It’s hard to keep track of everything going on in Munich, especially when you are busy yourself! So it was a particular delight to see the colorful billboard announcing the first Munich Foundations Spring which announced that something special was going to happen all over the city. World Café Europe is always looking for opportunities to hear new ideas and network with like-minded people and organizations. Back in the office, we started exploring the website and began planning which events to attend. It was hard to choose since there were over 500 different events being offered. What a week it was! And all this was just a ride away on the subway or tram…Despite the official start of spring, Munich’s weather did not reflect the event’s name in kind. But it didn’t matter since the colorful logo of the event filled in where nature left off….Blossoming origami flowers with colorful butterflies provided a wonderful metaphor of spring, giving and ideas. The motto for the week says it all: Munich is giving. Experience who is doing good for others. (Or in the original: München geht stiften. Erleben Sie wo für wen Gutes tut.) Foundations and related organizations of every kind – big and small, locally focused or international – explored and discussed a broad spectrum of topics relating to their work.Flipping through the 218 page printed brochure demonstrated the wealth and diversity of the work of Munich’s foundations in every aspect of society. World Café Europe chose to attend those events which resonated with our work and project ideas for the future. Unfortunately there was not time to attend everything of interest but hopefully there’ll be a repeat event next spring!
We started with a visit to the Siemens Stiftung in the northern part of Munich in a neighborhood called Schwabing. Conversations with representatives of the foundation introduced us to their programs which embody their „ENCOURAGE. empowering people“ motto. According to their website „The Siemens Stiftung wants to empower people to actively address today’s social challenges and is dedicated to the values of Werner von Siemens. Together with cooperation partners, the foundation designs and implements local and international projects with the aim to promote individual responsibility and self-initiative.“
From there we went to Munich’s s University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule München) to hear a lecture series organized by the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt, Social Entrepreneurship Akademie, Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship and the Department of the Management of Social Innovation at the University. The philosopher Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Schmid spoke about the search for meaning as a source for creativity and societal innovation.
Our journey through the Munich landscape brought us to the office of the GLS Bank, the first social and ecological bank in Germany. This was not a new introduction to the GLS Bank’s commitment of supporting new initiatives through a variety of financial models. Due to it philosophy, GLS Bank is World Café Europe’s bank of choice. It provided us with banking services for our European Voices for Active Ageing project. The podium „Giving, Lending, Investing – How do new initiatives get started?“ was a fascinating discussion about new financing possibilities for social initiatives. Lukas Beckmann chariman of the GLS Trust (GLS Treuhand) introduced the bank and its philopsophy. He was followed by Thomas Goldfuß, the director of GLS Aset Management Service (GLS Vermögensmanagement) who spoke about the importance of giving for social purposes and introduced new financial models for foundations and non-profits. He was followed by Dorothee Vogt, an Investment Manager at Bonventure which provides social venture capital to social businesses which deal with the challenging social issues of our time. BonVenture provides social entrepreneurs with council, action and capital to actively and positively create social change in Germany.
Our next stop was the Social Entrepreneurship Academy of the Munich’s University of Applied Sciences where we met and spoke with five selected social entrepreneurs. The session was moderated by Joscha Lautner of The Hub München . The working session was divided into timeslots which enabled us to meet three social entrepreneurs, learn about their business and discuss a key question for the on-going development of their initiatives with them. One of the initiatives Rock your Life stood out from the rest of the group. It is a program which trains college students to coach high school students during the last 2 years of high school. Aim of this volunteer program is to encourage educationally disadvantaged high school students to finish their schooling, choose a profession which fits their interests and abilities in order to successfully enter the professonal world. The presentation of Rock Your Life’s agenda, structure and the scaling of its activities in cities and towns all over Germany provided good food-for-thought for World Café Europe’s on-going network development.
The Münchner Stiftungskreis (Circle of Munich Foundations) brought us to a Munich Villa built in 1913 on the edge of the Theresienwiese (where the Oktoberfest is held) which is the home of the BLLV . A „Fireplace Talk“ on the need for more „Face to Face“ encounters in soceity was on the agenda. Dr. Cristof Eichert of the Herbert Quandt-Stiftung spoke eloquently about the need for face-to-face exchange of viewpoints in the public arena. His remarks were followed by Amir Roughani and his experience as an immigrant to Germany as a 11 year old fleeing the first Iran-Iraq war to the founder of a multimillion Euro business VISPIRON AG. Nükhet Kivran, head of the Foreigner Advisory Council of the City of Munich spoke about their work to facilitate integration of immigrants in the city. A lively discussion between the panelists and the audience followed about the challenges of integration of immigrants and the need for more dialogue between cultures in German society.
Our journey through the Munich foundations landscape ended quite appropriately at an open reception of the Friends of the Bürgerstiftung München (Munich Community Founndation). Established in 2000, it is one of a growing number of community foundations in Germany dedicated to improving the life of their cities or towns by supporting sustainable projects dedicated to the public welfare. World Café Europe looks forward to introducing itself to the Bürgerstiftung as part of its efforts to deepen our network in our hometown of Munich.
Kudos to the city of Munich and the Stadtsparkasse München as initiators and sponsors of the Munich Foundations Spring, along with all the engaged foundations in the city and volunteers who made this incredible week of encounters possible. Hopefully this is the begining of another Munich tradition and will inspire other cities throughout Germany to host similar events.
Graphics of the Münchner Stiftungsfrühling are the work of (c) Ralph Böhm