The founding of Bewegungsstiftung

by Gabriele Rohmann

The faces of the nine founding members of Bewegungsstiftung were beaming: On Saturday, March 2, 2002, they signed the foundations deeds in a ceremony in Berlin, transferred the capital stock of 250,000 Euros and officially announced the inception of the foundation.

About 40 activists, scientists and journalists came to the event, at which co-initiator and – founder Christoph Bautz and Jörg Rohwedder, managing director since December of the previous year, presented idea, concept and strategy of the foundation. They had certainly come to learn more about the foundation but also, presumably, to listen to Dieter Rucht’s lecture on Social Movements in the 20th and 21st century. Rucht, professor of sociology at the Scientific Centre for Social Research Berlin (WZB), has been doing research on new social movements for more than 20 years and will consult the foundation as a scientist.

Bewegungsstiftung breaks on new ground

The foundation breaks on new ground, explained Bautz. The idea to not only support projects, campaigns and representatives from different social movements but also to consult them in their sustainability and their long-term strategies comes from the United States, where »Haymarket People Fund« has been supporting social movement for more than 25 years and joined forces with 14 other foundations to form the network »Funding Exchange«. It is one of the key visions of the foundation that a similar development in Germany can promote the commitment of civil society and give stability to the many important and meaningful actions of social movements; and of course to activists, who nearly always have to struggle financially and who work mostly without being paid. Quite a few actions had to be given up again because of lack of money.

The signs of the times

The conditions for social movements are both good and bad, Dieter Rucht remarks ‚carefully’ in his lecture. After the generation of ‘68, which the sociologist considers to have failed in most of their aims, some winds of change could be noticed in the movement landscape. A new line of conflict emerged between supporters and lobbyists of neoliberal politics and the alter-globalization movement. On the other hand, Rucht warns against overestimating the successes of social movements. Their demands – at least in the Northern hemisphere - are less radical than in the 19th century and in the beginning of 20th century; they are much more characterized by a constant interference into politics. Rucht regrets that this is shrugged off contemptuously by many people. However, the scientist who has already seen many initiatives, groups and organizations come and go, points out the enormous democratic value of social movements. They are less buerocratic and rigid than parties and associations and can react more quickly, and in more creative and flexible ways on new challenges. 

Bewegungsstiftung gives impetus

One thing became very clear on Saturday: The foundation gives impetus. Gisela Notz confirms this. She is a sociologist who was also called into the Board of Trustees, and who does scientific research on social movements as well as being an active member of some – right in the sense of Bourdieu. The institution will certainly give new incentives for many a representative of social movements and motivate them to continue their political and social work.


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