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Importing the American Spirit of Civic Responsibility to Germany

Koerber Foundation: Adopt an IdeaOver the last two years, I have ran a marathon, enjoyed Bumbershoot, Folklife and the Seattle International Film Festival, gone to museums founded by local billionaires and salvaged some really cheap stuff from the salvation army store. I have bought school fundraising chocolates from my poker buddy's daughter and delicious girl's scouts cookies in the store. I have hiked dozens of National Park trails, went to parties that asked for donations to the local food bank instead of presents, and volunteered for the Seattle Public Library.
None of the most exciting community events and many social services in this city would be possible without the help of thousands of volunteers donating their time, creativity and money year-in, year-out. And that's not unusual in a country more famous for its hardcore capitalism, coarse meshed social net and sink-or-swim mentality.

Defying traditional European prejudices, American society is not based purely on the survival of the fittest. Quite on the contrary: public engagement here is much more common, volunteer services for the underprivileged are diverse and creative, and public-private partnerships usually work more smoothly than in my home country. The Körber Foundation in Hamburg has set their minds on importing this spirit of civic responsibility to Germany with their competition called USable. Every round, overall prize money of $180,000 is awarded to good ideas and best practices people have picked up in the U.S. to be realized in Germany, too. There is also a special text competition.

Since 1998, the Körber Foundation has thereby transplanted hundreds of "usable" ideas from the States to Europe, like "beginning with books" from Philadelphia. All over Berlin, volunteers now read regularly to kids in public libraries, helping especially non-native speakers to learn how to read and to enjoy books. Due to the support of celebrities like former congressman Cem Özdemir and former first lady Doris Schröder-Köpf, the idea has spread to many other German cities already.

Last year's competition carried the motto "Living Together. Integration and Diversity." One of the winners is a bilingual musical project in Berlin, initiated by the African-American musician Todd Fletcher, who out of personal experience stresses that "language is the key to integration." Other prize-worthy ideas include art projects for more mutual understanding between different cultures and religions, initiatives to get universities, corporations and citizens involved in their community, and programs to empower minorities. The winners of last year's competition will be announced on June 26, 2006.
This article was originally published in European Weekly

The German language book Adopt an Idea presents 200 ideas from the USable competition and can be ordered for 12 Euros at the Körber Stiftung Shop and at


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Rosemary on :

This is an amazing idea! Did you know you already have an organization over in Germany that takes care of Soldiers when they arrive? It is called Soldiers' Angels. What they do is provide for them a caring, helping hand. They also provide better blankets and other things they may need. This article reminds that we, as people, have a giving spirit. It sounds absolutely beautiful what you are doing. Once we get the government off our backs, we have the freedom to really do what was meant for us to do, as far as helping our brothers and sisters. It is inbred in us, I do believe. When someone else says they will take care of it (the government), it kills the spirit. You tell me, does the government or you do a better job? LOL. I know you do. Silly question. Thank you for such a great article.

Rosemary on :

Sorry about that. Here is the url for [url=]Soldiers' Angels[/url]. Thank you.

Pat Patterson on :

I travelled to Germany a couple of times in the late 70's and early 80's to study. Both times I participated in the running parts of local Volkslauf which were almost entirely run by volunteers from the local communities. That's where civic activism will come from, small, local and specific to one or two tasks.

搜索引擎优化 on :

Both times I participated in the running parts of local Volkslauf which were almost entirely run by volunteers from the local communities. That's where civic activism will come from, small。

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