In the early years of the Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales* (AIESEC), activities regarding exchange consisted of traineeships, study tours and the exchange of information on studies. Traineeships were organized during the months of November or December through careful selections by the 'local committees' (groups of AIESEC members) and training occurred during the following summer. ‘Receiving Committee' members of the host country played a role, completing the whole experience by serving as a point of contact for trainees with the economic and cultural life of the locality. Efforts by the association for better organization could also be witnessed after the congress in Copenhagen (1952) addressing uniform procedures and employment contracts for exchange.
* Note: Nowadays, the french acronym AIESEC is no longer used by the organization, since in the history AIESEC expanded to other backgrounds different to Economic and Commercial Sciences. Please use AIESEC simply as is.
Development of exchange was progressing well with an annual growth of 22% but there was a mounting concern for the quality of exchanges and thus the AIESEC Summer School Training Programmes (SSTP) were introduced in 1966.
It was a movement of expansion from the ‘traditional' traineeship exchange programmes and gave more meaningful experiences to the exchange participant. SSTPs engaged a limited amount of selected trainees, each undergoing unique training and education but in a common field or topic on a project. Every week they took time off from their firms to meet for lectures and group discussions and at the end of their traineeship period, joint and individual reports were produced. By the end of 1969, 22 SSTPs were successfully carried out in eleven different countries.
In 1967, work began on a program dubbed Student Traineeship Exchange System (STRES) for an effective and fair approach to facilitate flow and standardization of information. Exchange numbers have already reached the 4500 mark and matching that large group of students to the diverse array of traineeships was stretching the capacity of AIESEC.
To meet this need, an international committee of Electronic Data Processing (EDP) made up of AIESEC members was put together to create and implement a new computer matching program. As a result from that, STRES was developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the help of IBM donated computers. They undertook a great task of translating forms into something the computer could understand while enabling exchange controllers to familiarize with the codes and procedures involved. The Paris International Congress in 1969 saw people for the first time, anxiously waiting until the wee hours of the morning for matching by the mainframe computer with punch cards in deciles.
A shift of focus to member education and talent development to prepare AIESEC members for a future in the business environment occured in the 1970's. Alignment of the global association as a whole led to the emergence of International Theme Programmes (ITP). Henceforth, these became a formal part of AIESEC.
Pioneers to this new initiative were the programs; “Management Education in the 80's” (1976-1978) and “International Trade” (1978-1980). Under the ‘umbrella' of the international theme, projects were run independently in a local, national and regional level in recognition of the rapidly changing world. There was not a truly international theme with involvement of all committees including those involved in researching the theme. Nevertheless, awareness across nations was attained through the engagement of students, business people, academia and the community.
In the attempt to meet the challenges of tomorrow head on and become a change agent, AIESEC Global Seminar Series (AGSS) was initiated in 1988. AGSS then turned into a World Theme Conference (WTC) event. This series of seminars was conducted with the objective of educating youth and gathering their opinions on issues related to sustainable development, such that they would be able to have an impact on society through their combined voice, and later in life as leaders.
At the end of this the 80s, AGSS and ITP merged to become the Global Theme Programme (GTP). GTP had a similar aim to AGSS, but with a more proactive approach, an example of a GTP theme being “ Entrepreneurship and Corporate Responsibility: New Opportunities for Global Development”. The programme at a point was functioning almost as a separate entity within AIESEC itself.
Advancements in Information technology in the 1990's saw the ongoing development of communication and exchange tools. The emergence of the AIESEC Global Information Systems (AGIS) embraced new internet technology to connect operations across the globe. Further developments included the use of file type protocol (FTP) to retrieve materials, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) to run real-time online meetings, and open access to the international website www.aiesec.org to 70 countries. Such changes meant that not only was the International Traineeship Exchange Program, (ITEP,) managed online, but also a large portion of local commitee budgets were now freed up from the costs of physical communications. AGIS would later become known as "Insight".
Insight had the advantage of using the internet to send data, and continuous matching was able to take place, (previously matching was done at specified times.) Unfortunately the successes of Insight were outnumbered by issues with the system, so it became clear that a new version was required. Insight ll was born, and ended up being used for several years until the initiation of Insight XP in 2004.
The introduction of Issue-Based Experiences Experiences (IBXPs) began as a way to ensure that young people who have identified a passion for a particular issue have the chance to live an experience that not only enables them to gain general leadership skills, but also expertise on a particular issue. This process supplements what AIESEC offers to its members; experiences to support them in developing needed competencies to lead positive change and a strong interest and knowledge in one of the key topics of the world that needs positive leadership.
AIESEC Learning Networks (LNs) are part of IBXPs, consisting of: Finance, Education, HIV/ AIDS, Corporate Responsibility, and Entrepreneurship. AIESEC members get the chance to lead teams and go on international internships, while organizations benefit from access to AIESEC's membership base.
In the 2000's, the organisation saw a steady increase in exchange performance with over 5000 students sent on internship in 2008. The introduction of development internships, as a distinct pool of exchanges, added to the diversity of experiences offered. During this period of time the introduction of further management and measurement tools for exchange have supported countries to increase the number of exchange experiences they are providing.
The 60th anniversary celebrations of 2008 saw AIESEC celebrating the history and achievements of 60 years of activating youth leadership in over 100 countries and territories. For more on these celebrations and the history of AIESEC itself, you can download the AIESEC 60th publication here.
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