JCI UK TOYP Awards 2014 - Ilona's Journey

JCI UK TOYP Awards 2014 - Ilona's Journey

Posted By admin |17 Feb 2016
JCI UK TOYP Awards 2014 - Ilona's Journey

Hi, I'm Ilona and alongside my role as local President of JCI Sheffield, I am the project manager for the JCI UK TOYP awards. Over the last 18 months I have been running a small team of JCI members to launch these awards at a national level.

What is TOYP?

It is a flagship global JCI project to recognise the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the world. Honourees are aged between 18 and 40 and have excelled in their chosen field - which could be anything from technical innovation, to cultural achievement to voluntary leadership.  I first became aware of the project in 2012 when JCI London and JCI Reading both had local TOYP winners in the global shortlist.

JCI Sheffield' twin Chamber, JCI Mayo in Ireland, also had a global winner that year - the lovely Aisling Neary. I was lucky enough to be seated with her at the JCI Ireland National Convention and was blown away by her humility and achievements. Chatting to the then JCI UK National President, Solveig, after dinner went a little something like this...

Solveig:                Have you considered running TOYP in the UK?

Me:                        No.

Solveig:                Do you know there is a free TOYP Academy in Istanbul?

Me:                        Sign me up!

TOYP Academy

And so just a few weeks later I found myself flying off to Istanbul, where I was hosted by a lovely JCI member and taken through three pretty intense days of training. The Academy was developed to share JCI Turkey's experiences of running a national awards programme for the last 17 years. It culminates in the national TOYP ceremony, attended by hundreds of local businesspeople and community organisations. After that, I was hooked!

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Ilona (front left) with fellow graduates of the TOYP Academy

A plan formed....

I came back determined to launch the first JCI UK TOYP awards. It is such an incredible project for any local Chamber to be involved with, and I wanted to make it as easy for them to take part as possible. I also wanted to raise the profile of the awards outside of JCI.

Looking back, our initial plans were ambitious to say the least! With a team of half a dozen we wanted sponsors, an awards ceremony, media coverage, 2/3 high profile judges per category, and of course LOADS of amazing candidates. In other words, to replicate JCI Istanbul's 17 years of hard work in a few months with a fraction of their resources!

We got cracking on this and the team worked incredibly hard and within a few months we had a website, an online application and judging portal, social media accounts, awards venues, judges, a venue for the ceremony and a couple of sponsors.  Which was all pretty fabulous. Apart from the fact we were not getting candidates applying.

The crisis meeting

We found ourselves at a cross roads in November, and over a few drinks in London, decided we needed to streamline and refocus the project. The most important part was that we could get sufficient applications of a high enough quality. This meant everyone focusing on marketing the awards, pulling the parts of the project, such as the ceremony, and scaling back others, such as the number of judges.

It is a credit to the team that despite these changes and set backs every single person just redoubled their efforts and brought a new level of enthusiasm to the table. We started to see the first few nominations coming in and it started to feel worthwhile. Eventually, some 16 months after returning to Istanbul, I had an extensive list of excellent candidates. Roughly half were nominated directly by JCI chambers and the rest as a result of our marketing and word of mouth.

The winners!

On Thursday 24 April, we announced the 2014 Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the UK and they are AMAZING! We have a Nobel prize winning physicist, third sector leaders, entrepreneurs, a politician and a singer/songwriter - please check our Facebook page for full details.

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Alex Swallow, Katy Winterschladen and Shaun Dias - just three of our exceptional TOYP winners 2014

I felt so emotional that day - the culmination of so much hard work and the realisation of just what a difference the project has made to these incredible young people. Best of all, many of them have already been in touch to see how they can get more involved with JCI and support our members. Watch this space!

What next?

The 2014 TOYP team is working closely with our winners to improve their applications ready to submit to the global competition. Fingers crossed we'll see at least one or two honoured at the JCI World Congress in November.  

Even more excitingly, the 2015 TOYP team is forming under the guidance of James Lambert. James has also attended the TOYP Academy and has been instrumental in the success of the 2014 project. If you, or anyone you know, wants to join the team, please get in touch. And don't forget to start looking for our next candidates as applications will open in September!  

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