As 2012 drew to a close I embarked on a three-month research project across Portugal and Spain in search of both understanding of and solutions to the unemployment crisis our generation is currently facing across Europe.
Youth unemployment in both Portugal and Spain is as high as 50%, whilst in the UK it is predicted to hit 1 million in 2013. In many ways the situation looks bleak and it seems there is no solution but to carry on struggling and fighting against each other for the lowest paid jobs as the economic recession continues.
However what my research has shown me is that amidst this depression and despair, seeds of hope are being sown, young people are standing up by refusing to accept this reality and expressing their hopes and desires for what new ways of working and living could look like. Projects and processes are beginning and slowly as the old system collapses a more beautiful one is emerging.
As I travelled through Portugal and Spain I came into contact with more and more inspiring young people, who when all the odds were against them were no longer willing to accept that they have no future, but instead asserted that it was the system of work and consumption they were entering into that needed to be challenged, changed and replaced by something different. This was being done in so many different ways; people had created social movements to campaign on issues such as basic workers rights and free transport, formed creative hubs for art, music, and activism, set up social centres that offered affordable food and drink, consultation on how to resist housing evictions and avoid paying debts, free classes in media, design, salsa, yoga and singing, squatted buildings to create free schools and universities where people could teach each other as equals without a cost, created cooperative cafes, bakeries, bookshops, publishers and bars where workers took equal responsibility, equal pay and equal control. Neighbourhood assemblies had set up timebanks and social currencies, people were learning to live without money and instead through sharing gifts and skills, after finishing university groups of students had decided to take to the land, to learn to be self sustainable and ultimately to live in ways more aligned with the environment, animals and each other. The people and projects I came across inspired me immensely, taught me that anything is possible, gave me a deep understanding of the strength and power of human kindness and sharing and ultimately filled me with the hope and knowledge that there is a way out of this mess, that we can create the world our hearts know is possible.
I return to the UK carrying this knowledge and experience inside me and embracing this new year ready and determined to be part of creating a more equal, just, fulfilling and sustainable way of life for our generation in the UK. Amidst the sense of directionlessness, hopelessness, and meaninglessness that I feel so strongly surrounding myself and most people my age that I engage with I know it is possible to find new ways of working and living and I know that they can be so much better than what we have now.
With this is mind I want to share with you the project I am now beginning. My vision is a strong one that I am going to dedicate all my time and energy to making happen, at the same time it is completely open to new ideas and people and I invite you to be part of making it a reality.
The project is entitled “Generation with an Alternative Future” and has the overarching aim of creating new more sustainable and fulfilling ways of living and working. Working: as equals, doing what we love, for the benefit of many rather than the profit of a few. Living: in a way that connects us more with each other, our environment and the community around us.
The project will manifest itself in both a physical and online space. The physical space will comprise of a cooperative business and a social centre. The cooperative business will facilitate its members to work as equals doing what they love, the form it takes will depend upon the skills and interests of those who create it, however its function is to generate enough income to sustain its members and the project. The social centre will aim to create a space that supports the wider community and allows us to explore new ways of living and creating that rely less on monetary exchange and more on gifts of time and skills. It will do this through forming a free social hub for music events, art exhibitions, workshops, classes and a meeting space to support local groups and campaigns.
The online website will be a way to engage with the project outside of its physical location, as well as a space to share new initiatives, ideas or experiences as a young person growing up in this world of increasing unemployment and degrading work amid so much intensive and disruptive change.
As of February 2013 I will be moving to London to begin the process of making this project a reality. I have vision, motivation, ideas, and a small amount of funds but in order to make this project happen I need people, space, ideas, skills and additional funding. If you would like to be part of this project or can support it in any way please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish you all the best for the year ahead, and look forward to seeing what potential change this year can bring.