Logo of AIESEC
|Purpose/focus||Providing a platform for youth leadership development|
|Official languages||English (as per internal communication)|
|AIESEC International President (PAI)||Hugo Pereira|
|Main organ||Global Plenary|
|Remarks||AIESEC is the world’s largest student-run organization|
AIESEC (pronounced “eye-sek”, originally an acronym for Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales) is a global youth organisation that develops leadership capabilities through their internal leadership programmes and engaging students and graduates in international student exchange and internship programmes for profit and non-profit organisations. Its international office is in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Template:As, the AIESEC network includes over 50,000 members in 107 countries and territories, making it the largest youth-run organisation in the world. It is present in over 1,600 universities across the globe, provides more than 10,000 leadership experiences to its members and sends students and graduates on 10,000 international exchanges yearly.
The idea behind AIESEC started in the 1930s, when representatives from schools across Europe exchanged information about various programs and schools that specialized in business and economics. Students were carrying out internships in other countries, but mostly on their own initiative, and it all came to a standstill with the onslaught of World War II. In 1944, though, the neutral Scandinavian countries were still exchanging: in Stockholm, Bertil Hedberg (official at the Stockholm School of Economics) and the two students Jaroslav Zich of Czechoslovakia and Stanislas Callens of Belgium founded AIESE, the predecessor of AIESEC.
Informal activity “to help develop friendly relations between member countries” began in 1946, and AIESEC was officially founded in 1948. At the time, the mission was “to expand the understanding of a nation by expanding the understanding of the individuals, changing the world one person at a time.” In 1949, 89 students participated in the so-called “Stockholm Congress”, the first of many exchange programs. Soon, AIESEC became popular: by the end of 1960, 2467 exchanges were reported, and 4232 by the end of 1970. A landmark in AIESEC history was the “International Theme Programme” that officially established all international, regional, and local seminars on specific topics, which in time grew to be a guideline for future AIESEC generations. In the following decades, debated topics were International Trade, Management Education, Sustainable development, Entrepreneurship and Corporate Responsibility. In the 1990s, intranets called Insight were established to facilitate networking.
AIESEC identifies itself as “the international platform for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential.” It annually offers “10,000 leadership positions and delivers over 470 conferences to [its] membership of over 50,000 students”. AIESEC also runs an international exchange program that enables over 10,000 students and recent graduates the opportunity to live and intern in another country.”
2008 marked the 60th anniversary of AIESEC’s founding. Celebrations occurred in London (January 2008), Tokyo (March 2008), Budapest (May 2008), Brussels (June 2008), Brazil (August 2008), Stockholm (October 2008), and the United States (December 2008).
To maintain its relevance in the face of changing international relations, AIESEC expands the organization to new countries periodically, a process which is outlined in the organization’s global compendium. Countries listed as “Official Extensions” of AIESEC as of February 2010, include Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Benin, Botswana, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Gabon, Georgia, Iceland, Ireland, Mongolia, Mozambique, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
AIESEC operates at four levels: Local Committees (LCs), Member Committees (MCs), Growth Networks (GN) and AIESEC International (AI).
A Local Committee is based out of a university (or group of nearby universities) which is responsible for the functional operation of AIESEC’s leadership and international internship programmes. Each country (sometimes groups of countries, or territories within a country) with an AIESEC presence has its own national Member Committee (MC), which coordinates activities for that area such as larger scale conferences, large scale partnerships, and government relations (such as for visas). In general, MC members are elected (in whole or in part) by the LCs and are often paid a stipend to work as part-time or full-time employees. AIESEC International provides similar support to Member Committees, and its members are elected (in whole or in part) by the MCs.
In addition to its members, AIESEC International, the Member Committees, and the Local Committees generally have a board of directors/board of advisors composed of externals from the region as well as alumni. These boards provide guidance to the organization and in some cases are legally accountable for AIESEC’s actions.
As stated on its website, AIESEC strives for “positive social change” by using the “AIESEC Way”. The AIESEC Way is described as a way of reaching “Peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential.” According to AIESEC, there are six main values, namely; Activating Leadership, Demonstrating Integrity, Living Diversity, Enjoying Participation, Striving for Excellence and Acting Sustainably.
The “Way We do It” describes how this is to be achieved by each individual member of AIESEC: “AIESEC provides its members with an integrated development experience (The AIESEC Experience) comprised of leadership opportunities, international internships and participation in a global learning environment.”
On an individual level, AIESEC enables students to live the AIESEC Experience by taking on leadership opportunities, gaining business skills, and connecting to a global network of students by attending international conferences and interning abroad. There are five key principles, namely Taking an Active Role (main goal: proactive behaviour), Developing Self-Awareness and Personal Vision (assuming responsibility), Increasing Capacity (learning theory and applying it in practice), Building a Network (networking) and Challenging Worldview (holistic world view).
AIESEC holds several high-profile partnerships, among them with companies like Alcatel-Lucent, ING, Vale, DP-DHL, Facebook, Electrolux, IE Business School, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Reckitt Benckiser, Husqvarna, Microsoft, Artemisia, Tata Consultancy Services and UBS. These partnerships are mainly related to presence of these partners at AIESEC’s forums, and provision of talent from AIESEC to these partners. AIESEC provides global talent sourcing for PwC, Alcatel Lucent, and DHL.
AIESEC Alumni International, (AAI), is the global voluntary association of former AIESEC members. It has been in existence since 1986 and as AIESEC, is also international, non-political, independent and non-profit oriented, that links its membership beyond culture, race, sex, citizenship, religion, economic system and branch, hierarchy or generation, based on non-mercantile relationships and a capital of trust.
Through the membership of Alumni from all over the world, this association aims to continue promoting international and cross-cultural understanding, in line with the founding principles of AIESEC, for the professional and personal development of its members and the good of society.
According to the AIESEC Alumni International website, several prominent individuals have been involved with the organization. They include:
- Government Heads of State
- Cavaco Silva
- Martti Ahtisaari
- Helmut Kohl
- Janez Drnovsek
- Junichiro Koizumi
- César Gaviria
- Nerses Yeritsyan
- Micheline Calmy-Rey
- Business Leaders
- Others