Pre-Conference Workshop “Trying Times – Rethinking Social Cohesion”, Berlin; group photo

Trying Times 2019: Pre-Conference Workshop

From September 4 - 6, 2019, we will be exploring the future of social cohesion at our international conference “Trying Times - Rethinking Social Cohesion” to be held in Berlin. In preparing for this event, the project team held a pre-conference workshop in Berlin in April with a group of personalities invited to take part in the conference this fall.

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How are the dynamics of globalization, digitalization and demographic change transforming the social cohesion and the nature of how we live together in communities around the globe? How can we transform the challenges we face into opportunities for societal progress? What are our “blind spots,” and how might we address them? These questions form the starting point for the discussions to be held at the international conference “Trying Times – Rethinking Social Cohesion.” Conceived as a production conference, the event is designed to deliver findings brought about by interactive means.

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Louisa Mammeri

The conference will therefore be flanked by workshops held before and after the event. The aim of the pre-conference workshop held in April was to obtain ideas and input from a group of future participants of the conference and take a co-creative approach to work on everything from content to be addressed to format design to conference deliverables.

Thomas Schindler, Victoria Bucătaru, Andreas Kluth

Based on a focus-group format, the workshop was designed to create an open atmosphere in which ideas relevant to the future conference participants could be freely developed without constraints. The workshop began with participants discussing among themselves – and in the absence of the Bertelsmann Stiftung project team – a few guiding questions derived from materials they had received in advance of the event. This discussion was moderated by journalist Ali Aslan. In the afternoon, this was followed up by a meeting with the Bertelsmann Stiftung project team in which feedback was discussed.

Ali Aslan

The discussion resulted in a number of recommendations. Three key points can be summarized as follows: Conference questions should avoid impersonal abstractions and be human-driven, that is, they should focus specifically on people and their needs. Moreover, the event should strike a middle course between the traditionally structured conference format and an entirely participant-driven, open “unconference.” Finally, the conference should serve as a format for strengthening networks among the participants and result in actionable recommendations. These and other suggestions provided by the focus group are now being incorporated into further conceptual work on the conference content and format. 


  • Gal Alon, Founder of Insights.US, Tel Aviv
  • Victoria Bucătaru, Executive Director, Foreign Policy Association of Moldova, Chişinău
  • Sabrine Chahbi, Project Manager at the CANDID Foundation, Berlin
  • Honey Deihimi, Head of Societal Integration Division, Federal Chancellery, Berlin
  • Anatol Itten, Managing Director, Disrupted Society Institute, Amsterdam
  • Andreas Kluth, Editor-in-Chief, Handelsblatt Today, Berlin
  • Louisa Mammeri, Regional Network Organizer for the MENA Region at the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt, Berlin
  • Undine Ruge, Department Head, Strategy and Policy Planning / Digital Policy, Office of the Federal President, Berlin
  • Thomas Schindler, Founder and CEO of delodi, Berlin


Ali Aslan, TV presenter and journalist, Berlin