Where have all the young people gone? Blown away with the wind? They are not flocking to the co-operative movement, not in Sweden anyhow. Less and less young people are becoming members of old established folk movements and political parties. Several reports made by the Swedish government restate this sad fact. Our whole society and its democracy were based on these movements, and are now in danger.
However, this does not mean that youth lack interest in co-operative values or principals, political ideas, and the problems of globalization. On the contrary. They want to be involved, but not in the way we have been practicing: long boring meetings, one-way, top down, communication from old greyish men like me, telling them the history and truth of our (once)- great cooperative movement. Yes, I have seen this happen myself for many years┌without doing anything.
Many attempts have been made during the last 25 years in Sweden to motivate young people┌especially those unemployed┌to start new co-operatives. I tried it myself 20 years ago. The Cooperative Institute tried for many years to interest teachers in its so-called ¤school programË Many community development groups have tried. The results were devastating; all of us have failed. It was like trying to make tulips grow in ice: all of us ¤supportersË made holes saying: ¤Just put your tulip in there, green, red or blue┌it does not matter. They will soon grow into nice co-operatives.Ë
There is nothing wrong with tulips, neither is there anything wrong with co-operative values. But the climate in which they are being presented and discussed with the new generation is old-fashioned. It took 12 students from different universities in Sweden, who had followed me to our co-operative projects in India, to realize it.
Pontus Eriksson, a 21-year old student from the Stockholm Environment Center, showed me four years ago how to ¤chatË. Being born in the pen-and-typewriter period, I was surprised at how easily young people today can discuss matters all over the world. Since then I have been thinking of making a co-operative forum for chatting and at the same time giving the new generation a chance to visit each other in different worker cooperatives. The working name for this project is the Self-Management International Interchange. I have discussed this idea with many people over the years who had the same reaction as Len Krimerman in a recent email: When do we get started? I am now gathering commitments from workers co-operatives in the following countries: India (Goa, Ahndra Pradesh, Kerala), Sweden, Finland, The Baltic states, Russia, Bosnia, England, Germany, England, USA, Canada and South Africa. Just to start with.
There are many problems to be solved. One of the hardest is how to fund the travel expenses for people in the developing countries. Another is the European Union bureaucracy where my organization, Self-Management in Sweden, will send an application for the project. And how shall the web-site be designed to attract young people? And many others... However, this being the very start of the project, you can at once become a part of the solution. Just send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org; or email@example.com.