In the Western world, we have discussed the service society for decades already. Currently, more than two thirds of the gross domestic product (GPD) comes from different services and more than three out of four employees earn their living from services. An active young person may easily use dozens of services during a day.
In the last years, the world has taken a huge lead forward especially due to mobile technology. Services are not tied to a certain time and place, and the service provider does not even have to be the provider of the final product. In all its simplicity, already platforms connecting different needs have become a billion business. Some have a need for a temporary apartment, other again have a need to get some revenue from apartments rather than keeping it empty. There has of course been housing agencies for a long time. But the ease brought by modern technology is new. Uber does not own a single car, not Airbnb any apartments. Despite this, their combined worth is close to a billion euros. It is impossible to gauge what kind of development the next years will bring. Service possibilities are endless, since it is likely that in the future, all domestic appliances and furniture will be connected to each other and the world outside.
How will the student unions and the entire student movement be a part of this? Although a basic principle for the student movement is building a better tomorrow for students and society, member services are also in the DNA of advocacy organisations. The service entity and the connotations brought on by it define how people perceive our movement and how important it is. Throughout history, the university student unions have offered a range of different services, from movie theatres to radio channels.
However, many of the current services are lagging, and student unions are perceived as more distant. As even banks increasingly move online it seems odd that young highly educated people would still need the physical service offices of student unions. What will happen at universities and student unions in ten years’ time when students are of a generation who learned to use an Ipad before learning to read?
This year, we offer student unions a training package in service design. At the same time, we will consider how SYL better could serve the student unions. We want to provide a good basis for developing services all around Finland. We encourage student unions to boldly review the services they provide. What services would you as a student need?
Could the services offered by student unions in the future be more along the line of something like how Airbnb works? The student union could be the one to bring students who have different skills and needs together. Currently, a law clinic offers legal advice in Helsinki, Turku and in Rovaniemi. Law students at the end of their studies offer legal services to other students and the student union is just the agent in between. Could, for instance, language students offer translation services, and economics students help student associations with their accounts? What if we could make this knowledge base nationwide?
There is a great deal of competition on the services market, since there is great supply. If we really want to be relevant to our member, student unions must find our place in the everyday life of students.
SYL Vice President