Individual Freedom in Service of the Whole

An interview with Reinoud Mejier of YIP: the International Youth Initiative Project, in Järna, Sweden, by Nicole Asis.

How did YIP evolve from its founding impulse to the program it is today?

The story that I hold for it is that YIP is founded at the Goetheanum. Our statutes even states that it started at the Youth Section: Dorneckstrasse 1, Dornach, Switzerland. This idea stemmed out of the questions “Can you learn while you do? Can you do while learning?“ — with social engagement at the heart of it.

We now live at a time of specialization — that is knowing more about fewer things. This makes sense for a time. But at some point, there needs to be a shift of reflecting “how does this specialization now relate to the whole where it came out of?“ The tendency is that the youth become speed-trained in a particular direction to such an extent that there is no room to reflect because the next assignment comes in. There are no pause buttons in education nowadays. Also, one is only addressed in an intellectual manner, not so much on the socio-emotional level, let alone with regards to practical initiatives.

The founding thought of YIP is in a way a re-authentication of the Social Ethics from Rudolf Steiner. The world is one interconnected living organism and each part of the organism — for its health — depends on its sovereign role and service to the collective. The whole will only be healthy if the role of each person can be found and fulfilled within that collective. And vice versa.

What are the current questions of the youth that you integrate in your program nowadays?

What I see as a trend, especially in the western world, is the amount of choice. It is actually not helpful that you can become anything. That moment of choosing is the issue — that when I say yes to one, I am saying no gazillion times minus one. And if you don’t have an idea of who you are or where the needs of the world maybe that can meet what you can offer, then it is quite a difficult choice because it turns out just as a guess. That speaks again for this need of pausing and zooming out.

There is also a challenge for young people in terms of perceiving reality, as a result of digitalization. There is so much abstraction that the reality almost becomes scary. That is why we integrate very rudimentary life skills and activities in the program — daily rhythms, cooking and cleaning together, garden work, singing and the arts.

To summarize, why YIP?

At the core of YIP sits “Freedom & Sovereignty“ — an encouragement, an allowance and a possibility to question, reflect and act, in relation to and in service of the whole.

Image Reinoud Meijer (Ytterjärna, March 2023), Photo: Nicole Asis

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