Rotary Clubs, and more than 25 have already sought his help. So simple, so smart, so generous.

Global Priority #4: Strengthen Network Alignment

Two years ago, we sat down with the leadership of JA USA and mutually agreed on the conference theme: One JA. Since then, we’ve worked hard to make the conference agenda focus on elements that would appeal to leaders that were seeking personal development. We also worked hard to articulate a vision for collaboration that is a two-way street among JA teams around the world. For example, we created a new JA Worldwide award to honor collaboration (congrats to JA Bulgaria, Romania, Norway, Latvia, and Greece for winning that award), and we highlighted some of the best quotes from the conference speakers, both internal and external, that made the point that we are stronger together than alone. Here are some of my favorites (in no particular order):

  • "I don’t have to be better than you, let’s work together and help each other."
  • "Our values are not what we say, but what we do!"
  • "The world becomes a better place not when we learn, but when we do."
  • "Those with privilege have an obligation to help others open the window to their potential."
  • "If I had to rebuild, what would I change?"

Our network also grows when we align our activities to provide benefits for our powerful and growing alumni network. At GLC, alumni from across the globe spanning three generations participated in an inspiring young-alumni panel led by alumnus Dave Meltzer, with closing remarks from alumnus Brian Sidorsky. If you hadn't thought about engaging alumni in your country, these alumni convinced you with their "I am JA" journeys. 

Alignment doesn’t have to mean giving up local expertise and customization. The fixed, flexible, freestyle approach offers global alignment around fixed elements, regional alignment with flexible elements, and freestyle customization at the local level. One example of this is the JA Onboarding Tool we’ve launched in beta, which is made up of fixed videos embedded in a PowerPoint; flexible PowerPoint slides that are built out, but customizable; and opportunities to add freestyle slides to meet your local needs. Sign up today to be beta tester for this new global—but locally customizable—tool.

If you were able to attend, thank you for making the trip. The cost of travel and the time away from your home and office were a sacrifice that I’m deeply grateful for. If you weren’t able to attend, I hope you take advantage of the resources we’ve provided on OneJA and share in the good feelings from the conference. You were with us there, too, in spirit, and we were thinking of you.

Until next time,
Asheesh


June 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

As the fiscal year draws to a close for many JA offices, it’s a good time to reflect on the performance of your team and how you provide feedback. The fact is, nobody likes receiving feedback. Nobody likes to be told what they did poorly, particularly when their interpretation of past events is different from yours. I’ve learned a different approach from Marshall Goldsmith called feedforward. At the Global Leadership Conference in July, we’ll learn from Marshall about feedforward and how it can improve the effectiveness of your team and your own ability to improve.

Over the last two years, I’ve had a chance to visit many JA offices and meet staff all over the world. JA is organized into a network of teams in over 100 countries, sitting in over 500 offices (some countries have multiple offices), typically ranging from 5 to 25 people, located in one place. There are a few examples of teams smaller than five or larger than 25, but for the most part, we are an organization that gets a lot accomplished in small teams. It is actually quite remarkable that JA member countries are able to mobilize so many volunteers and reach so many young people while maintaining financial sustainability, despite economic roadblocks in many parts of the world. In my view, one reason we’ve been so resilient over many decades is because of our network of teams that is able to raise funding and build resilience at all levels of the organization: global, regional, national, and local.

As a network of teams, how can we become more effective, more successful, more impactful, and happier? The feedforward exercise that we’ll learn at GLC is one way to make teams work more effectively. Essentially, the exercise involves helping each other accomplish our goals with best practices and information that we have learned from our own teams. Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world’s leading management thinkers, has trained thousands of NGO leaders and management executives on how to replace feedback with feedforward. It is quick and fun—much more enjoyable and impactful than the often-unproductive exercise of providing feedback that makes individuals defensive and makes teams dysfunctional.

If you’re unable to attend GLC, we plan to share the best content both during and after the conference. During the conference, we’ll be streaming and live tweeting during several keynote speakers. Stay tuned to our Facebook channel for livestreams, check the GLC web page for our final list of livestreamed sessions after July 10, and follow #OneJA on Twitter for the latest insights from participants.

Until next time,
Asheesh


May 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

Earlier this month, I had a chance to represent JA Worldwide at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Not only was this an opportunity for JA to raise our visibility, it also enabled us to add JA’s voice to the discussion about preparing young people for the future of work, particularly as it relates to small business and entrepreneurship. The main reason JA was invited to the UN was to help launch an annual “Name Day”—June 27—which puts a spotlight on the importance of micro, small, and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs), the job creators of the future.

Winslow Sargeant, who was a guest speaker at the joint meeting of the JA Worldwide Board of Governors and JA USA Board of Directors in September, arranged for JA to be involved in this event, held in the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber.

The World Bank estimates 600 million jobs will be needed in the next 15 years. MSMEs will be the employers of the future, ready to absorb this growing workforce. MSMEs contribute up to 45 percent of total employment and up to 33 percent of GDP in emerging economies. Such businesses help on every economic level, yet their contribution often goes unnoticed or is not understood. Did you know, for example, that small businesses account for two out of three net new jobs created worldwide?

What role does JA play in preparing young people for jobs in micro, small, and medium-sized businesses? How can we ensure that our programs stay relevant in a changing jobs environment? How can we bring more attention and support to connect volunteers from small businesses and entrepreneurial environments with classrooms in which JA programs are delivered? What are some of the best practices from the JA network that we can share as a way to involve entrepreneurs in our programs? (For example, did you know that the U.S. region, selected European members, and selected African members have initiatives to bring entrepreneurs and small business owners into the classroom as mentors and role models?) These are some of the questions and considerations that we will be discussing as we plan for how to involve JA in the first United Nations MSME Day—which will launch next year on June 27, 2018. Much like Global Entrepreneurship Week and Global Money Week, we anticipate that this date will serve as a galvanizing day for partners and stakeholders to put a spotlight on the importance of MSMEs as a driver of job creation.

In addition to our visible role at the UN this month, I would like to thank Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi, JA Worldwide Board Chair, for sharing a letter about the impact of JA with His Holiness, Pope Francis.

We are grateful for the opportunities brought to us by our Governors, Global Council members, board members, and leaders from around the network, who help us spread the word about JA’s impact.

Until next time,
Asheesh


April 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

Have you seen the TED talk by Dan Pallotta? If you’ve already seen it, I invite you to view it again, as it has now climbed in the top 100 list of popular TED talks. It will reframe your perspective on what non-profit organizations need to build operational excellence and deliver impact. Last week, I spoke on a panel with Dan at the Harvard Business School about New Trends in Fundraising for Non-Profits.

He started the panel presentation by describing his efforts to convince the industry that certain costs (for example, marketing and fundraising, which are typically deemed overhead) are necessary to build effective organizations. Dan has launched a public ad campaign called The Overhead Myth to convince the public that overhead costs are not evil. Rather than tracking the ratio of overhead to program expenses, as many nonprofits do, he argues that we should track total funds raised after overhead is subtracted. Big impact—which requires marketing and fundraising—is better than small impact with small overhead. His is a simple and powerful message.

Obviously, sharing Dan’s TED talk on social media or playing it during a partner meeting isn’t going to change anyone’s mind, and may instead galvanize the current distaste for investing in overhead. But we can use it to fuel a conversation within our network about gradually changing this mindset, especially as we communicate the impact of our work.

In addition to participating in this panel, I also had a chance to represent JA on a much bigger stage. Leo Martellotto, President of JA Americas, and I participated in the World Economic Forum on Latin America earlier this month in Argentina. For the first time in our interaction with the Forum, JA was featured in the press conference and as part of the closing plenary presentation. Our message is timely and important: Activating young people for the future of jobs is not a luxury, but a necessity. During the conference (as well as before and after), there were general strikes in Argentina, fueled to some degree by the skills gap and the high rate of youth unemployment. This was yet another reminder that JA’s mission is more relevant than it has ever been. Read more about our involvement at WEF and our article for the WEF blog (in English and Spanish) that was among the most popular articles on the WEF social media channels during the week of the conference.

Closing Plenary and Sao Paulo announcment
Breaking Down Employment Barriers

This is a time of great progress for our organization. Our network continues to grow, as JA Australia and JA Iceland have officially joined as member countries, while JA Ghana has restarted its operations. Welcome to the newest members of the team! I am particularly proud of the hard work that our regional operating centers are doing to support this growth with a focus on sustainability.

Finally, the Global Leadership Conference registration page is now live! Please register by May 19 to receive your early-registration discount and reserve your spot. And don’t forget to submit nominations for the 2017 GLC Awards. This is a unique opportunity to be honored for all the hard work that you have done—and to recognize the work of individuals and teams that make JA such an effective network.

Until next time,
Asheesh


March 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

Did you know that the JA network has over 3,600 staff members, over 50 percent of whom are located outside the United States? Did you know that our network delivered programs in over 200,000 classes in 2016, with a cost per student experience of approximately US$30? Did you know that JA Singapore has one of the highest volunteer-to-student ratios in the network? These are some of the facts that you can learn from the latest edition of the just-released 2016 JA Worldwide Factbook.

In the future, our vision is to improve the Factbook and make it even more useful to the network and our stakeholders, particularly by aligning it to our shared impact objectives. The Factbook should shed light on critical areas that improve the effectiveness of our work and clarify our impact in a measurable way. I’m delighted that the JA Worldwide strategic-planning exercise revealed the elements of short-term and long-term impact that the network believes are shared and are important to measure.

Last week, I was at a conference in San Francisco and had the opportunity to meet with the CEOs of other forward-looking organizations, such as Girls Who Code, IDEO, and Turkcell. They each reaffirmed how critical JA’s work is to the future of jobs. Even though coding skills, design thinking, and STEM skills will be increasingly important in the future, JA’s programs—which help youth build confidence and self-efficacy, help young people understand money and business, and help people own their economic success—are the soil in which these other competences can be nurtured, particularly in a world in which continuous learning and career transitions will be expected.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be speaking on this topic at the World Economic Forum on Latin America 2017 in Buenos Aires (April 5–7), and then at the United Nations Headquarters (May 11). Watch the JA Worldwide social-media channels for more information on both events . . . here at JA Worldwide, we are doing our best to raise the visibility of JA, so it is no longer the world’s best kept secret!

In preparation for next week’s WEF conference, I’ve co-authored an article with Leo Martellotto, President of JA Americas, that describes how society can change when enough individuals are able to build self-efficacy. This article has been a labor of love because it brings together two ideas that have been on my mind ever since I joined JA. First is a theory of change that is focused on the individual, but that is also relevant for regions, countries, and communities based on the types of social change that JA can bring. This theory of change has been a collaborative effort, with input from the Senior Leadership Team when we met in Doha; insights from consultants such as Seema Bhatt and Tere Stouffer, who joined JA to help us articulate our impact by using the clarity of storytelling and modern communications; and help from selected national JA executive directors, who have been trailblazers in impact measurement, program design, and communications. Building self-efficacy in young people is what unites many of our programs.

Second is that the scale of our impact means that we reach more young people than most other NGOs, enabling us to bring systematic impact to regions, countries, and communities. For example, in parts of Eastern Europe, JA’s programs have reached so many young people since the fall of the Berlin Wall that we can make a claim to have fundamentally influenced society by helping educate a generation of businesspeople and social entrepreneurs. In many countries, we now reach 5–10 percent of all school-aged youth, stretching to 40–50 percent in a few particularly impactful geographies. (Our Factbook shares some of the numbers in aggregate, and our recent analysis for the Board of Governors looked at this systematically.) In the United States, we now reach over 10 percent of all middle-school students and have built a legacy of impact over decades. This is why Jack Kosakowski, CEO of JA USA, often talks about his own experience with JA and how it transformed his life. Similarly, our alumni speak to their individual stories of the life-changing impact of building self-efficacy.

The socio-economic benefits of growth and scale are far more important than impressing our boards or meeting targets set by our funders and stakeholders. Achieving growth and scale means that more young people benefit from our programs and that we have the potential to fundamentally transform regions, countries, and communities, working in collaboration with other NGOs and programs that deliver comparable results. Reaching a tipping point of 10–15 percent penetration within a given place means that we have the potential to generate economic growth, reduce poverty, and strengthen the entrepreneurial and commercial culture. It’s an exciting journey, and it’s a privilege to be part of it!

Until next time,
Asheesh


February 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for re-tweeting and forwarding my article about self-efficacy around the JA network. I’ve received notes from many of you about the article, which helps articulate how our programs can help kids prepare for the future, despite the pace of change and uncertainty about jobs. We've posted more articles from leaders across the JA network, such as Michael Mercieca, Elizabeth Bintliff, and Margie Wang, in our online magazine, JA Good Company, which uses the Medium platform to broadcast thought leadership. Check it out—and please continue to share the postings to your social networks. The JA social-media network now reaches well over 1.5 million followers, and is our most cost-effective way to spread our message.

We’ve had a busy few weeks since our last newsletter, ranging from a Board of Governors meeting in Doha, Qatar, to a Senior Leadership Team offsite meeting and a productive visit to Davos for the World Economic Forum. Here’s a brief summary:

Our board meeting in January included a combined session with the national board in Qatar, the INJAZ Al-Arab regional board, and the JA Worldwide Board of Governors. Sheikha Hanadi bint Nasser Al Thani , our host, is the board chair of INJAZ Qatar and an inspirational business executive, social entrepreneur, and philanthropist . . . watch her TEDx talk. We’re lucky to have leaders like the Sheikha supporting our network! I’m also very thankful to both the INJAZ Qatar team and the INJAZ Al-Arab team for organizing the meeting and sharing their success and ambitions for growth in the region. During the meeting, one of the largest media companies in the region, MBC, announced significant new funding for the regional operating center and for the MENA network. It was inspirational for the other board members in the room to hear the passion and commitment from MBC.

Following the board meeting, the Senior Leadership Team (which includes the heads of the six regional operating centers, plus selected JA Worldwide staff members) held a three-day working session. We tackled some complex issues, such as impact measurement, partnership guidelines, technology investments and LMS roll-out, pilot program results, human-capital investments, fundraising priorities, fundable projects, global events, strategic-plan feedback, and alumni initiatives. I think it is fair to say that we all left the meeting feeling that it was time well spent—and long overdue.

In Doha, we had a chance to visit Education City. It was eye-opening to see how new universities are being created using the latest technology to deliver classroom experiences to students. The youth of tomorrow will have access to better educational resources than we did, and JA has a role to play in bringing some of these experiential learning tools to students. To that end, member countries will soon have a chance to participate in an optional survey conducted by Harvard Business School alumni, so we can understand the role that JA Worldwide and ROCs can play in bringing educational technology to the network. In our 2016 survey, the network told us that technology development was ranked at the top of the list of activities desired by member country CEOs and board chairs. For this reason, we’ve prioritized this area and are seeking more detailed feedback from those in the network who are interested in educational technology. I’ll share that link in the coming weeks.

While in Davos at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting, I was also able to see some of the latest technology up-close. I met a robot that can imitate human emotion and attended a hologram demo (conducted by a person from Case Western University whose father is an active JA volunteer), in which Microsoft HoloLens is used in the classroom for students who are learning anatomy. And I bumped into technology executives and JA alumni such as Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo! and one of the Google’s earliest executives), who told me that JA was among her top ten student experiences.

More importantly, the activities of the JA network were featured in panels at Davos. The first panel was on Reforming the Education Ecosystem and included the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, the former Prime Minister of Denmark (who is now CEO of Save the Children), and the co-founder of LinkedIn. In a second panel on Lifelong Learning, JA was featured alongside other NGOs that are focused on education. A third panel entitled Meeting the Youth Imperative (taped and broadcast live to the Global Shapers community—see below) featured the CEO of a Dutch NGO focused on education reform and Omar Alghanim, the INJAZ Kuwait Board Chair and a successful business owner and philanthropist.

The WEF was productive and worthwhile on many levels. I was able to express my gratitude to the CEOs of many of our key funders and corporate partners, interact with policy makers who had previously not heard of JA, meet new philanthropists from all over the world (including one from India who then made the trip to Doha to visit our board meeting!), and deepen our relationships with key stakeholders, including JA board members and other friends of the network. We are, indeed, fortunate to be one of the few NGOs invited to participate in the annual meeting and have a seat at the table representing civil society. You know that “world’s best-kept secret” we keep talking about? We’re chipping away at it.

Until next time,
Asheesh


January 2017 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

Later today, at the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos, I’ll be speaking on the “Reshaping the Education Ecosystem” panel, which will focus on three areas: envisioning future-ready curricula; promoting exposure to work; and advancing digital fluency. I'm excited to be speaking on such an important topic in a session that will be in front of the CEOs from some of our largest potential funders.

Unfortunately, the session won't be livestreamed, so, in order to share this conversation with you, I've written an article for our thought-leadership magazine, Good Company, that focuses on the one skill set I believe will reshape the education ecosystem more than any other: self-efficacy. In addition, in next month's newsletter, I'll share highlights of what was discussed by the panel, along with updates from the JA Worldwide/INJAZ Al-Arab joint board meeting later this month in Doha.

Until then,
Asheesh


December 2016 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

What a great year we had throughout the JA network! Relive it with a fun video showing our highlights and successes. And thanks to every one of you as you help young people around the world achieve their goals and better their communities.

Warm regards,
Asheesh


November 2016 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,

Last week, I attended the INJAZ Young Entrepreneur’s Competition (YEC), the 10th annual competition in the JA Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Among the many inspiring elements of the event, the one that I’ll remember most was attending the inaugural elections for the newly formed alumni association for MENA.

National alumni associations in the Middle East and North Africa region have been active in Algeria, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, and several other countries. During presentations from young alumni, I learned how they are organizing weekly (!) or monthly meet-ups to stay connected, network with like-minded professionals, inspire each other to maintain an entrepreneurial outlook, and retain their engagement with JA/INJAZ youth by volunteering. To illustrate the power of volunteering, in Bahrain, where the YEC event was hosted, we have a small office with less than ten full-time staff, but all of them are young alumni who once participated in our programs! That results in a deep connection and passion for the impact we’re making and on individuals who have changed the course of their careers as a result of our programs.

Now, back to the alumni association election. The winner as President of the Regional Alumni Association is Amel Abdelli, a dynamic young architect from Algeria. She spoke passionately in her nomination speech about alumni events that are organized in Algiers, her nation’s capital, and how she plans to outline a strategy for raising the profile of the alumni to help showcase events, improve communications, feature the HBX program, expand the database, and engage volunteers.

Listening to her speech and meeting the staff alumni in Bahrain has served to remind me that alumni are a golden untapped resource for the JA network. Alumni can help us more substantially in at least three areas:

  • Communicating our impact: Raising the profile of our alumni can help showcase the real impact of our work. They are the embodiment of our efforts, working in conjunction other NGOs and programs that can impact the career choices of young people. 
  • Supplying committed volunteers and staff: Wherever I travel, I hear that volunteer recruiting and retention is one of the most time-consuming elements of our business model. In my view, we have under-invested in our alumni engagement as a source of committed volunteers. We have also under-appreciated how hiring young alumni can provide knowledgeable and committed staff for a member country or regional operating center. For example, our national CEOs in Switzerland and Bahrain have built strong teams by recruiting alumni.
  • Providing financial resources: JA’s fundraising staff has focused on corporate funding rather than on individual donations. This has led to a shortfall in unrestricted funding and over-commitment of time and resources in delivering on the promises made for restricted funding. Running short of unrestricted funds leads to a ripple effect of lost opportunities: less money for innovation, professional development, training, marketing, board engagement, and fulfilling obligations to the network. I hear this feedback frequently: “I wish we had more unrestricted funding.” Focusing on smaller donations from alumni is one way to chip away at a solution.

JA Worldwide is committed to helping leverage alumni more successfully in each of these three areas. We view this as one way to add value to the JA network, working in collaboration with the ROCs. The JA 100 Lives project and the Harvard Business School digital program for JA alumni are two recent examples of how we are helping engage with alumni and raise the visibility of our alumni network. Early in 2017, we'll be announcing another new initiative that will allow member nations to engage prominent alumni. At JA Worldwide, we view the engagement of young alumni as a catalyst for other network priorities, such as sourcing and funding better technology, modernizing and simplifying our impact communications, and upgrading and disseminating our best programs.

During the award ceremony at YEC, one of JA’s most generous supporters leaned over to talk to me and said, “Learning about business from Young Enterprise at a young age changed my career choices. I want to connect the young people of the Middle East with the global business community. Tell me what you need, and let’s do it together.” This is the passion of the alumni network that we aim to harness.

Until next time,
Asheesh


October 2016 CEO Letter

Dear colleagues,