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On a breezy afternoon in March of 1957, seven men sat together in a downtown Chicago hotel. There, they began a discussion the likes of which is exceptionally rare. It was a talk that would spill over into months, years; decades, drawing together voices the world over to shape the course of consumer industry. From that inauspicious meeting, an organization that would one day claim a membership of over 70,000 industry shakers, the International Council of Shopping Centers, came to be.

The ICSC was born from a mere $500 dollar donation from each man present at its initial Chicago gathering. Only months after that, its membership had grown over fivefold. From American roots the ICSC then reached out across the globe, it’s entrepreneurial ideals captivating retailers, investors, public officials and academics alike. Today, the ICSC boasts a membership base spanning over 100 countries, and is allied with more than 25 national and regional shopping centers worldwide.

To qualify for membership, affiliates need only possess a simple quality: passion, for the role shopping centers play in furthering global commerce, and passion to see that role grow. After a small initial fee (as low as $100), members are granted ingress to a compendium of resources, including a spot on the attendee list of over 300 annual networking and advocacy events, and access to the latest industry research, free job postings and resume search, volunteer opportunities and more.

The ICSC’s mission is simple. As stated on the group’s website, the goal is “to advance the shopping center industry and to promote its role in the commercial distribution of consumer goods and services.” Within the organization, member prosperity is the ultimate endgame. Above all else, the ICSC actively works to ensure its beneficiaries are well-equipped with the armaments of success. By advocating for supportive legislation and promoting educational programs (such as professional certification) which speed dissemination of new ideas, the ICSC plays a direct part in ensuring consistent industry growth.

As a member of the ICSC, I couldn’t be more satisfied with the knowledge I’ve learned and connections I’ve gained by taking advantage of membership’s many opportunities.