Our Focus Topics

New Life in Exile

The Körber-Stiftung’s focus topic New Life in Exile assists people who live in exile in Germany and reflect on their experiences of war and migration, the loss of their homeland and their arrival in a foreign culture. The foundation aims to afford visibility to the journalistic, artistic, scientific and political endeavours of people living in exile, provide exiles with a voice and pave the way for debate about the issues related to this topic. Furthermore, the foundation also intends to build bridges between the issues facing people living in exile today and those who were driven into exile in the past. This not only demonstrates continuity, but also raises awareness of Germany’s historical responsibilities and, thus, strengthens social cohesion.

When people are persecuted because of their political views, religion or ethnicity, their life may be under threat, and they often have no choice but to escape into exile. When they do so, they lose their homeland, their social environment, the language they grew up with, and opportunities for professional development. Life in exile, therefore, poses questions about identity.

Germany’s history means that the country has a particular responsibility to protect people from persecution. Under National Socialism, numerous people were deprived of their rights and driven into exile. Many continued to stand up for democracy, the rule of law and human rights while in exile. With these experiences in mind, the Körber-Stiftung has committed itself to supporting people living in exile in Germany who share our democratic values and view themselves as mediators between different worlds.

Life in exile is an extreme experience that has diverse consequences on the bearing of journalists, artists, politicians, scientists and photographers. Although exile can silence people, it has triggered bursts of creativity in the past and continues to do so today. People who live in exile discover unfamiliar perspectives; develop a different relationship to the country in which they were born, and gain an understanding of their new homeland from the outside. The Körber-Stiftung is convinced that these people’s experiences enrich German society.

The foundation’s focus topic New Life in Exile supports exiles living in Germany in their attempts to participate and apply their skills and abilities in society. The aim is to make their new beginnings visible and provide a forum for their experiences. Moreover, the foundation helps exiles from different countries share their experiences, and start a conversation with the broader population including discussions about the challenges, opportunities and historical experiences that are linked to life in exile.

Finally, by encouraging exiles to participate in public debate, the Körber-Stiftung promotes understanding about the situations faced by people who have been persecuted and strengthens social cohesion within a vibrant civil society.

Digital Literacy

Digitisation is the driver of innovation. It not only constantly creates new business models, services and products, but also fundamentally changes the way we learn, work, consume and communicate. In short: how we live.

To manage this radical transformation of society successfully, we need digitally literate citizens. Only people who use this new technology in a competent, creative and responsible manner can take advantage of the opportunities of digital transformation without losing sight of the risks.

With the focus topic Digital Literacy, the Körber-Stiftung wants to strengthen civil society's powers during this process and to increase public awareness of the requirements of autonomy and civil rights in the digital age. We therefore cooperate with model initiatives for digital education, support exchanges of experience and project transfer in this field and conduct lobby and public relations work on behalf of the topic. In various dialogue formats we discuss, with experts and stakeholders from industry, science, politics and civil society as well as the general public, the rules and values by which we want to live together in the digital age. We should all be involved in deciding on the topic of the kind of society in which we want to live in the future.

Our operational activities, implemented in close cooperation with local partners, concentrate on the Hamburg area. Findings and practical examples from this work are communicated via our nationwide networks.

The Value of Europe

The fall of the Iron Curtain and the eastern enlargement of the EU represented important steps towards overcoming the division of Europe. However, a quarter of a century after the dawn of a new era in 1989, Europe is threatened with a new split: politically, socially, and culturally, Western and Central Eastern European countries are drifting apart. Different ideas of democracy and the rule of law, but also of sovereignty, solidarity, social order, and one’s own history, now represent a critical challenge to the process of European integration. A common understanding of what constitutes the value of Europe appears to have been lost.

The Körber-Stiftung is convinced:

  • That the path of integration and growing together, which began with the reunification of Eastern and Western Europe in 1989, and which found clear expression in the EU’s eastern enlargement, should be continued
  • That a more intense dialogue with the EU’s Central Eastern European member states on the value of Europe, European values, and the future of integration is required
  • That the liberal democratic order is an achievement which must be defended in Europe.

With its focus topic The Value of Europe, the Körber-Stiftung is making a contribution to the debate on the past, present, and future of the European project. It pays special attention to the question of how a new split along the former “Iron Curtain” can be avoided.

In so doing, the foundation addresses challenges of European integration, foreign and security policy as well as the historical roots of current conflicts. Questions of political culture, the politics of history, identity and values as well as perspectives of cooperation at the state, supranational and civil society levels are also central to the focus topic. The partners in this dialogue are opinion leaders, (foreign) policy decision makers, and multipliers in the field of cross-border cooperation. For the Körber-Stiftung it is especially important to promote an inter-generational exchange.

The Körber-Stiftung’s efforts to foster dialogue are geared towards recognizing different values and points of view, while at the same time seeking to identify commonalities. The Körber-Stiftung sets out to strengthen political and societal actors who are committed to a common vision of the European project, thus sending out a clear signal against splitting tendencies and centrifugal forces, and making a contribution to European cohesion.

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until May 2018: Russia in Europe

Our Areas of Activities

Vibrant Civil Society

Demographic change is one of the major trends that are strongly influencing the way we live together in today's vibrant civil society. Various factors are causing changes in the composition of our population: The birth rate in Germany has been low for several decades. At the same time, life expectancy has increased: Statistically, people today are living approxiely 15 years longer than they did in 1950. And our country has become an immigration country, primarily one for the current influx of refugees. The influence of internal migration upon community life in the countryside and in the city must not be underestimated.

If our society is ageing and its origins and lifestyles are becoming more diverse, what implications does this have for our social interaction? How do we create more social justice? How can we recruit new people for the employment market? Who will look after the interests of others if the population is dwindling? The Körber-Stiftung addresses such issues with its activities, events and publications – and also encourages people to see the opportunities presented by these changes.

The foundation itself is also investigating new and constructive solutions in the light of a vibrant civil society: It supports local politics and administration on the path to becoming a demographically strong city and initiates networks for involvement. It promotes the potential of the older generation to employers and presents models for integration and diversity. It promotes citizen participation and brings together civil society, the economy and the state in new alliances. And last but not least, the Körber-Stiftung operates its own culture and district centre for the participation of the 50 plus generation.


Innovations are prerequisites for the existence and success of modern societies. They ensure their sustainability, form the basis for prosperity and are essential for addressing key problems of humanity.
The Körber-Stiftung therefore explores the conditions and processes under which the new emerges, invests in young talent, honours innovative approaches and shapes the framework conditions for a society open to innovation.

However, innovations are also dependent on a society that is prepared to change and to deal with the new. Because of this the Körber-Stiftung also considers it important to discuss the opportunities and risks of innovation processes and to promote a climate of critical openness. To this end, the foundation provides platforms: In conferences, publications and expert networks the Körber-Stiftung drives the debate forward with operational ideas and its own expertise.

Crucial ideas for innovation repeatedly come from the sciences and the arts. In creative trials and inquiring approaches they not only bring about the new, they are also drivers of society's ongoing understanding of itself. The Körber-Stiftung therefore pays particular attention to them and their associated education and mediation processes. Innovations are dependent on both inventiveness and drive – a combination that proves itself specifically in such diverse projects as STEM education and cultural education.

International Dialogue

Talk with, not about each other!

For over 50 years, the Körber-Stiftung has been committed to international dialogue and dialogue across political, national and religious boundaries. We help to build bridges to overcome the absence of discussion and to initiate debate.

We strengthen constructive dialogue with dialogue formats, competitions and encounters – open-ended, on equal terms and transparently. In doing so, we focus on diversity and inclusiveness. We shed light on the historical aspects of current conflicts and highlight both civil society and foreign and security policy perspectives for overcoming them. To this end, we examine different identities and promote a culture of mutual recognition in international relations. We sound out the scope for political action and show specific ways of working together. In this way we contribute to the identification of common values and interests and to the building of trust.

Our target groups are social thinkers, (foreign) political decision-makers and multipliers of international dialogue. We place particular emphasis on strengthening the capacity for dialogue of decision-makers in the next generation. We take our programmes around Europe, the Middle East and Asia. We are primarily concerned with Eastern Europe and the role of Russia in the European context, as well as with regional conflicts in the Middle East and the rise of China.

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