Drop of membership and participation in structured political processes and organisations coincides with Rise of Protest movements and Rise of social innovation.
All over Europe and beyond we are seeing young, and not so young people attempting innovative ways to address challenges in their lives and those of others. Some, like Elf Pavlik, are modeling non-transaction based economies. Others, like Jacky Mallet are attempting to reverse engineer the banking system from a systems engineering perspective. Taken as a whole their efforts are building the future we will all be living in tomorrow. I would argue that if we really want to understand how to address youth unemployment we should be asking how to better support our young in their future-building exercise. Why? Because as we have seen from the research carried out in Edgeryders, occupation is not what the older generation thinks it is. Adventurous, innovative young (and not so young) people are inventing new ways to work – ways that are not necessarily within the job-in-corporate-hierarchy paradigm. This sounds like good news – until the vested interests, which they disrupt in their quest for a fairer and more just world, fight back. And they do fight back.
A recent article about the newly deceased Aaron Swartz pointed out how America has grown less tolerant of its genius eccentrics who push the envelope on issues. In Sweden we have our own case with the persecution of Peter Sunde, a free information activist and dissident, by prosecuting him for doing essentially what Google does. The Pirate Bay project was and is deeply political: making information freely available out of a deeply embedded sense of social justice in the Internet age. And let’s not even get into the Julian Assange issue, which is still the subject of a much heated national and international debate. The list of examples is long: the establishment pushes young people towards dreaming up new ways of working, thinking, living. But when they do find them, it strikes them down in anger and fear.
With highly progressive unemployment rates and little chances of the trend being reversible, full occupation remains a myth; yet grassroots initiatives such as the Unconditional Basic Income do bring in prospects for increased security and better welfare conditions. As argued by its advocates, it would also make it easier to practice a freely chosen occupation. If given more space like that, young innovators could work their way to build up responses to more complex needs, such as the need for more resilient structures (food security, community networks), and ultimately the search for meaning in one’s working life. Some other examples of the kinds of initiatives that people might do more of if they didn’t have to hustle so hard are :
- Refurbishing public spaces and building homes for the homeless in Stockholm by upgrading existing disused spaces and making them cosier or more artistic under what seems to be a “guerrilla architecture”, with no legal permits to do so.
- Using excess capacity to build bottom up social infrastructures like urban gardens in Berlin or appropriating disused buildings to provide community services in Naples.
- Building intentional communities like the Edgeryders unMonastery, or the Freelab in rural Poland that serves other groups, especially the local community, by offering social and technical support and education (hemp growing and processing or building rocket stoves).
- Engaging directly with politicians and participate in legislative initiatives. The anti ACTA mobilization last year, although triggering the reversal of governments’ plans and using some non-orthodox methods as well, managed to get people and the civil society into an organized process of dissent, engaging through formal channels even if solely to disrupt them. The Polish example stands as exhibit a, but the pattern has spread rapidly .
Maybe some of the world's leaders will help to build support for our young. I don’t know about you – I am not holding my breath. Given the deep structural and ideological rupture between how political institutions and how new generations envision change, it comes down to what you, me and everyone we know can do to help broaden the hard-won islands of change. With the Internet and new technologies increasing our ability to process and understand political information, being part of the change is often at click distance.
So the question we’d like to leave you with is what examples of good people, places, projects or processes do you know of that are trying to affect positive change in their communities? We’d love to hear about them so we can showcase them and spread awareness about the great work they are doing and see if we can rally more support around it. Especially if they are based somewhere around the Baltic Sea area, tell us!
Where does this all go? In preparing an anthology on youth, the labour market and democracy we will be hosting a research workshop on the 15th of March in Stockholm. The workshop brings together labour market and democracy researchers, people in the academia and other European experts, alongside YOU. The workshop discussions will be heavily based on this online conversation. A limited number of selected contributors will be invited to the workshop, with their travel expenses covered by Global Challenge. After the workshop, we envision these contributions to be further developed into individual articles (2500 words), meant for publication with an ISBN number this year. Each article selected for publication in the book will be paid for.
All the comments and reactions to this post will be valid submissions for a workshop invitation, provided they are published before February 11. The more relevant your point is and the more active you are in the conversation, the better. If you have questions please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.