Small Idea. Global Impact.

By: Arrey Obenson, JCI Secretary General

Last week, I had the chance to travel to a small and beautiful country: Estonia.

There is something that fascinates me about this country.

It’s amazing how it has evolved following the fall of the Berlin Wall and its restored independence in the early 1990s to now being the home of Skype and all sorts of amazing digital technology today.

There is something in Estonia—in their history and in their fairy tales—that makes them audacious. Naively audacious, I must say.

About eight years ago, I was approached by the then National Officer of JCI Estonia Anneli Ohvril, who told me about this incredible project that a Local Organization had realized in Tallinn.

After listening to Anneli and feeling her vibe about this project, we selected it to be profiled in the JCI Morning Show at the 2010 JCI World Congress in Osaka, Japan.

Here is the intrigue, this was not just a feel-good project. This was a project that had engaged and mobilized over 5% of the country's population. We are talking tens of thousands of people who came together to clean up Estonia in one single day.

They mobilized citizens, corporations and government to identify waste sites and unite with spades and wheel barrows, forks and trash trucks, and in one day, Estonia was made clean.

This is an example of how a simple idea and naive audacity can change the world.

It did not end there. This once idea started a movement, quickly developed its wings and has now spread to 120 countries through a foundation called Let’s Do It! Fascinating!

Fast forward to 2015, as we celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the JCI Movement, the then National President Kaspar Ilves sent a letter to JCI Japan introducing the cleanup campaign. I was copied in the letter and once I read it, I asked for a meeting with him.

Instead of engaging one more National Organization, it was time to go big, dream big and engage all 120 JCI National Organizations.

Since then, JCI formalized a partnership with the Let’s Do It Foundation, and this year on 15 September, we are embarking on the most ambitious project in human history— World Cleanup Day. The goal is to mobilize 380 million people or 5% of the world’s population to join us and  clean up the earth.

This includes you. This is your chance to be part of history and to make a positive impact. While this may seem like a simple project to collect and get rid of waste, it is more than that. It demonstrates that as citizens, we are incredibly powerful and can make change when we are determined to do so.

Today we are addressing waste. Tomorrow, it could be eliminating corruption, building blocks for peace, developing leaders or overcoming diseases. We citizens of the world are powerful. Let us use this power wisely.

To you the reader, I urge you to join the World Cleanup Campaign, help us map garbage sites, sign up and turn out on 15 September 2018 and be part of this historic moment!

It is amazing how a simple idea from one JCI Local Organization can change the world.

How about you? Do you have a big idea? Do you want to see a more peaceful world? Do you want a more equitable world? What do you want to change?

Share your ideas and I will be happy to help nurture it and develop it into an even bigger idea—who knows, it may be the next global movement!

For more information on World Cleanup Day and how you can get involved visit

Nikki SoulsbyComment