Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The end of military conscription opens new doors for service in Germany

The German government has decided it’s time for a change. Since 1957, the German military (called the Bundeswehr) has used conscription to keep the military in a close relationship to civil society. Championed by defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and passed by the conservative governing parties, a new plan for reform overhauls a large, inefficient military bureaucracy and replaces it with a smaller and more modern professional defense force—not to mention a budget savings of around 8 million Euros ($10.7 million).

But not everyone is happy about the changes to the system. Major opposition to the reforms has come from the social services sector. The end of conscription signals the loss of a significant source of social labor. Young Germans who object to military service for religious, health, or ideological reasons have historically been given the option to participate in civic duty – a program (the Zivildienst) that attracts as many as 90,000 participants each year. Under the new system, social welfare programs may lose these young men who served community needs in hospitals, at nursing homes, and in schools instead of joining the military. (For more information about Germany’s Zivildienst, please see ICP’s recent publication Youth Civic Participation in Action: Meeting Youth and Community Development Needs Worldwide)

For those concerned with the future of Germany’s civil service sector, the end of conscription does bring some positive results as well. In response to the strong protests of social service groups against the decision, the government has unveiled plans to bolster the voluntary sector. Family Minister Kristina Schroeder proposes national voluntary community service to replace the lost work force. This new program could provide new advantages such as expanding service opportunities for women, who were not eligible for conscription and did not serve civic duty assignments. Service stints would last up to 24 months, with some subsidization provided by the government. The new program could result in a more inclusive voluntary sector with better funding to pay for volunteers, and effectively replace the personnel lost with the end of conscription.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Volunteer on Thanksgiving

by Christina Malliet

This Thursday, November 25, is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Many people will go without turkey and stuffing this year, and there are many ways you can get involved to help. To give thanks and lend a hand this year, check out the following resources for Thanksgiving volunteer opportunities near you:
  • Compassionatekids.com offers advice for finding kid-friendly volunteer opportunities that you can do as a family.
  • Createthegood.org provides links to organization-posted opportunities, which are found by searching a location.
  • Dosomething.org has volunteer opportunities organized by locations. The site features a unique program in which volunteers can have new listings texted to their cell phones.
  • Idealist.org facilitates the exchange of resources and ideas between individuals and organizations. This site also has a section on kid-friendly opportunities.
  • Serve.gov features US government-supported volunteer positions, organized by location.
  • Volunteermatch.org lists postings by location for both volunteers and non-profits. This site has a section on kid-friendly opportunities.

Consider taking advantage of the volunteer activities listed on these sites to help those in need. All of these organizations provide volunteer opportunities all year-round, so make sure to check them out at other times of the year too!

Happy Thanksgiving from ICP!

Photo credit here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Summer of Service Program

by Christina Malliet

On November 8, Shirley Sagawa, author of The American Way to Change, wrote a piece for The Huffington Post on the importance of a Summer of Service (SOS) in combating the “summer slide” – the academic regression students experience while intellectually unengaged during the summer months. Sagawa suggests that such a program would provide opportunities for personal growth equal to those of summer enrichment camps, especially by encouraging students to cultivate a sense of purpose and take on leadership roles in their communities from an early age.

At ICP, we initiated the idea of Summer of Service in 2005 with our vision of a national program that engages young teens transitioning from middle to high school in an intensive “rite of passage” service-learning experience. In particular, ICP's work on this project included serving as an expert consultant on legislation related to the initiative, building support among stakeholders, and conducting extensive research on existing programs. ICP maintains a significant collection of resources for SOS programs and educators on our online resource center, including information on research, effective program practices, news about SOS, and a database of SOS program around the country.

Like Sagawa, we were excited about our successful advocacy for the inclusion of Summer of Service in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of April 2009. The Serve America Act allotted $10 million in funds for SOS programs, as well as $10 million for grants of $500 for students who complete 100 hours of service in the program. These generous funds allowed nearly 4,000 students to engage in service-learning in summer 2010.

As Sagawa says, this program is inevitably give-and-take for the youth and the communities they serve, proving that young people are effective in building a better world for tomorrow; “Communities across America might find an important new resource in their own backyards -- young people who are ready to serve, if only they are asked.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Young journalists promote global issues through Student News Action Network

by Christina Malliet

Students are getting involved in issues that matter to them by disseminating news and encouraging action on these issues as part of an innovative network. In collaboration with Taking It Global Organization (TIG), students and teachers from Washington International School created the Student News Action Network in 2009. A year later, students still maintain the network, with the help of newly-added member secondary schools from around the world.

The Network is a collaborative, interactive, online newspaper. It brings together a system of students from around the world to address such issues of global significance as poverty, the environment and human rights. Member schools, which include Washington International School, American School of Doha, KIS International School and many more, act as either regional hubs or contributor schools, and their students write news pieces for the online newspaper.

In light of recent talk about the effectiveness of journalism as a means of civic engagement, this network provides a particularly powerful solution. Not only do students gain valuable experience in the field before the age of 18, but they are also involved in the discussion and promotion of awareness of global issues. They have the power to make a difference in the world through this act of civic participation.

At ICP, we know, thanks to our extensive research, that youth service can be an invaluable resource for national and international development in areas of need. A first step to tackling these needs is promoting awareness and getting others to care. This is where Student News Action Network comes in – students write about these issues to encourage their peers (and adults) to care. As the Network continues to grow, other newspapers might benefit by looking to the example of these young people.


WInfo Blog Content Widget