The problem with the Youth of Today – and a social economy solution

In our last piece for Third Sector, we wrote about the UK riots this summer.  We suggested that, rather than a strange aberration, they were closely linked with the “spirit of the age”, in the economic opportunism they manifested.  Furthermore, we noted that Britain was not singled out; these were part of a growing worldwide phenomenon and represented widespread dissatisfaction with the ineptitude of western political leaders.

The violence is spreading.  I spent a few days in Italy last week and sat in stunned silence as the TV showed 250,000 people in a violent outburst.  They burned cars; they assaulted police and their vehicles and threw rocks, stones and other missiles at the police and buildings in Rome.  In Bologna, the local office of the Bank of Italy was the scene of an earlier attack a few days before.  Silvio Berlusconi had recently survived another vote of confidence, leaving many Italians in despair.  Given the economic circumstances of this country, and more than a decade of mis-management and worse, is an outburst so shocking?  Related protests took place in New York, London, Berlin and Madrid.  They were generally peaceful—but for how long?

The rioters were mostly young.  The Italian press condemned the protesters; as did much of the UK press this summer, at least initially.  Yet, while one understands the need for public order and have sympathy for innocent victims, we also need to reflect on the circumstances confronting the young in the west today.  Their leaders have bequeathed unto them economies which teeter on the verge of bankruptcy.  After three decades in which my generation (I turn 54 as I write these words!) lived well beyond its means, our youth have been presented with the bill, knowing it will only grow as our unsustainable pensions come due—not to mention the likely health care costs of looking after us in our dotage.  To face all this, and also have little prospect of finding a meaningful job is bound to bring out rage.

These problems are vast and complicated, and not easy to solve.  Nevertheless, at ClearlySo we have recently taken a small step towards getting meaningful jobs for some young people.  In partnership with The Roundhouse Trust, we will hold a one day “Social Jobs Fair” at The Roundhouse, one of London’s premiere concert venues on 12/11/12.  Social enterprises will be able to find full and part-time staff and large corporates can recruit for roles in their “social areas”; such as CSR and community investment.  This enables us to help find human capital for the social sector and fulfils the Roundhouse’s youth outreach objectives.

And ClearlySo is hardly alone.  For example, NACUE, is working hard to engage students from all over the UK in entrepreneurship.  Live UnLtd is a youth initiative of the large UK charity UnLtd.  All these will not solve the problem, but they feel far more productive than constant criticism and confrontation with young people who have legitimate gripes.