Alumni of Robert Bosch Stiftung’s Lectorship program start initiating seminars on active citizenship and developing methods of non-formal education. The seminars take place in Kreisau, Poland where 7 years earlier the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki met and gave their support to the founding of the International Youth Meeting Center. Young people travel from all over Central and Eastern Europe to Kreisau to participate in the seminars.
Lesson learned: The future founders of THK realize that participants’ energy and motivation for active citizenship need a framework for expression – the idea of participant project initiatives as a core part of seminars is born.
The organizers of the Kreisau seminars launch the Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg (THK) as an international program in close cooperation with Robert Bosch Stiftung. The goal is to enable participants to not only think critically, but take action in their home communities. THK’s qualification concept is sparked and travels out into the world. It consists of one kick-off seminar dedicated to diverse topics, such as active citizenship and culture of dialogue, one project seminar to develop project management skills, a project phase in which participants implement their own social/cultural initiatives in their home communities, and one evaluation seminar to analyze project results and plan future engagement.
Lesson learned: The qualification concept needs international multipliers and facilitators in order to strengthen impact.
The THK’s style of facilitation and approach of learning-by-doing leads to rapid growth in the number of program applicants. This requires expansion and regionalization. Dedicated to training and qualifying international THK alumni as seminar leaders and local project advisors, the Facilitators’ Education and Mentors’ Education programs are further developed. In parallel, the first regional program in Perm kicks off, and with it the incubation phase for partnerships with local actors, such as NGOs, local administrations, municipalities, and businesses.
Lesson learned: Local collaboration and the creation of the International Facilitators Pool has made impact tangible and authentic.
THK alumni express interest in starting educational programs in their own communities. With this and the example of the collaboration in Perm, THK makes the decision to scale its model in tailored forms. Locally-rooted partners, hand in hand with the THK Berlin team, multiply the number and geographical span of educational programs, which reach up to 1,000 citizens each year. THK becomes an international network of NGOs, project coordinators, facilitators, and regional program alumni. Annual gatherings and capacity building trainings ensure the exchange of knowledge and approaches. The International Kolleg comes to an end.
Lesson learned: Think globally, act locally: partners rooted in their communities make a more lasting impact on the ecosystems they live in, and bring crucial experience and skills back to the international network.
With 21 educational programs spanning 24 countries, the scaling of THK comes to an end. Focus is turned toward deepening program impact by developing the ecosystemic approach. This approach ensures the building of successful and sustainable partnerships and relations within local communities and networks.
Lesson learned: To be resilient, ecosystems must be diverse.
Looking into the future: Ecosystems thrive on change. Change is constant. After Robert Bosch Stiftung’s decision to end financial support in 2020, THK transforms into a decentralized network of practitioners.