Instead of doing mandatory military service young people could help making society sustainable. Fika has started to explore a “societal draft”. This past week we submitted a grant application to try out a pilot in Sweden.
The idea is to create a modern kind of draft. All young people would – together and across divides – go through a three months long basic education and then choose to work on a project geared towards the betterment of society. It could be to help with integration, homework, keep company to elderly people, sustainable finance, algae- or beekeeping.
Interest, aptitude, and needs should rule.
A science-oriented could choose to work with environmental issues, the extrovert with social ones, the seeker with existential questions. There should be room for everyone.
It could also be done in different forms, some might want to start their own organizations, for or not-for-profit, others to volunteer in the public or civil sector. Some might want to consult, others to do physical work.
Getting a large number of organizations, from different sectors, could help guiding and providing opportunities for the young. This could also create collaboration between sectors, which is something most municipalities say they need.
The structure would be similar to the old military service, but contain no military elements, and be mandatory not only for men, but all.
Such a year could glue society together. Everyone would be forced to live and work with people from different backgrounds and other areas, with different interests and beliefs. Someone from a privileged background would work together with someone from a less privileged, someone from a city with someone from a rural area, an atheist with a Muslim, an activist with a gamer, etc.
In addition, it would of course be done with limited screen time, which could increase both mental health and drive.
It could be a meaningful experience for the young. Unemployment is high among young people in many countries. 27 % in Sweden and over 40% in Spain during the pandemic, to mention two examples. This makes it even more important for a young person to get work experience.
Further, the basic education would give skills that everyone needs in today’s society, like how to deal with complexity, take care of yourself, and have conversations with people unlike yourself. One idea is to get newly retired people, with a lot of knowledge, to help with mentoring the young, in order to overcome some generational gaps and build a socially sustainable society.
Having this kind of force could help in times of crisis. Many people want to help, but the structures are not always there. When the Swedish Region Stockholm called for volunteers early in the pandemic, they could not even handle all applications. Organizing voluntary forces would be another benefit of a societal draft.
There are similar initiatives in other countries. Germany has its “Freiwilligendienst”, where you can choose to engage in voluntary social or ecological, democracy, or health care service for a year, or work abroad. The European Union its European Solidarity Corps, where young Europeans can work at home or abroad with social services. Both are, however, voluntary, and might therefore miss out on bridging divides.
At Fika, we think it would be even better if we could create a mandatory service, where everyone would meet. It could help solving some of the problems we are facing in society today, especially when it comes to growing divides.
The initiative is under development. If you want to engage or have ideas, please reach out!