Viewpoints: Does Society Need New Solutions?

Climate change, migration, urbanization, an aging population, digitization, the European financial crisis and the rise in right-wing populism — the list of challenges currently facing society is long. How can we find the right solutions? And do they have to be new? We posed these questions to social entrepreneur Norbert Kunz and transformation researcher Julia Wittmayer.

Martin Petersen | January 2018
Norbert Kunz and Julia Wittmayer
Daniel Hofer

Every issue of the Robert Bosch Stiftung magazine offers room for discussion and the exchange of opinions on current topics. This time we met Norbert Kunz and Julia Wittmayer for an interview and discussed whether society needs new solutions.

If a social entrepreneur’s mission is to solve a societal problem, then he should make himself redundant once the societal problem is solved.

Norbert Kunz

The question of how to deal with the many societal challenges of our times and whether this really requires new approaches was at the core of the discussion.

Our two interviewees have different backgrounds: Norbert Kunz is a social entrepreneur who has helped thousands of social startups get through the startup phase. Julia Wittmayer is an anthropologist and researches the impact of social innovations on social change, among other things. 

Social entrepreneur Norbert Kunz
Daniel Hofer

Social entrepreneur Norbert Kunz says: "Big companies need to work with innovative startups.“

He is an Ashoka Fellow and CEO of Social Impact gGmbH, an agency that has already provided thousands of companies with start-up assistance. Since 2011, his organization has focused on supporting social start-ups that drive social innovation. You can learn more about Norbert Kunz here: 

In brief: Norbert Kunz 

What are you currently reading? 
"Golden House" by Salman Rushdie.

What was your last big challenge? 
Developing our new educational project "Build your future.“

What is the most groundbreaking social innovation in your opinion? 
For me, the concepts of the sharing economy are the most significant. I was instrumental in the development of the first successful project in this area, which is car sharing.

Kunz and Wittmayer agree on one thing: We live in an age of transformation, so we can’t just keep doing the same things we’ve done before. Social innovations are needed to tackle major changes such as climate change, migration, urbanization, or digitization.

While Kunz believes in cooperation between large social enterprises and small, innovative startups, Wittmayer emphasizes that the best innovations have already been made. They only have to be rediscovered and sustainably promoted, according to her. 

Foundations have a great deal of flexibility, as they aren’t bound by the rules of the market or the public sector. They can help search for latent potential innovations in a targeted way and reactivate them for our modern era.

Julia Wittmayer

Read here in our e-magazine to what extent their approaches and ideas still differ. Our author Martin Petersen interviewed both innovation experts.

Transformation researcher Julia Wittmayer
Daniel Hofer

"Social innovations often merely have to be rediscovered," says transformation researcher Julia Wittmayer.

She researches social innovation and social sustainability at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. She held a leading role in the "Transit" research project, which ran from 2014 to 2017 and investigated the potential impact of social innovation on societal change and the self-determination of individuals. You can also find out more about Julia Wittmayer here:

In brief: Julia Wittmayer

Was lesen Sie gerade? 
“Out of the Wreckage. A new politics for an age of crisis” by George Monbiot

What was your last big challenge?
The completion of our four-year research project on transformative social innovations (TRANSIT) on December 31, 2017 – it was a proverbial precision landing.

What is the most groundbreaking social innovation in your opinion?
For me, it is not about individual innovations but instead nurturing a diversity of different innovations – only then can we find out, using a process of searching and learning, which (combinations of) innovations make our world more sustainable, our societies more inclusive, and our economic systems fairer.

The Magazine "New" (01/2018)

One of the key missions of the Robert Bosch Stiftung is to create new frameworks and set in motion changes in...