Updated: Feb 8, 2022
The Beginning of a Movement
The JCI Movement began in 1915 by one man, with one vision and a passion for positive change. Henry Giessenbier Jr. lived during a time of growth and expansion and saw the need for youth to develop their skills in order to address the civic challenges. This vision included igniting a movement that worked toward the establishment of a permanent and everlasting world peace. The first JCI Local Organization was founded on October 13, 1915 at the Mission Inn in St. Louis, USA, when 32 men joined together to form the Young Men’s Progressive Association (YMPCA). The YMPCA
sought to offer young active citizens the unique opportunity to share their voice and engage with community members and officials to address community challenges and create sustainable impact. In nearly five months, the organization grew from 32 to 750 members. Official recognition of the organization was granted on November 30, 1915, when it was enrolled as a member of the Mayor’s Conference of Civic Organizations. In 1916, the YMPCA became known as the Junior Citizens and soon after it changed again to the Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Junior Chamber Spreads Across the Nation
The 1920’s brought great change for the JCI Movement as it went from local to national status. The first convention of the US Junior Chamber occurred in St. Louis, USA in 1920 with 30 cities present. Projects were now developed both locally and nationally to expand the impact. In 1926, the US Junior Chamber pursued the expansion of aviation in the United States by working toward establishing airports throughout the country with member Charles A. Lindbergh, who helped introduce the age of commercial aviation. JCI grassroots initiatives continued with the Get-Out-The-Vote campaign in 1926 in which the US Junior Chamber became the first national organization to conduct a systematic
campaign to educate active citizens of their civil duty to vote. As a result, 12 million m
ore individuals voted in the 1928 election than in 1924. Other projects, including several successful campaigns aimed at increasing road safety, showed the impact of the JCI Movement growing in more and more Communities across the United States.
Months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Junior Chamber became the first young men’s group to back the draft principal and during that time 85% of the organization’s membership entered into the military. In the midst of World War II, the time came for the US Junior Chamber to take the organization to an international standing. It was on December 11, 1944 with representatives from the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama present that the movement was established internationally during the Inter-American Congress in Mexico City. With their international presence established, the first JCI Congress took place in Panama City, Panama in 1946. It was the work of the US Junior Chamber that influenced World War II Veteran Artemio L. Vergel de Dios from Manila, Philippines to initiate the first JCI Local Organization in Asia in 1948. The organization’s rapid international growth demonstrated the desire to build peaceful relationships across borders.
Collaboration for a Better World
The 1950’s were a time of change but also most importantly a time of reconnecting to the roots and values of the organization. In 1954, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted JCI Special Consultative status, officially defining the supportive relationship between JCI and the UN. With the understanding that the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations, a core value of the organization, JCI was the first international organization in the post-war world to recognize Japan as its own country. Moreover, American soldiers and JCI members who remained in Japan after the war helped rebuild the country and introduce democracy. Further
exemplifying the value of brotherhood, the first international campaign launched in 1954. Operation Brotherhood was developed to support refugees fleeing communism in Vietnam. The campaign included large-scale fundraising efforts that raised US $1 million, assisted more than 730,000 individuals through health and wellness programs and created 350 special villages for refugees.
Breaking Social Barriers Globally
As more countries gained their independence, JCI rapidly expanded in Africa and Latin America. While citizens gained new freedoms, opportunities for women were increasing. Throughout the 1970’s, membership growth among women soared and in 1971 the first female National President was elected in Nepal. JCI continued this trend of breaking social barriers in 1974 by establishing the first multiracial organization to receive governmental permission in South Africa. During this time of expansion and growth, JCI communicated their stories of impact by issuing a multi-language publication across the globe to nearly 400,000 members. After several decades since the organization became international, JCI demonstrated its ability to develop leaders as JCI alumni moved on to assume leadership roles in government, businesses and civil societies in communities across the world.
Peaceful Solutions for All People
Starting in the 1980’s, organizational themes focused heavily on equality, internationalism and world peace in response to civil conflicts, assassination attempts and acts of terror. The Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (JCI TOYP) program was launched internationally in 1983 to recognize socially responsible young active citizens to inspire the next generation of young leaders. Through this program, JCI has recognized people for their accomplishments in areas such as business, economic and entrepreneurial accomplishment, medical innovation and contributions to children, peace and human rights.
Throughout the 1990’s, JCI members around the world took action to support marginalized groups such as children, people with disabilities and senior citizens. JCI participated in drafting the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, a list of 54 articles created by the UN General Assembly, addressing basic human rights to which children everywhere are entitled. To provide equal opportunities, a variety of projects constructed hospitals, camps for disabled youth and senior housing facilities. In the United States, members lobbied for legislation to mandate public accessibility for the disabled.
Impact in the New Millennium
The early 2000’s reinvigorated the sense of active citizenship and grassroots initiatives throughout the organization; members refocused projects and efforts around the JCI Mission. In 2004, JCI committed to advance the Millennium Development Goals created by the United Nations. This set of eight global development goals ranged from eradicating extreme hunger and poverty to combating HIV/AIDS and malaria. Through 2015, the target deadline, JCI members continued to organize projects focused on advancing these goals by taking action at the local level. To increase the quantity of projects that result in sustainable solutions, the General Assembly of the 2010 JCI World Congress adopted the JCI Active Citizen Framework, a roadmap of actionable, results-driven steps to produce sustainable impact. The JCI Active Citizen Framework has helped drive projects by first conducting community needs analysis, then collaborating with stakeholders to formulate a sustainable solution and take action.
Celebration of 100yrs + of impact
As JCI celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the JCI Movement, the moment presented itself for the organization to reflect on the impact created over the last 100 years. However, JCI members did more than reflect on the past, but began working toward a better future. In July 2015, in partnership with the UN Millennium Campaign, JCI launched the Global Youth Empowerment Fund to empower young people around the globe to impact their communities by investing in grassroots projects. In September 2015, as the Millennium Development Goals reached their target deadline, the UN General Assembly adopted a 17-point plan to end poverty, combat climate change and fight injustice and inequality. Dedicated to creating a better world, JCI signed the Kanazawa Declaration during the 2015 JCI World
Congress, committing the organization to advancing the Global Goals. Through the organization’s mission and vision, JCI continues to discover and celebrate the unsung heroes of its time on its journey to be the organization that unites all sectors of society to create sustainable change.
Age of the Pandemic
This is where we are writing our part of history - how will you get involved today?