Reinstating conscription services

Exactly two years ago I was asked by FD (the Dutch equivalent to the Financial Times) to write a 100-word advice for Rutten 2 (the second term of the government of Mark Rutte). Often when I get in discussions about tolerance, filter bubbles, Trump, Brexit and other polarizing topics I think about or quote from the article.

The idea for this advice actually came from a conversation I had in Tel Aviv earlier that year about the great startup eco system there. I learned that actually only 15% of everyone enrolling in the Israeli Army (every citizen male and female has to enroll according to the law at age 18) is doing military services. The rest uses the two year+ period to do other stuff like starting a company and I learned that CEO's from established companies cherrypick the brightest ideas and aid the startups as much as they can. It is really embedded in the culture that everyone invests in the new group of young adults each year.

This reminded me of my time at university. I started my first company in year two and immediately struggled with balancing between study and business. I do often reminisce about this time and feel thankful for having this period in my life to figure out what I wanted. Now joking that my study loans were the first seed capital I raised (and had to pay back later)

You can read the freeform translation of the article below.

"Here in The Netherlands we can live our lives peacefully without ever having to meeting someone from outside our little circle. There is a joke in Amsterdam about how a real Amsterdammer never travels outside the Canal belt.

The way we designed our society often does not even leave us a choice: Kids have to pick a school in their zipcode area, the way scholarships and allowances for higher education are arranged here force young people to finish their studies in four years and after that you enroll in working life if you want to stay in the expensive city you live in.

When do you find any time to broaden your horizon? Something which is essential for developing ever more important 21st century skills like compassion and tolerence but also flexibility and resillience.

That's why I plea for reinstating the conscription, not a military civil service but a social one; aiding an international charitable organisation, doing an internship for a company abroad or a culturally challenging project. Let cheer on the government to help facilitate a year of wandering outside of your comfort zone at a crossroads age."


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