Hamburg Convention focuses on essentials and way of life

8 October 2020
Civil society initiative seeks guiding principles on Hamburg's future

Cites can be sources of inspiration and those with an open mind can encounter surprising ideas on a stroll around Hamburg. The idea behind the Hamburg Konvent/Convention, initiated by Prof. Dr. Henning Vöpel, Director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, former State Councillor Dr. Nikolas Hill, and Prof. Dr. Michael Göring, Chairman of the Board of the ZEIT Stiftung Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius, is akin to an exploratory tour during which clever, creative and innovative ideas on Hamburg's future are gathered.

Different topics are introduced during leisurely walks around the city. Personalities such as digital expert Tijen Onaran, Petra von Strombeck, head of New Work SE, the pianist, Igor Levit, the climate activist, Luisa Neubauer, and Thomas Madreiter, Head of Urban Planning in Vienna, are among those who have gone on these walking tours. "We did not simply want to set out theses, but to come up with exciting, sometimes controversial comments during eight themed walks and then put the topics up for discussion," said Vöpel. Physical exercise should go hand in hand with intellectual finesse. The idea is to let thoughts flow freely, let sensual, emotional and atmospheric impressions take effect and put the experience into words. The resulting pool of facts and ideas is then discussed and developed by society as a whole in Hamburg.



Prof. Dr. Henning Vöpel, Director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI)

There are three parts to the process behind the Hamburg Convention. "During the second part, podcasts, workshops and online discussions come into play. We have also gained representatives of Hamburg to discuss various topics," said Vöpel. The issue of social cohesion, for instance, will be discussed by Bishop Kirsten Fehrs, Marvin Willoughby, Managing Director of Hamburg Towers and Dr. Melanie Leonhard, Senator for Labour, Health, Social Affairs, Family and Integration. Anyone in Hamburg can join these workshops digitally." Hopes are now high that many residents will take part. "The deciding factor is that people help shape the path towards the future," said Vöpel, 48, who was recently appointed Chairman of the Future Council of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and is tasked with inspiring people about the future.



Tijen Onaran, Digital Expert

The Hamburg Convention takes its name from the French National Convention and conjures up links with the French Revolution. "It is certainly a matter of identifying the general will. What connects us? How do we find a common thread against the background of fundamental upheaval and how do we involve the various stakeholders and their respective interests? This is challenging, but we do not need a revolution," said Vöpel. However, there is a need for a bold change of view and a rethink, he believes. "We live in an era of great change and epochal upheaval - climate change, digitalisation and globalisation will have a dramatic impact on almost every part of society. We need to talk about this," Vöpel stressed, and now is the time to do so. The coronavirus has made society keenly aware of future issues, and "the sooner we act, the more we can actively shape it. If we wait too long, we will have no choice but to adapt to inevitable change."

Thomas Madreiter, Head of Urban Planning in Vienna

Where will the future lead us and what do we value?

The actual convention - and third part - is scheduled to go ahead in early 2021 in the Hammerbrooklyn Digital Campus. "But this is not the end," Vöpel stressed. "The idea is to formulate guiding principles and visions for the future, which will be presented to politicians, and continuously developed on our platform. Cities are never finished."

Sources and further information

Hamburg Konvent/Hamburg Convention

Management of the Hamburg Convention lies with the ZEIT Stiftung or foundation. The Hamburg-based entrepreneur Marc Schwieger, Head of the PUSHH digital agency, Julian Petrin, Head of the Urbanista planning company, and Birgit Detig, Cities Director Berlin, Hamburg, Munich at Arcadis are among the partners of the convention. NDR produces TV footage of the walks.


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