The Robert Bosch Stiftung

Bürgerschaftliches Engagement 1
Photo: Björn Hänssler 
The Robert Bosch Stiftung has supported civic involvement since its founding. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, around 12,000 volunteers in the federal states of the former East Germany have benefited from this support.

Civic Involvement

In many areas of our society, citizens are increasingly taking responsibility, particularly in places where government institutions reach the limits of what they can achieve. These citizens play an active role in shaping their environment, help their fellow citizens, and donate their precious time to do so. Increasing this civic involvement has been one of the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s main pursuits since its founding. The Foundation helps spread good ideas, establish networks, and overcome initial difficulties. For example, immediately after the Fall of the Wall, it promoted civic involvement in the former East German states. With the help of the Foundation, the first breeding grounds of a new, lively civil society were created, which continue to play a dominant role in many regions’ development today. And in the former West German states, the Foundation supports people who are active in associations and initiatives and take the reins in the pursuit of solutions to social issues. One area of focus in this regard is professionalization and organizational development for associations and initiatives.

All in all, the Foundation has made around thirty million euros available for this purpose. With its support, the Foundation plays a key role in encouraging as many people as possible to take responsibility in society and, as a result, strengthen the foundation of our democracy.  

Breeding grounds of civil society

Social projects such as the Alte Kirchen Berlin-Brandenburg (old churches in Berlin-Brandenburg) initiative and the Bürgerkomitee Parchim (Parchim citizen’s committee) strengthen social cohesion within communities in the states of the former East Germany, and today are more active than ever before. Up until the end of 1999, the Robert Bosch Stiftung made more than eleven million euros available for over one thousand individual projects. Overall, around 12,000 volunteers benefited from the Foundation’s support.

When a possible end to compulsory civil service (offered as an alternative to compulsory military service) was discussed in Germany at the end of the 1990s, the Foundation launched the initiative Jugend erneuert Gemeinschaft (young people modernize community), playing a key role in spreading the idea of a voluntary civil service for young people. The Foundation’s activities in this regard animated thousands of young people to volunteer. At the same time, the Foundation established the first certification agency that continues to conduct quality control in voluntary civil service programs.

In addition, the Foundation is also working toward making committed role models from civil society visible to a larger audience. For example, for over fifteen years the Foundation has honored with the Journalistenpreis Bürgerschaftliches Engagement (journalist award for civic involvement) more than seventy outstanding, exemplary media reports that illustrate how and why people voluntarily take responsibility. The Foundation aroused a similar level of attention with its Responsible Citizens campaign. As part of the activities honoring Robert Bosch’s 150th birthday, the Foundation put the spotlight on 150 impressive people who are extremely committed to helping others. Since then, the campaign has developed into a lively network that continues to grow. The Foundation actively supports the Responsible Citizens in matters of organizational development to make their initiatives even more efficient.

Civic engagement requires leadership

The Robert Bosch Stiftung also supports many other organizations in organizational and developmental matters. For example, with its Civic Engagement Requires Leadership program, the foundation helps associations reorganize with up-to-date structures and dusts off the antiquated image of working on association boards. During the pilot stage, over 500 decision-makers from a variety of associations participated in the program’s advanced training seminars, consultations, and conferences. And interest has increased across the country. The German state of Hesse has now developed its own model which is based on the Foundation’s program, with further states planning similar measures. The Foundation is now broadly communicating the findings from this program and is currently working with major networks at the state level.



Supporting Muslims dedicated to civic engagement

Together with the Goethe Institute, the Foundation plays another key role when it comes to integrating Muslim communities into local volunteer activities. Around one hundred Muslims who are dedicated to civic engagement have already participated in the first workshops in Hamburg, Essen, Mannheim, Hamm, and Ingolstadt. Here they learn how they can cooperate with other associations, how parents can volunteer at school, and what options are available when applying for financial support for their own social projects. With the Yallah! Junge Muslime engagieren sich (Yallah! young Muslims get involved) program, the Foundation also supports young Muslims who want to actively volunteer by carrying out their own projects.

Land reclaimers revitalize rural areas

In eastern Germany, the Foundation is current implementing twenty different projects submitted by members of civil society. The projects are being carried out in light of both structural changes and demographic changes that are leaving obvious marks on many cities and towns. With its Land Reclaimers – Shaping the Future Locally program, since 2012 the Foundation has put an emphasis on the fact that the best ideas for shaping this change can be found at the local level. And the program’s success proves this was the right way to go. For example, a private home built in the 15th century that was converted into a cultural café is breathing new life into the city of Perleberg in the state of Brandenburg. On the island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea, the citizens themselves have taken the first steps toward the energy revolution, and in the Märkisch-Oderland region, the car-pooling system MObiL, with over four hundred members, is helping improve transportation in rural areas. The program enters the second round this year, with the Foundation once again supporting up to twenty projects with a total of one million euros.



Projects in the field of society

Civic involvement is a focus area of the Foundation
in the field of society.