Our Focus Topics and Areas of Activities

Focus Topic

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.

until February 2018: New Life Course (Information in German)

Focus Topic

Technology needs society

Germany is a country of technology – and, as international comparisons demonstrate, it is also highly innovative. However, unfolding potential such as this requires openness and debate. The Körber Stiftung’s focus topic ‘Technology needs society’ aims to encourage this process by concentrating on the consequences of technological developments. The intention is to promote discussion about the opportunities and risks associated with innovation.

The 2018 TechnikRadar report found that only a quarter of Germans believe that technology solves more problems than it creates. Although technological innovation is considered essential for prosperity and employment, certain products and technologies do not always meet the expectations or the needs of those who use or are affected by them. In order to change this situation, it is crucial that technological innovation is understood as part of a solution to problems. One way of doing so is to ensure that technological developments always reflect the common good. This view is echoed in the opinion of almost three quarters of Germans who believe that technology should be in accord with objectives such as justice and environmental protection.

Against this background, the ‘Technology needs society’ focus topic emphasises the need for information and debate. The foundation uses the focus topic to identify innovation and innovators from business, science, academia and civic engagement, and to facilitate discussion using various formats. In addition, it shows how people can participate in technological development and, in so doing, gain a deeper understanding of technological innovation.

If people are to be in a position to use and recognise the potential of technological innovation, they need information. Nevertheless, it is vital that engineers, software developers and other experts take into account society’s common aims as part of the way in which new technology is designed and used. Therefore, citizens, politicians and technologists need to develop a joint vision for the direction of technology and an understanding of its context. However, this includes ensuring that any limitations that have been placed on technological advancement are still taken into account. Ultimately, this results in a process that enriches the entire course of innovation.

until December 2018: Digital Literacy (Information in German)

Focus Topic

Keeping Europe Together

The corona pandemic is the “greatest test for the European Union in its history”. In the current crisis, existing rifts are deepening and new conflicts are breaking out.

In these times of existential challenges, the Körber Foundation would like to contribute to the revival of the European sense of community with its focus topic “Keeping Europe Together”. With a view to the German EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2020, we would like to pay special attention to Germany's contribution.

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until May 2018: Russia in Europe

Area of Activity

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 civic engagement. 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.

Area of Activity


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.

Area of Activity

International Dialogue

Talk with, not about each other!

For 60 years, 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 Russia, as well as with regional conflicts in the Middle East and the rise of China.

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