How do we make Berlin a Global Impact Capital? With sustainable networks and collaboration. Berliners have innovation in their blood - what's been missing so far is courage. And the freedom to overcome all the red tape.
Under what conditions would we support the Expo 2035 in Berlin? Former IHK President and Berlin digital entrepreneur Daniel-Jan Girl meets Alexander S. Wolf from Foundation AusserGewöhnlich Berlin for a Salon debate.
It's about the courage and fear of Berliners, shaping the future together, a greener economy, the Global Goals, and Berlin becoming the stage for big business.
The Salon Conversation
(Editor's note: The following interview took place as a live conversation at a salon of AusserGewöhnlich Berlin at Tacheles. Only small corrections were made for better comprehension. We have refrained from subsequent gender additions*).
Wolf: What you're doing right now is drawing a lot of attention to yourself - positive and negative. You're trying to do something that will really affect all Berliners*. You're building a network that will bring Expo 2035 to Berlin. Why?
Girl: First of all, it's really extraordinary for me to be here today. I was allowed to be President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce for just under a year. At 41, it was a great honor to be able to get to know the city in all its breadth at such a young age. What I noticed, even as a native Berliner, is that this city has so much potential! Not only because we have changed so much historically, learned so much, and also shown courage, but because we are one of the great locations for science, and because we got the startup scene here. There are so many people who get up early to make a difference. But then somehow the city doesn't quite get there. And what's the reason for that? I understood that a bit more during my time as IHK president.
Wolf: And what's the reason for that?
Girl: We lack courage - at least those who are supposed to decide. You get elected, put yourself in a position to make decisions for the city ... and then you don't decide anything. Probably because it’s a thankless job in this city, because we now listen to everyone who has an opposing opinion. And actually we want to shape, we have to shape the city. We know where we're going, and I think we're all in a position in Berlin to recognize that this transformation process, i.e., shaping the future, is also something thoroughly positive, because we can all play a part in it. These are innovations that we have in our heads, but that we also have to finally try out - out on the street, with ourselves - and that has something to do with courage, but also with togetherness, that’s what we are working on.
Berliners are innovative. The future is in our hands. But we lack the courage.
Wolf: And the genius of what you're doing now is that you're turning the whole narrative around. At the moment, people think: "Yes, climate change, Agenda 2030... This has to do with having to forego something, with 'I can't continue down this road because someone stuck themselves to it. Everybody thinks, 'Sustainability is all about climate, I have to go without things I want.'" But you're just turning that in a completely different direction.
Daniel-Jan Girl: Yeah. "We need a greener economy." Achieving the Global Goals doesn't mean having to say no to everything: it's the opportunity for us Berliners to shape our city ourselves with passion and modern business models.
Girl: In the future, we will need a greener economy, that is, products and services. All our lives will naturally be subject to this, and we will have to earn money with it, with ecology, with services. Everyone is somehow indirectly or directly affected, so we want to help shape it. We want to show the world in 2035 what we actually have to achieve a carbon free - emission free status. We have to achieve the Global Goals, but this is an opportunity for us. It's not about foregoing what you want, it's an opportunity for all of us to shape this city with the ideas that we all have inside of us, with our business model, with our passions.
Wolf: In the end, it's like this: somewhere, a global, important, major change is happening. Those who are the first to adapt to it - Darwin's "survival of the fittest" - will benefit the most. So we'd be really stupid if we let other cities race ahead now and then we're the ones who have to adapt at the end. Let's jump on the bandwagon right now...no, let's be the driver right now!
Girl: Exactly. Our approach is not to always introduce the same little contentious issues into the discussion....
Wolf: Speaking of Friedrichstraße? Do we want to let bicycles go there now? Or cars?
Girl: I think there are a lot of ideas and possibilities. I also learned in that one year not to always answer everything right away.
Wolf: The right answer would be: "Sascha, that's a shitty question. It's too small. I don't care about small stuff like that."
Girl: (laughs) No, but that's exactly the crucial thing: If we want to get all Berliners on board - and that's what it's going to be about, because otherwise big events like this won't even be possible in the future. Some monarchy or dictatorship will put on a performance show to show that their system is the right one. So we have to come back and say: We as a democracy, with freedom and social order, are very well able to shape the world, the future.
Daniel-Jan Girl: "We want Expo 2035, not for the sake of Expo. We want to show the world that we are bringing about this change together with business models, with innovation, with passion and courage."
Wolf: A Sustainability Expo 2035?
Girl: Right! But not this classic Expo site somewhere in the desert. For formal reasons, there has to be this big Expo site, but we want to invite the world to come and see our city. So what did we do with the ICC? How did we develop the Tempelhofer Feld? How did we get carbon free, on Friedrichstrasse and wherever else?
We need to start doing that on a small scale now, with lots of small products and projects, like solar cells on balconies or green roofs. But we finally need the ability to obtain permits for this. And that's what we're working for, that we get the opportunity to start implementing the first projects now.
Daniel-Jan Girl: "We have to start small, with many small products and projects, such as solar cells on balconies or green roofs. But we finally need to obtain permits for this. And that's what we're campaigning for."
First of all, a poll. (To the audience) Those of you who say: "Hey, Expo 2035, Sustainability Expo Berlin, I think it's good", raise your hand briefly.
(About 70% of the 80 members raise their hand)
Question from the audience: What does that mean? Do we use the buildings that are already there, or do we have to build new ones? Do we tank billions into the construction of fantasy cities like Potsdamer Platz, or do we upgrade the buildings that are there and try to use as much as possible? So that what's left in the end are schools, and not some empty showcase stadiums? How exactly is Expo 2035 going to be implemented in Berlin?
Girl: That's exactly the point! We have to develop the building foundations that we have. We can't build everything from scratch. We have to build additional sustainable buildings, that's clear. We need living space. Of course, it has to be CO2-free and meet the Global Goals. But above all - and this is the big difference and our claim - we have to shape the existing living city, through ourselves, and not create some far-away vision in the desert. We ourselves have to change and transform, but to do that we all have to have the courage to actually tackle it. That is actually the prerequisite for us to also transform the city for the Expo 2035.
Daniel-Jan Girl about the Expo 2035 in Berlin: "We have to shape the existing, vibrant city. To do that, we also all have to have the courage to actually tackle it."
Wolf: How exactly is that going to work? Specifically, how do we do that now exactly? Starting today. Starting today.
Girl: We want to discuss 50 pioneer projects with politicians that, if they achieve certain values, in terms of sustainability, will be implemented immediately. So that we finally learn how to implement things again. Because, when we look around, it still looks like it did 20, 30 years ago.... Of course, this is due to approval procedures, processes and also a certain lack of courage.
Wolf: But how does that work? We define 50 projects and say these would now be such flagship projects - We can send people there from all over the world? Do the projects then simply get some kind of special permit?
Sustainable projects need special permits. And we have to start now in order to have transformed Berlin in 13 years.
Girl: That would be the idea of starting now in order to have completely transformed Berlin in 13 years also for the Expo 2035. So that we can now prove to the city, to society, to the people, to politicians, that approval and speed are not disadvantages, but advantages, because we are finally acting and taking responsibility. In this respect, everyone is cordially called upon to present these projects to us. We have already collected a few, and these projects achieve 80, 90, in some cases 100 percent of the Global Goals, the UN sustainability goals. We want to select them and then propose to the politicians: Let's implement this now in order to achieve the goals that you have described in the coalition agreement. Because if we don't implement, then we don't even need to start.
We need projects that contribute to the fulfillment of the Global Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals - and we need them now.
All Berliners are invited to present their projects, which will then be presented to the politicians.
Wolf: Well, we say: You want this, dear politicians, it's in the coalition agreement. Here are the 50 examples we will achieve. We just need some special permit from you to speed up the whole thing?
Girl: Exactly. Basically, we need to learn what a standardized process looks like in the future. It all takes so long because each project is taken individually and evaluated on a case-by-case basis. We need to get away from that. We must learn how this process works once, and then it has to be applied to all these future ideas, visions, proposals, and products from Berlin like an umbrella solution, so that we gather speed.
Wolf: Like an organic seal: this is the kind of project that contributes to the Global Goals. Let's go! That puts us in the fast lane.
Question from the audience: What about the space requirement? Will it automatically become an "Expo Brandenburg"?
Girl: First and foremost, we're talking about the transformation of the city of Berlin. That means we have the land here, we have the buildings. We want to change the materials, and we have an exhibition center that is not particularly CO2-neutral. I would like to see us transform it and perhaps even build apartments or commercial units on top of it in the future. Let's be creative. When I look at the pictures that kids draw in kindergarten, it always looks wonderful. Why are we unlearning this? Because we've all had a reality bite, and somehow we've also given up a bit. I think we need to find a little more courage to get back to the roots.
Less talking, more doing! Problem-solving is a Berlin tradition.
Wolf: Anyone who knows Berlin's history knows that Berlin was built by people who came here from areas of the world where they couldn't realize their vision. And here it was possible, and we have to get back to what is actually Berlin tradition, namely: here's a problem, I'll change it, I'll solve it - and not I'll blather on until everyone is used to nothing working out. We really have to change something.
Girl: We all have to get on top of this issue, and we have to encourage each other. I think we all have to move together. Encourage each other, show passion. That includes food and drink, as well as art and culture. I wouldn't see that in isolation, but rather Berlin is everything all at once.
Alexander Wolf: "We have to support each other in order to move the world forward. We promote Global Impact Capital Berlin, Global Goals and Expo 2035, Global Goals and the Expo 2035 and together we push Berlin in a direction that makes this city a showcase location worldwide. Let's show the world how to transform a metropolis."
The AusserGewöhnlich Berlin Networking Salon Question of the Day
The conversation between Alexander S. Wolf and guest-of-honour Daniel-Jan Girl took place at a salon by the Foundation AusserGewöhnlich Berlin at TACHELES. Together with the approximately 80 members present, we asked this week’s salon question:
"Under what conditions would you support Expo 2035 in Berlin?"
A selection of the answers for the AusserGewöhnliche Berliner Salon question:
- Don’t designate just one area to EXPO 2035, promote a decentralized EXPO spread across the whole city
- The many visitors must be optimally guided, no traffic jams, provide good infrastructure. Without this, Expo 2035 is not needed.
- Modern attractive architecture, no more eyesores
- Country pavilions in the neighbourhoods, jointly designed - "transfer" each Berlin neighbourhood to a country
- Civil society joint decisions via citizen councils (randomly drawn Berliners)
- Public eco-toilets everywhere
- ICC completely redesigned in a sustainable way
- 40km/h in the city centre, city only for public transport and essential traffic
- The federal government must support financially the project Expo 2035 in Berlin
- Sensible post-usage concepts before the start of construction of the EXPO 2035 buildings
- Radical acceleration of building permit procedures
- Analysis and use of vacant and abandoned sites for temporary EXPO 2035 use
- Accompanying Berlin campaign for the Expo 2035 with the goal of a mindset change, so that sustainability does not become an empty buzzword
- Financial support for the Expo 2035 exclusively by private means (because Berlin projects using tax money are doomed to fail)
- SDG/sustainability as a school subject to promote intrinsic motivation and shape necessary mindset early on
- City has to be CO2 free by 2035
- Promote micro-mobility and e-mobility
- No new construction is allowed for EXPO 2035 in Berlin, use only existing space
- Decentralized communication by 3.5 million Berliners, not by a top-down, central campaign
No greenwashing, but real, consistent sustainability for the Expo 2035 in Berlin!
Who is AusserGewöhnlich Berlin?
We are the coolest sustainability network in the city. Our mission: to save the world from within the city of Berlin. But we can only do that if we all pitch in and work together. We support the UN's 2030 Agenda dedicating ourselves to SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals. We bring together Berliners from all sectors and create sustainable connections to make Berlin a Global Impact Capital.
Curious to learn more? We're curious about you too! Contact us and visit us at one of our salons!