Hello AIESEC in Slovakia,

Yesterday, I have participated in the AAC after some 5-6 years and learning the current status was a SLAP IN MY FACE. It is very bad. I have been reflecting about it and let me present couple of my ideas.

I believe the hard times are for AIESEC globally. And let’s not focus on pandemic situation because the problem is rooted deeper and more longterm. Although Covid’19 is a catalyst for it. And there may be more pandemics in the future like this.

I see the problem in relevance of the organization for the world and in drivers for its existence.

When AIESEC was founded after WW2, there was a strong need for peace and international co-operation in the world to avoid conflicts. Later, as the peace times in majority of world widespread for longer, @ has been the promoter of modern leadership in business with the mission of fulfillment of humankind’s potential. Specifically for our reality in Czech and Slovak Republics (I was member 1997-2002, having internship 96-97) and many countries in this region, @ has been bringing the modern work and life habits to our realities, making us more open to the world and global learning. I can’t see any more inspiring thing in the @ mission and vision nowadays. These must be modified to make it again ahead of competition and more inspiring for its stakeholders.

On the level of drivers in past, ambitious, well-educated and well-trained young leaders have been attractive for companies. And the learning opportunities in top companies (mostly large international corporations) and organizations have been attractive for members and students. Specifically for our little underdeveloped region at the end of socialist system, @ has been a window to better career opportunities with international scale in mind (and good earnings and quality life in the brain bottom). The mentioned ideas have been strong enough to attract enough quality people to keep the organization living and relevant.

But it is losing its momentum (from what I have understood last night). The outlined ideas are no more competitive advantage of AIESEC. There are many other ways and organizations that can fulfill these needs to people. Especially, the most ambitious entrepreneurs can become well-educated and well-trained also by starting their own business while studying. They will not invest time in membership in such an organisation.

What should be in the new focus?
In my opinion ECOLOGICAL sustainability.

That is the top challenge at these times. If mankind does not stop climate change, plundering natural resources and over-consumption, economic and social development (current focus of @) will be no good. People will fight for survival. That has already started and is becoming gradually stronger. And that is where AIESEC can help. Putting its top leadership development know-how in the service of this survival challenge. Partner with ecological organisations to help them with leadership and making stronger impact on population. Helping together to transform habits of people to ecologically sustainable way of living. Greenpeace, Friends of Earth, Vlk, Fridays for Future and many others global, national and local NGO-s that work in this sense for many years and may welcome leadership development support. Partner with ecological companies like OZ Kompostujme or JRK Waste Management (founded by @ alumni). Helping many green startups all around the world to be interconnected and successful.

Being role models in sustainable living. Each LC having its own vermicompost in the office. Members using public transport, not exchanging electronic devices every 2 years, etc. I do not know what is the current practice in this, maybe @ members are already role models in this. But if not, they can lead – be on the edge for their stakeholders as they are on the edge with leadership and technologies.

Promoting much more relevant changes in reality than separating waste and changing production technologies to be more green. Planting trees everywhere where they are missing (making every member’s carbon footprint negative), promoting permaculture, expanding sensitivity to all living creatures (and not only humans of different cultures), etc.

And this may make the AIESEC brand more attractive to stakeholders. Attracting ecologically aware students (maybe focusing on other universities than so far), teaching older corporations to become really sustainable, helping to start new businesses with strong ecological view in mind.

I have been missing this perspective in the AAC agenda last night. Stop talking about financial and talent flows. These will not be better, if there is no change in the fundaments. And pandemics’ experience can be a great facilitator of change when explaining that climate change will have much stronger and longer impact on the society, will influence people’s habits much deeper than Covid’19.

If anything unclear in my message, I will be glad to clarify.

Good luck, AIESEC!
Michal Žarnay
Alumnus of LC Žilina 1997-2002
proud member of AIESEC in Slovakia Alumni Hall of Fame

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