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Challenge Your Status Quo – Now More Than Ever

A note from Steven Crawford, JCI Scotland President 2020

2020. The year that unprecedented became the most used word. When Corona meant more than a beer that had a lime wedge squeezed into the neck of the bottle. And when we all realised that when a pandemic hits, we really can rise to the challenge!

JCI Scotland started the year in a very strong position, with so much hope and optimism for what the year ahead would hold. We hosted the first Tri-Nations event with a debate academy where members from Scotland, Ireland and UK came together to learn new debating skills, or brush up existing ones. This was followed by a brilliant Burns Gala Dinner, hosted by JCI Edinburgh. It really was a weekend to forge friendships and showcase Edinburgh & Scotland to our JCI neighbours.

Around this time, we were just starting to learn about a new virus emerging in China, but naively, we never thought it would affect us here. I went to the European President’s Meeting, in a cold and snowy Chișinău, Moldova. While the Coronavirus was starting to make more and more headlines, we still never expected what was to come next. We were making plans for the future. Hearing about the updates for European Conference in Dublin, the Japan Academy and World Conference, as well what we, as leaders of JCI countries in Europe, were going to do for the future of this organisation.

In Scotland, myself and the national board, alongside the local boards, were continuing to make our plans for 2020. We were looking at changes to appeal to new members. We were looking at ways for past members to continue to support their local and national organisation. We were continuing to make last minute plans for our National Conference, hosted by JCI Aberdeen.

Fast forward to the middle of March, and we had a completely different view. We had to make the difficult decision to postpone National Conference. Local events were cancelled. The world was going into lockdown.

Yet, everyone in JCI Scotland rallied around! Local organisations quickly got events that were supposed to be held in person up online, via Zoom and Microsoft Teams. We started the Tri-Nations Quiz nights which have become great social events for JCI members all over the world, featuring teams from Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Lebanon, Germany, Belgium and more! VP Jenni Ahlstedt also ran the new JCI course online, “Engage, Empower, Grow!”. JCI Edinburgh then recognised that we were all spending a lot of time at our computer screens and ran a series of programmes like the daily Lego challenge. In May, we hosted the JCI Scotland Awards Ceremony to celebrate the achievements of our members in 2019. This was the first time a senatorship has been awarded online! Congratulations to Danielle Grieve, senate number 78704.

At the beginning of May, we heard that the JCI European Conference in Dublin would be cancelled. This was a huge disappointment for our members and senators who had made plans to attend.  I know personally, it was an even bigger one for the conference organising team. All was not lost, though. Within a few weeks, the organisers managed to create a complete online conference, with many of the original training & speaker sessions now being held online. It all started with the opening ceremony, where the national presidents got their moment to shine on video!

Our members threw themselves in to the program, literally! Laird Smith from JCI Edinburgh signed up and attended 28 different events over the 9 days. I know from speaking with other members, they got a lot out of the conference too.

One of the highlights for me at the conference was the unofficial debate competition. Firstly, it was a brilliant showcase of the success of the Tri-Nations Debate Academy. All finalists were academy attendees, as were 8 of the 12 debaters competing in the semi-finals. It goes to show how much of an impact the debate academy had and will continue to have going forward.

Secondly, JCI Scotland entered the competition. Rallied together by first speaker Valerie Van Kemenade, the team included Katie Black as captain and Laird Smith as second speaker. And they managed to get themselves all the way to the finals against JCI UK! This a fiercely fought debate, but ultimately, there was only one winner…SCOTLAND! Congratulations again to the team for all their hard work, effort and time. You all did Scotland so proud!

Off the back of this win, we have been working hard on a new program for all members of JCI Scotland. We are launching our “Speak with Confidence” program on the 7th of July focused on debating and public speaking training. The concept is to allow more focussed training on public speaking and debate topics, while also giving time for members to practice. Long term, the goal is to have an established program for all local organisations to follow. Even when we can start meeting up in-person, let’s keep our online connections across Scotland’s local organisations. We may even open some training sessions to local organisations outside of Scotland, using our new technologies to benefit members all over the world.

That is a point I would like to finish on. 2020 has been a year for tearing up the rule book and doing everything differently. We could have easily sat back and done nothing. We didn’t. All local organisations have put on events through online and offline platforms. They have got involved in their communities, through organisations such as Scran Academy. They have represented Scotland at many international events, such as the Online European Conference.

Now, more than ever, we have an opportunity. Together, we can grow JCI Scotland. Not just in membership, but in connections. Connections among members. Connections among our local organisations. Connections with our local community. Connections between our members here in Scotland, and members all over the world.

Who knows what is going to happen in the second half of 2020. We are doing everything differently, but change hasn’t held us back so let’s continue making sure it is for the better.

To all the members, let us continue to challenge our status quo.