A precursor to AIESEC, called AIESE, was formed at an international meeting of students in Liege, Belgium in 1946. After World War II, a period that must never be repeated; a group of young people foresaw the necessity of maintaining cross-cultural understanding to avoid similar future conflicts. The organisation gained a clear identity and AIESEC was officially formed in 1948.
AIESEC believed in expanding the understanding among nations through the expansion of exchanges. In 1949, 89 students participated in an exchange program among member nations and exchange was defined as the core activity of the organisation. In the coming years, more and more countries joined the network and AIESEC became global, by being present in all the continents, within a very short period of time. Later in 1953, AIESEC established a corporation with International Chamber of Commerce and UNESCO and in 1955, AIESEC in the United Kingdom was started in Andean. In 1961, the permanent AIESEC secretariat in Geneva was established.
With the time, the number of students and organisations involved in the exchange program grew rapidly and constantly, reaching 2,467 exchanges by the end of 1960 and 4,232 by the end of 1970. And in 1969, the first Seminar Traineeship Program was held and it was well received by other countries, and a general set of seminar topics were proposed and accepted. They were mainly economic in nature, and for the first time, AIESEC was addressing specific issues and the activities stated clearly to be non-political.
In 1947, at the International Congress in Bordeaux, an important motion was passed proposing the minimum length of an exchange traineeship as six weeks. This measure resulted in improving the quality of the AIESEC Exchanges. And in 1976, an International Theme Program was established and that focused on all international, regional, and local seminars on specific topics. This idea continued and grew through various stages. Further, the concept of ‘Leadership Development Seminar’ came into the arena in 1971.
After all, the focus of the organisation was to address global themes. Besides the traditional exchange programs; themes like International Trade, Management, Education, Sustainable Development, Entrepreneurship and Corporate Responsibility were discussed at local, national and global seminars. In the late ‘90s, the discussion about the relevance of the organisation brought the exchange program on the main agenda and more and more effort was put to ensure the exchange growth. Following the launch of global information systems; ‘Insight I’ in 1997 and ‘Insight II’ in 2001, the number of exchanges increased.
Today, AIESEC is the international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential. The innovative approach of AIESEC to develop young people focuses on taking a proactive role, developing self-awareness and a personal vision, building networks, and developing capacity to change. AIESEC does this through an international platform of opportunities that provides numerous leadership opportunities, work-abroad opportunities, and conferences and virtual tools to build networks.
Today, AIESEC is the world’s largest youth-run organisation that provides young people with leadership development, cross-cultural global internships and exchange experiences, with a focus to empower youth, employing them in leadership functions, positively influencing on society.