Robert Bosch Stiftung Celebrates Anniversary

The Robert Bosch Stiftung is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding. The event's slogan is "50 Years Shaping the Future", and will feature a look back at the Foundation's history and achievements to date. In addition, the Foundation continues to look ahead to future societal challenges. The Foundation invests approximately 70 million euros annually in supporting its own as well as third-party projects in the fields of international relations, education, society and culture, as well as health and science. Since its founding, the Foundation has spent over 1.2 billion euros for charitable projects in these areas, and has supported more than 20,000 individual projects. As such, the Robert Bosch Stiftung is one of Europe's largest foundations associated with a private company. The Foundation has approximately 140 employees who work at its two locations in Stuttgart and Berlin.

The Foundation has received particular recognition for its activities related to German and Polish reconciliation. Establishing contacts across the Iron Curtain in the early 1970s was a pioneering achievement. As a result, the Foundation facilitated exchange trips for 28,000 students from both countries, further education for 1,700 Polish students of German language and literature in Germany, the publication of the 50-volume "Polish Library" in German, and countless other projects. Today this experience forms the basis of the Foundation's work in other countries, often together with Polish partners. Further areas of focus in the field of international relations include activities related to the German-French and German-American relationships and in the recent past opening up a dialog with Turkey and China.

In the last thirty years, the Robert Bosch Stiftung has also established itself as a educational foundation. It awards the German School Award, the most well-known and challenging prize a school can receive. The Foundation’s main goal in this field is to ensure that young people have fair starting conditions and receive personalized support – regardless of their background or social status.

You can learn more about further milestones from 50 years of Foundation activities here on our website. At the same time, you'll find an overview of the individual events we are holding throughout our anniversary year as well as additional offers, like our current magazine and the virtual tour, which allows you to visit us at the Robert Bosch House from the comfort of your living room. Additional highlights will follow – you can stay up-to-date by subscribing to our newsletter.

Join us as we celebrate this very special year!


How It All Began

You never celebrate an anniversary without looking back at the past. And the same is true this time around – what happened fifty years ago, when the Robert Bosch Stiftung was founded? An opportunity to look back.

The Robert Bosch Stiftung was officially founded on June 26, 1964. But what happened on this day exactly? Anyone who searches through the archives for documents about this event will not find any reference to a glamorous event – with speeches, chamber music, and a subsequent reception. Instead, the founding was carried out as a solemn legal transaction. At this point, the Robert Bosch Stiftung did not yet officially exist, only Vermögensverwaltung Bosch (Bosch asset management). On June 26, 1964, a Friday, Robert Bosch’s legal heirs and the executors of his will met at Robert Bosch GmbH’s former headquarters at Breitscheidstrasse 4 in Stuttgart, now home of the Literaturhaus Stuttgart. Karl Eugen Thoma, the new head of Vermögensverwaltung Bosch, was also present. The group had lunch together in order to subsequently agree on the terms of a share purchase and transfer agreement and to have the agreement certified by a notary public. As a result of this agreement, the shares included in Robert Bosch’s estate, which comprised about 83 percent of the capital stock of Robert Bosch GmbH, were transferred to Vermögensverwaltung Bosch, which was already the owner of the hospital endowed by the company’s founder. As a result, the Bosch family transferred ownership of the company to the asset management association, which five years later was renamed the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

The contract from June 26, 1964, has a background story that stems from the provisions of Robert Bosch’s last will and testament. When the company’s founder died in 1942, his second son Robert Bosch Jr. was still a minor. He did not consider his two older daughters as potential successors in the company. And since Germany’s future was extremely uncertain at that time, Bosch chose to utilize executors for his will. He tasked them with the job of deciding within a period of thirty years whether Vermögensverwaltung Bosch, which had existed since 1921, would take ownership of Robert Bosch GmbH, or whether his heirs would retain ownership.

Initially, Robert Bosch Jr. took on a position in the company’s management, just as his father had wanted. Later, a joint decision was made that Vermögensverwaltung Bosch would purchase the heirs’ stake in the company. The Bosch family approved, since in the meantime the asset management association was recognized as a charitable organization and would use the estate as Robert Bosch would have wanted. In order to maintain non-profit status, the voting rights from the shares in the company were transferred to a company founded specifically for this purpose, which today operates as Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG. The family retained a minority share in the company.

Although Vermögensverwaltung Bosch was first renamed the Robert Bosch Stiftung five years later, the agreement signed on June 26, 1964, was the key step toward drawing up foundation by-laws and beginning operations as a charitable foundation. That’s why people back then often spoke of the Bosch Stiftung. And in actuality, it is a foundation in the sense that its assets were donated, since the Bosch family agreed to a purchase price far below the actual value of their stake in the business for the benefit of the general good. It was important to the family that their inheritance would be used to fund and support sensible projects and that they could play a role in its use.

Initially, the public barely took notice of the fact that a foundation had taken ownership of one of the largest and most well-known German companies. A memo was sent out on July 2, 1964, which informed the company’s employees of the transfer of ownership. The headline read “In the future, Bosch profits will primarily serve the public good.”

A few years passed before the Foundation received its own organizational structure. The lion’s share of the profits was initially required for the payments to Bosch’s heirs and the upcoming construction of the new Robert Bosch Hospital. Nevertheless, the foundation began supporting first projects, particularly in the field of international understanding. In the early 1970s, the Foundation moved into offices in an office building in Stuttgart and hired its first employees. After opening the hospital in 1973, the Foundation began work drawing up a framework for supporting projects with individual focus areas. From this point on, the Foundation carried out the directions that Robert Bosch had set forth in his guidelines for Vermögensverwaltung Bosch. He cited examples of how his philanthropic vision should be realized: "Health, education, training, support for gifted children, international reconciliation and the like…"


We Want to Work on Major Issues Now More than Ever

Peace, educational equality, sustainability – in recent months, the Robert Bosch Stiftung has increased its focus on new tasks. A look back and ahead by Ingrid Hamm and Joachim Rogall, the Foundation’s Board of Management.

  • Mr. Rogall, a person’s 50th birthday is usually the first time they look back and take stock of their life. What accomplishments do you see in the life of the Foundation up until now?

Joachim Rogall: I see a major achievement in the field of international understanding. We have supported German-Polish relations for forty years and German-American relations for thirty years, just to name two examples. In this period of time, we have helped create a solid personal foundation between these countries. And we can rely on this foundation both in our daily activities as well as in times of crisis, when the overarching political climate is challenging. Furthermore, we are proud of the advanced medicine practiced at the Robert Bosch Hospital. The hospital has made a name for itself nationwide in the field of geriatrics as well as heart surgery. In addition, the Institute for the History of Medicine, the world’s largest center for the history of homeopathy, and the Institute for Clinical Pharmacology, which conducts research in the field of cancer treatment, for example, are both leaders in their respective fields.

  • International relations and science are only two of the Foundation’s areas of focus. Ms. Hamm, what other important issues is the Foundation active in?

Ingrid Hamm: The Foundation has often picked up on issues at an early stage and remained active in them over a long period of time. These are two aspects that make the Robert Bosch Stiftung stand out. For example, we have worked intensively on the issue of nursing care for thirty-five years, supporting policy reforms in this field, working toward making nursing care more academic, and highlighting many new models for delivering care. Since its founding, the Stiftung has established itself as an educational foundation in Germany. Education is an issue that traces back directly to Robert Bosch, and is also one of his children’s and grandchildren’s main priorities. In cooperation with the Heidehof Stiftung, we award the German School Award, the most well-known and challenging award for schools. Shortly after the Fall of the Wall, the Robert Bosch Stiftung began promoting civic involvement in the newly added German states (formerly East Germany). Today the Foundation continues to support people who organize and solve societal problems themselves. When it comes to cultural issues, we created the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, which over the last thirty years has become a highly respected literature award in Germany and plays a key role in honoring German authors whose work is shaped by their background as immigrants, as well as making their particular contribution to contemporary German literature visible.

  • The Foundation spends nearly seventy million euros annually for charitable works. That is a lot of money, but in light of the issues that you just named, also not much at all. How can you use this money most effectively?

Joachim Rogall: Obviously we can’t solve all of the world’s problems, or even all of Germany’s problems. Foundations can only encourage others to act. We can pick up on issues, find partners, and carry out activities to model how people can get involved and make a difference. Doing this pushes others in the right direction. Often times, however, the value of the investment plays less of a role than the question of how to create added value. Like investing in key communicators and finding active supporters who continue working in their own ways after the Foundation’s initial spark of support. As a Foundation, you can often move others to get on board with a project, since our support is already a demonstration of quality. The key thing is that we get started and lend an air of trustworthiness to the project.

Ingrid Hamm: The key is finding the right way to approach these issues. For example, we know that preschool employees are the critical factor when it comes to providing a better education for young children. As a result, we focused on significantly improving these early childhood educators’ own training and education, and initiated the first degree programs in Germany for preschool workers. Today there are about fifty such degree programs offered throughout Germany. The model caught on.


  • Are there any moments of success during your time at the Foundation that you will never forget?

Ingrid Hamm: When former German president Köhler said “you really talk to one another” in reference to our first German-Chinese Media Forum featuring editors-in-chief from various German and Chinese media outlets, I thought to myself: “we did that well.” And I experience moments that tug at my heartstrings every year when, at the end of our Summer School program, the scholarship recipients give their presentations – 17-year-old children of immigrants who are easily at the level of second-semester or third-semester students. When we visited the UWC in Swaziland and the students met with Laurance Nodder, the founding director of our UWC Robert Bosch College in Freiburg, I had a stronger feeling than ever before that we were doing the right thing founding the United World College in Germany – building a school for global education, international understanding, social responsibility, and leadership. The students at Waterford Kamhlaba College have all of this and show it in class as well as during AIDS education or caring for AIDS orphans who have disabilities.

Joachim Rogall: In my opinion, our Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg is an outstanding success story. It is a franchise model of grassroots democracy and encourages young people to assume responsibility in their environment. First it was “cloned” by a local Russian government, which now finances the model with its own funds, meaning that we only send the trainers. In the meantime, the program has spin-offs in Ukraine, Southeastern Europe, in the Caucasus region, and in North Africa. This is an example of how a relatively simple, yet obviously excellent idea can gain traction and encourage young people not to wait until the government does something, but instead take responsibility themselves.

  • The Foundation traces back to the legacy of Robert Bosch. He not only left instructions to continue his philanthropic activities, but also to continuously reinterpret them. How do you find new issues and approaches to work on these?

Ingrid Hamm: In all honesty, the issues force themselves on us – we only need to discover them early on and assess their relevance to our Foundation. Then we see whether we have or can acquire the skills and expertise needed to provide a solution. If everything fits together, we get started. We immediately reacted to developments like the Arab Spring, and the Fall of the Wall and Germany’s reunification in 1989–90 in order to use the options available to send the right signals. We recently established a Flight and Asylum focus area which deals with the large waves of immigrants and refugees coming into Europe and particularly Germany.

Joachim Rogall: It is always a balancing act between continuity and reacting to new situations. This can be seen in international relations, where for decades we have supported numerous areas of focus, but in recent years have also turned our attention toward Asia and now Africa. And there is a second aspect. We are a foundation that both carries out our own projects and supports third parties. As such, we receive inquiries every single day that show us where issues are developing. It goes without saying that we have in-house specialists who know the trends in their fields. But we also benefit from the fact that we have very close ties to society and its problems. This means we always have our finger on the pulse. Furthermore, our new Berlin Representative Office plays a key role in keeping us in the loop. It is a center for dialog in the capital city. Several thousand guests from different swaths of society come to the nearly three hundred events we hold here each year to discuss and share information, opinions, and ideas.

  • Fifty years is not only a good occasion to look back, but also to look ahead. In this vein, the slogan of this anniversary is Fifty Years Shaping the Future. What issues will the Foundation focus on in the coming years?

Ingrid Hamm: We want to concentrate on essential major societal and social issues. Across the world, we are seeing conflicts increase and become worse. That’s why we tasked a program team exclusively with conflict prevention and peace. In education, the question of equality still has not been solved: how do we permanently create fair opportunities for children from educationally and socially disadvantaged families? We urgently need their potential in our shrinking society. To solve these and many other educational issues, we need to urgently optimize Germany’s educational federalism and open up to international dialog. We also see a significant challenge in the field of civic education, and are looking to reach at-risk groups at soccer stadiums and through social media.


  • What role will civil society play?

Ingrid Hamm: We want to support civil society. Civic involvement is absolutely critical to the development of many young democracies around the world. But civil society also plays an extremely important role in our developed democracies as well. You cannot leave everything to the government, but instead need to build on the idea that many need to take responsibility. Foundations can and should support this notion in innovative and creative ways. As part of our pursuit of this goal, we commissioned an international study, and we are inviting representatives from all the major foundations and NGOs from around the world to Berlin in October to brainstorm with us on the guiding idea of The Age of Citizens.

Joachim Rogall: In the field of science, environmental sustainability is extremely important to us. We have now gotten involved in Africa for the first time and want to support this continent’s potential early on. When it comes to our international activities, we have moved from rectifying the consequences of war through reconciliation to promoting the freedom of the press, the rule of law, and civic involvement. We not only support projects in these areas in parts of the world with countries that are in a period of transformation, but in the European Union as well.

  • How does the Foundation need to position itself in order to tackle these major issues facing humanity?

Ingrid Hamm: We want the Foundation to view itself as a “we” and systematically engage in dialog. If an employee launches educational projects in a certain region of the world, we obviously want them to get feedback from the area of the Foundation focused on education, but also look to discuss ideas and experience with colleagues who are working on similar projects in other regions. In order for synergies and efficiencies to develop, we established issue-based groups. In order to effectively address the aforementioned issues, the areas focus their range of programs; at the same time, a task force develops an evaluation concept. We want to work as effectively as possible as well as document and measure our effectiveness. In a further step, we will learn how to better communicate, which is a key yet sometimes neglected aspect which influences effectiveness when carrying out programs. We carry out all of this in close coordination with the division supervisors and directors. Among this group, the “we” has already hit home.

Joachim Rogall: On the one hand, we are currently working on developing and training our employees in the best way possible. We want to put them in the position to work on these complex issues. On the other hand, we also discover that a large foundation is usually not able to tackle every issue alone. This is why we look for intelligent partnerships, both with other foundations as well as with public and private partners. This can mean that we’ll collaborate with a Japanese or American foundation or with a government department or a city in Germany, in Europe, or around the world.

  • This is the beginning of the 50th anniversary year. This is also an opportunity to familiarize people with the Foundation who have previously never had anything to do with it. How do you, briefly, tell someone what’s special about the Robert Bosch Stiftung?

Ingrid Hamm: The Robert Bosch Stiftung thinks and operates a little like the company it is affiliated with – we live in the spirit of Robert Bosch. We are extremely focused on the issues, delve deep into the topics, and remain tenacious in our pursuit of solutions. We believe – in accordance with the well-known Feuerbach thesis – that you need to actually change things, not just interpret them. And this is what we want to do in the real world. That’s why we want the projects to be effective themselves so that the Foundation can take a step back. In this respect, we are but a humble foundation.