Azad Ali never intended to become an entrepreneur. As a 12-year-old, he escaped from Kurdistan in Northern Iraq, and after several years of dangerous travels, he finally ended up in Sweden, where he began training as a skilled carpenter.
Occasionally, he tested his skills by creating furniture and accessories for his own use. One such creation was a modern wooden lamp, which he developed not as a prototype to launch a business, but simply as a beautiful way to increase lighting in his home.
Then one day, a friend stopped by and marveled at the workmanship. “Where I can buy one of these?” the friend asked, admiring the lamp. Azad volunteered to make another one.
A second friend had the same reaction a few weeks later. Then a friend of a friend. Requests started rolling in. Azad enrolled in JA Sweden’s Company Program, through which highschool seniors form real companies, develop a product or service, market and sell the product, and assess their profits.
When it was time for Azad to choose a product for his company, he knew just the thing.
Azad ended up representing his region at the national JA Sweden Company of the Year competition in Stockholm, where he sold two lamps to Mikael Damberg, Sweden’s Minister for Industry and Innovation.
The Minister later posted a short video on social media showing his new lamp and demonstrating how easy it was to assemble. “I brought one of Azad’s lamps home,” Mikael says in the video, “and today, I assembled it. It went faster than IKEA.” The video received a lot of attention online.
Azad was later selected to represent his region at a dinner at the Royal Palace with the royal family, all of Sweden’s governors, and another 180 invited guests, ranging from celebrities and sports stars to community leaders. The Swedish dinner is an annual event to celebrate Swedes—including Azad—who have made a significant contribution to society.
It was an overwhelming experience for Azad to visit the Palace. “I never had a country. Where I come from, you are never exposed to the people who are in charge. When I left the Palace, I cried. It’s an experience I will never forget,” Azad says. While at the dinner, Azad also had a chance to talk to Prince Daniel, who sits on the board of JA Sweden. They spoke for thirty minutes, and the Prince ordered one of Azad’s lamps.
Azad is considering going to college, hoping to focus on design and start-up ventures, and he continues to grow his own business, AXD Sweden. His next step will be to design more types of furniture to complement his famous lamp.
Currently, he is working as an instructor at the same school where he once studied, and the entrepreneurial carpenter hopes to give back: “A lot of entrepreneurs helped and supported me on my journey,” he said. “And now I see, in so many other young people who have emigrated to Sweden, the same will and interest I had”
Like so many of JA’s 100+ million alumni—who, together, form a global force for good—Azad Ali is making the world a little bit brighter.
One hundred years ago, the Boys’ and Girls’ Bureau of the Eastern States League—the original name for JA—began after-school “Company Program” clubs to teach business to students.
The young entrepreneurs who enrolled in JA clubs created business plans, elected company officers, sold shares in their companies, produced and sold products, and distributed profits among team members, profits that often contributed directly to family incomes during times of economic instability. The JA Company Program spread rapidly throughout the United States, and then globally into Canada, Japan, Mexico, and South Africa.
To complement this leading entrepreneurship program, JA launched additional global learning experiences aimed at fostering work readiness, financial literacy, and other enablers of employability. Donors, recognizing JA’s impact on the employment potential of young people, began supporting multi-year global partnerships. As such, each new generation of students graduated from JA and made their way into the world as innovators, entrepreneurs, makers, and managers.
A century after our beginning, the JA Company Program remains our flagship learning experience, and is joined by dozens of programs, initiatives, and events that also teach young people the skills they need for employment and entrepreneurship. Our value proposition remains as strong today as it was in 1919: We’re the only global NGO to offer young people hands-on, experiential training in work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship, delivered through a business-savvy volunteer. Last year, JA Worldwide served 11.5 million students in 116 countries on six continents.
Since our founding, millions of JA alumni have built new ventures from the ground up, won election to the highest political offices, studied at the world’s most prestigious universities, and invented products that revolutionized their industries. Millions more have built ethical and sustainable small businesses that help the world meet the challenges of the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. And millions of other JA alumni have achieved less well-known—but no less important—successes, like being the first in their families to graduate from college, spending less than they earn throughout their lifetimes in order to save for retirement, and becoming respected and effective middle managers. We celebrate all forms of achievement, from those that incubate global social movements to those that foster better outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.
NGO Advisor recently agreed, calling JA Worldwide “one of the most influential networks connecting entrepreneurs all over the planet,” as it listed our organization among the top ten NGOs in the world.
What will the next 100 years bring? Just as our founders couldn’t have envisioned the advent of smartphones and self-driving cars, we cannot predict the wonders that 2119 will produce. But we do know this: JA’s impact and influence will be as important 100 years from now as it
is today, as we continue to help students build the skills they need for the jobs of the future while developing the self-efficacy—the mindset for success—that enables young people to weather disappointments and failures while remaining confident in their future success.
From building skill sets to changing mindsets, from global shapers to local makers, JA is ready to train the next generations of young people for the future of employment and entrepreneurship.
Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi
Chair, Board of Governors, JA Worldwide;
CEO, Citi Holdings
President and CEO, JA Worldwide
The worldwide network of JA organizations collaboratively surpassed targets and met new benchmarks in 2018, leading to one of our most successful years in our century of service. For the first time in JA’s 100-year history, we delivered 11.5 million educational experiences to young people around the world. The year also brought exciting student events, new and extended partnerships, curricula innovation, and excitement for our JA Centennial celebration in 2019. Here’s a sampling of highlights from our year.
JA funders support the development of work-readiness, financial-literacy, and entrepreneurship programs and support strategic initiatives at the JA Worldwide headquarters, at regional operating centers, and in JA member countries. At the local level, JA staff engage, train, and support educators and volunteers, resulting in over 160 million student-contact hours and 11.5 million-plus student experiences.
11.5 million. That’s a big number representing the number of student experiences delivered by JA globally in 2018. That’s the largest reach ever captured by JA in our 99-year history and was accomplished through the tireless efforts of thousands of staff, volunteers, and alumni in 116 countries. That’s a number to be proud of, but at JA, we believe this is the beginning of something even bigger.
According to World Social and Employment Outlook–Trends 2018, prepared by the International Labor Organization, young people under the age of 25 are less likely to find work than adults. The global youth unemployment rate stands at 13%, three times higher than the figure for adults, which is 4.3%. Coupled with predictions that artificial intelligence (AI) may eliminate 9 to 38% of jobs, one might believe that preparing and inspiring young people to be successful in a global economy is an insurmountable task.
At JA, our Centennial in 2019 provides a platform to recognize our successes, but more importantly, to be part of a larger picture, in which we engage partners and technology to reach more youth and accelerate impact. We know we can’t do it alone. But through partnerships and technology, we can reach more young people faster and at lower cost.
We’re discarding “not invented here” thinking and embracing the core competences of others who bring know-how in the areas of AI, robotics, machine learning, biotechnology, as well as a focus on ethics, personal and professional development, and other skills for the future of jobs.
With an unrelenting commitment to work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship, at JA, we teach soft skills such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication and instill youth with a growth mindset to overcome obstacles throughout their lifelong journeys.
We also subscribe to the highest standards of integrity, ethics, and accountability and that is a constant across our network. Each local JA entity operates independently, with its own fiduciary board, yet is part of a global family of members linked by a common mission, member agreement, and code of conduct.
Financial statements of JA Worldwide presented in this report do not include the finances of member countries and represent only a fraction of the size and strength of the global network. When member countries are included, JA global network revenue totaled over $330 million in 2018, which fuels innovation and builds JA capacity through unrestricted support of operations, programmatic support, and in-kind donations.
We invite you to partner with us, so that, together, we can make a difference in the lives of millions more young people who in turn care for their families, communities, and the world.
JA’s global impact is the result of supportive partnerships with businesses and individuals around the world. These collaborations encourage innovation and long-term commitment. Our partners provide funding for educational programs, join regional and local boards, and volunteer directly with students.
All our diverse partnerships and sponsorships enhance and grow existing programs, enable the development and launch of new JA locations, and provide backing for innovation. The effects of each contribution—through funding, collaborations, and volunteering—flow through the entire organization and empower us to further our mission effectively.
Year after year, these partnerships make a lasting impact, enabling JA to transform the worlds of millions of young people every year, who, in turn, transform the world. Click on each logo below to see how nine of our funders, which represent only a sample of the collaborative partnerships that extend JA’s global reach into more than 100 countries, made an impact in 2017.
Find out more about our unique collaborations by clicking on the logos below.