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.