European JA Members have a long tradition of organising events that bring students together from across the continent. These events created a mutual focus for participating members and gave them a fantastic opportunity to bring staff, supporters, volunteers, and especially young people all together at the same time and place.
All Around the Continent
On 28-29 June, over 20 student teams will meet in Helsinki and compete for the European finale after participating in a year-long Start Up Programme and qualifying at national-level. A JA Europe initiative, the Start Up Programme annually engages over 14,000 University students from 300 schools, giving them the opportunity to experience running a business from top to bottom.
In the last 12 years, more than 115,000 students across Europe have participated in the Start Up Programme. Supporting European goals of improving youth employability and the start-up ecosystem, the programme fosters key competences to ensure that they are prepared for success after university.
Moving from ideas to action, students gain crucial insights into self-employment, business creation, risk-taking and coping with adversity with the support of specially trained teachers and mentorship of business volunteers. The long-term success of which, can be seen through the countless alumni who continue to grow their innovations and ideas after the programme’s completion, turning them into sustainable businesses.
Hosting the events has become a matter of pride and opportunity as much as solidarity. Host members can show others what they have achieved; they can bring important recognition to their supporters as well as create interesting new fundraising opportunities; finally they take their turn to “give back” and welcome the rest of the European family to their “country” as their peers did before them. Thus the events were never seen as just a member affair, though of course they always brought with them a local flavour; instead they were seen as special moments during the year when individual members could demonstrate that they are part of a larger network.
The events have had another benefit, which has been to maintain the strength and quality of the programs on the ground. Without these events, programs like the Start Up Programme would likely have been hugely divergent from one member to the next. Growth in these programs would also not have been as strong. By maintaining a European dimension to our programs, through such events which everyone joined and shared experiences, the network was able to keep a certain degree of consistency and unity.
These events are a crucial part of what sustains our network, maintains program quality and assures growth. They are also a powerful way to motivate teachers, staff, sponsors, board members and volunteers as well as keep all of us in closer personal touch with each other. They are the platform that we use to communicate our message to policy-makers, business leaders and government. Furthermore these events give students what may be one of their first opportunities to interact with their peers from many other places. So, these events have significant direct and indirect benefits to everyone in the network.
Quality & Sophistication
Over time, these events have become bigger and more sophisticated. Any special event raises issues regarding funding and staff capacities. It will be the on-going challenge of JA Europe and its members to ensure that these unique events continue in the special collective “European” spirit that they began.