An insight into being JCI President by Rachael Shah

An insight into being JCI President by Rachael Shah

April 15, 2020 7:48 am Published by Leave your thoughts

2020 has already been an eventful year! Whilst many of us have the benefit of some more time, I thought I would reflect on my first 3 months as JCI Manchester president and share some of my highs, lows and what I’ve learnt along the way so far.

Setting a vision

January was a busy start to the year where we had over 17 members volunteer to give up their Saturday to attend our 2020 planning day. Hearing everyone’s ideas and enthusiasm for the year was really exciting and we set ourselves personal mid-year goals so it will be interesting to reflect on those in a few months time. The 2020 vision we set ourselves is:

To be a diverse, engaged and empowered internationally connected network that provides development opportunities to young professionals”

Building a Board & Committees

My first challenge was working out how to support such a large board; and to enable that, we’ve championed the role of committees even more this year- with the addition of 2 new members (Harriet Aitken and Danielle Gibson) joining the marketing committee to help engage members in running JCI Manchester as a step towards board roles. I also created a new board role of National and International director and Phil Carvil has stepped up brilliantly to be an advocate of all the amazing opportunities across JCI globally. This was a key strategic focus to help showcase the International component of JCI as many people don’t realise the I in JCI stands for International!  

Committees are a way to empower our members to develop teamwork and leadership skills and the MYTAs has had a long standing project committee set-up within JCI Manchester for over 10 years. I quickly learnt that as I hadn’t been in a committee during my deputy year that after making an initial call on the date we held the awards with the venue I’d overstepped my authority and had disempowered the committee. That was lesson 101 on being president, recognising that not all decisions are yours to make. I had to personally apologise to the team about my hasty decision and be humble enough to acknowledge my mistake. Oddly this is why JCI helps to develop future young leaders, I was able to learn a fundamental lesson in leadership around empowering others and can now keep this learning with me as I develop my professional career within Co-op. 

A quick shout-out to our amazing MYTA committee; Erin Berry, Cheryl Hill, Rhianne Jones, 

Hannah Matthewman, Ruby Riaz, and Ellen Walker.

Kickstart 2020 

Then February came around rather quickly as JCI Manchester held its first National event in over 5 years – KickStart had over 40 young professionals attend from across the UK including Belfast, London, Nottingham and Southmapton. You can read more about the event from the event write up.  KickStart was a way to showcase inspiring projects and speakers to emphasis how we can all make an impact in 2020 – which is an even more timely message in the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our speed mentoring session went down really well and a particular highlight was the Invisible Cities walking tours we did of the city over lunch time – hearing Danny’s poems of his experiences of living on the streets of Manchester was a stand out moment of the day.

Championing community partners and fundraising challenges

A few weeks after KickStart we were thrilled to announce Invisible Cities as our community partner. Since then, COVID has presented a real challenge to Invisible cities and so they have launched an emergency appeal to raise  £5,000 to help support the tour guides, more details here and you can donate via Justgiving. Watch this space on how we’re looking to help support them in the fundraising effort. 

If you’re looking for a way to help make a difference you can also visit their e-shop which is selling merchandise including Danny’s poetry book and new branded t-shirts and you can purchase gift-cards  to be used when business returns to normal. Another example of a way to pay-it-forward.

We were also planning on doing the Yorkshire 3 peaks in June to raise £5,000 for Anxiety UK as one of their 50 fantastic fundraisers. I joined our first training walk (led by James Alcock!) back in March where we walked 16km and had a brilliant day out on the peaks enjoying some of the remaining snow. Of course we need to re-think the charity challenge so watch this space as we work out how we can still help support Anxiety UK. Especially given the current COVID pandemic health anxieties are heightened and so  supporting Anxiety UK’s vital work in this space is needed now more than ever! 

Partnerships and collaborations to make an impact

Another area I’ve spent a lot of time in the first quarter of the year is building collaborations and partnerships with other networks across Manchester. In order to deliver against the United National Sustainable Development Goals ( UN SDGs) partnerships are a key area of focus and one where JCI’s role is recognised globally

I’d worked with the Federation to secure a venue partnership to help showcase our events to their tenants which are predominately social enterprises, though of course the physical events are now on hold but Federation continues to help promote JCI Manchester’s events. I met with Manchester Young Professionals (MYP), Manchester Trainee Solicitors (MTSG), and Manchester Chamber of Commerce to explore how we can cross-promote our events across the city. As well as personally encouraging  Co-op’s internal young professional network Strive to attend one of our JCI Manchester board meetings to learn how we structure our board and run them effectively – helping young leaders learn good board governance. I even got to meet some of the incredible Manchester Youth Council leaders at the Manchester Youth Buzz awards.

Our first remote training and development  event

One of the reasons I got involved with JCI was for the training and development opportunities and I’ve already learnt a lot around delegation, empowering others, how important giving and receiving feedback is as well as reflecting on my own leadership strengths and weaknesses. 

Like all organisations, COVID presented the unique challenge for us of not being able to hold face to face events, and I’m really proud at how JCI has stepped-up to enable remote events. So far this year my favourite training event has to be Martin Murphy’s timely session from March on leading through a crisis. It was our first remote training event and the content couldn’t have been more pertinent on the role of our mindset and the way we adapt to change can empower us rather than disempower our response. You can read  a write up of the event on our blog

I was especially thrilled that we even had attendees join us from Finland, Estonia and Norway as I reached out to fellow European members to join in. This was a great reminder that we’re part of a global network of young professionals; and shows how remote events can be just-as, if not more engaging than their physical counterparts. 

As a member of JCI I’ve been able to connect with other young professionals across the UK this week joining in one of our remote coffee mornings chatting to people in Cornwall, Belfast and London. If you’re a member then do keep an eye out on Facebook as we’ve got a range of events that you can take part in from quizzes, to coffee and even JCI Finland have a 24hr training hackathon event.

In particular though i’m looking forward to our upcoming panel event on how to support yourself through challenging times and our keynote session from Vikas Shah MBE on ‘How to give a TEDx talk’ – you can sign up to these on Eventbrite with ticket sales for non-members going towards the Invisible Cities crowdfunder.  

So it’s been a rather busy and eventful start to 2020, though I’m excited to get the chance to lead JCI Manchester through these challenging times and play a role in supporting our members ( both locally, nationally and internationally) as well as our Manchester community to come through this the other side and use my skills to help positively impact the world around me. 

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