GTECHer in Germany: Day 2

By: Sara Innamorato

This week, our Director of Operations and Programming is in Germany! Follow Evaine on a wonderful learning opportunity and journey this week. 


DAY 2: 4 Modes of Transportation


9:00A:  Hamburg’s Director of the Department of Land Use Planning, Susanne Metz, and Head of Housing, Matthias Kock, spent an engaging two hours giving us some context on the population and planning work that is being done in the city. We are learning about the Green Net plan which looks at the overlap between green space, access networks and the framework of the city as a guide for new development. The challenges for inclusion and equity included distribution of information, public education campaigns, and the need to require development standards for new projects that incorporate greenspace and affordable housing as a condition of the work.

Fun fact: there are 1.7 million people in the city and currently 50% are single person households and another 31% are two-person households. That means a minor 19% of households have more than 2 people living in them!! Not only that but it is more common to rent than own in Hamburg (78%!) and there are legislated rights that allow for a tenant to stay as long as they want at the rent they currently pay.

Noon: We spent a brief time with architect Volkwin Marg of GMP Architekten, who has long been a staple in the planning process of Hamburg. Our time was short, but he offered an interesting perspective and raised additional questions which our group will likely tackle at one of our workshops later this week. For me, my big questions are the following:

  • When is the best time to bring the public into the planning process?
  • At each stage recommended (before you have a solid idea, while framing the concept, after concepts have been developed, after public approval, etc.), what is the most effective way to engage a community in the process?
  • Do you ever call a halt to a project because the outreach has been unsuccessful?

1:30PM: Angela Ehlers from Hamburg’s Department of Inclusion spoke about the goals and obstacles in the educational system and ways they worked to fill the gaps. The issues and challenges are similar to those in Pittsburgh, but the structure and programs are unique. In Hamburg, parents have the right to choose where their children go to school, regardless of income or location so programs are more universal throughout the city and the needs of a classroom increase as teachers must be able to adapt to the potential of any student being present in their care. Andrea Pauline Martin from the Joachim Herz Foundation spoke of a newly launched 10 year program they are exploring, as a way to express commitment to long term reform for the education system. Lessons can be taken from both sides I am sure and I am looking forward to hearing the outcomes of the current efforts by a truly dedicated set of education specialists.

5:00PM: Our day is wrapping up, but there is one more surprise — and it involves dancing. The founder and staff of Kulturpalast (Culture Palace) are treating us to a performance by kids in their project, HipHop Academy Hamburg. In this project unique to Germany, more than 600 youth train and work on the different aspects of the hip hop culture, with a high immigrant population, few services and activities for kids, and one of the less strong schools – this gives youth something positive to join that they are already interested in culturally.

Over 79 courses in 4 different levels including rap, b-boying (break dancing), beat boxing, dancing, production and more. The program is innovative, the students are amazing, and oddly enough the model and premise are extremely similar to the reason and approach to our Ambassador models, in that it brings different groups of people together with a common, relatable theme.

I had a wonderful conversation with their development officer during dinner and we plan to stay in touch and share some lessons learned. We witnessed some of the classes and were continuously impressed by the talent and enthusiasm we saw in the students and instructors.

Today was a lot, and there will a lot to process, but in short – it was a wonderfully dynamic day and I am ready for bed!


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