Berlin Excursion 2023: MBA Students explore the world of NGO Lobbyists and Advocates in the capital
Advocacy and Lobby Landscape in the Capital
After our virtual MBA Berlin Excursion in 2021, this year’s cohort could not wait to have an in-person experience of Berlin’s rich culture, both in the political and social spheres. The aim of this year’s excursion was once again to gain an insight into the protagonists, methods, and instruments of selected organizations that practice advocacy and lobby work.
Students had rich conversations with selected representatives and many post-discussions amongst themselves regarding the valuable knowledge they gained. The excursion allowed them to step outside of a theoretical lens and to understand how sustainable practices and principles can be effectuated in politics through lobby work and advocacy.
The initiator of the MBA Berlin Excursion
Our 5-day Berlin excursion is spearheaded and organized by our honorary Professor Claudia Warning, who is currently the president of CARE Deutschland e.V. and a former board member at Bread for the World. As a head of renowned national and international NGOs with over 35 years of practical experience in development cooperation, her profound network within that sector was a valuable stepping stone into the world of lobby and advocacy. This year’s MBA cohort engaged with many inspiring representatives from organizations and governmental entities.
Programme Speakers of the Berlin Excursion 2023
- Anica Heinlein, Head Office Manager at CARE Deutschland e.V. headquarters
- Dirk Meyer, the General Director of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
- Ulrich Lilie, President of Diakonia Germany
- Dr. Dirck Ackermann, Head Military Decan of the Protestant Military Chaplaincy of Germany
- Konstantin Kreiser, Executive Board Member & Head of Department of Conservation Policy at NABU Germany
- Katja Keul, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office
- Lili Krause, Team Member at VENRO
- Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, Member of Parliament and Chairperson of the Legal Committee of the Bundestag
- Dr. Imme Scholz, President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation
- Stephan Exo-Kreischer, Director of the German Head Office of ONE Germany
Conversations with Lobbyists and Political Actors
At the beginning of the excursion, the MBA students visited the headquarters of CARE Deutschland e.V. and met the Head Office Manager Anica Heinlein. While elaborating on her lobby work, the MBA students asked a crucial question that initiated a cause for thought for the week: “Why is lobby work necessary?”
Ms. Heinlein did not hesitate and reiterated that in order to change the framework and conditions in one’s surroundings, one must speak to decision-makers, who are democratically elected within a state.
„"The goal is bringing realities and messages from the edge to the center and making them visible!””
Anica Heinlein, Communication and Advocacy at CARE Germany e.V.
The question continued echoing in the conversation with Dirk Meyer, the General Director of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), who stated that indeed in democracies the voices of the people matter, and very importantly those of the marginalized. This requires one to be creative and find a way to make one’s voice heard. An important aspect is knowing how to communicate and knowing the audience one wants to advocate to address. Therefore, it does not hurt to surprise the dialogue partners by stirring a conversation. As such, it helps to create umbrellas engage in cooperation with others, and create alliances.
„[...] "In democracies, the voices of the people matter [..]. This requires one to be creative and find a way to make one’s voice heard: know your audience, learn to communicate properly and ideally connect with others who support your ideas and interests."”
Dirk Meyer , General Director of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Such umbrella organizations are VENRO and Diakonia Germany, which we also visited. The students gained a better understanding of how organizations create synergies to advocate for a common goal. In separate conversations, Lilie Krause (Team Member at VENRO) and the president of Diakonia Germany Ulrich Lilie reiterated that indeed democracy also means the change of society and this requires them to adapt to the times and also offer space for feedback within the organization.
When it comes to lobbying work and advocacy, the excursion also included the exchange with faith-based organizations, such as Diakonia Germany and with Dr. Dirck Ackermann the Head Military Decan of the Protestant Military Chaplaincy. As lobbying and advocacy span across many sectors and topics, the excursion also included a conversation with Konstantin Kreiser Executive Board Member at NABU Germany, which advocates for climate issues and the conservation of biodiversity, and Stephen Exo-Kreischer, the director of ONE Germany, an NGO that lobbies internationally on the issues of poverty and hunger eradication, as well as disease prevention.
In the conversations with each of the aforementioned organizations, the exchange with politicians was an element that was highlighted frequently. As the democratically elected representatives they are one of the key actors in initiating change on a legislative level. As such, we had conversations Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office Katja Keul (party member of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and Member of the German Parliament Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker (Christian Democratic Union, Chairperson of the Legal Committee of the Bundestag). Both politicians shared the sentiment that organizations who approach them to lobby or advocate for their cause should also be aware of parliamentary procedure. This in turn means that one politician cannot change the entire course of a new law proposal but does for example have the option to address the parliament on a specific issue which can initiate a new conversation about said law. What matters is to be passionate about one’s cause and have compelling arguments.
Exploring Berlin's turbulent history
In addition to the insightful conversations with organizations and governmental representatives, our cohort also had time to experience the rich culture of Berlin. We visited the staple of Berlin, the Brandenburger Tor, and further historical and contemporary relevant sights, such as the building of the German Parliament (“Deutscher Bundestag”). We also had a guided tour through the German Parliament, which allowed the students to see an ongoing parliamentary session and see well-known politicians. As the tour also led to the Chancellery the students had the brief opportunity to see the Chancellor Olaf Scholz pass by in his car, which for many was a rare occasion. Experiencing Berlin included a boat tour of the Spree River and a view of Berlin’s governmental quarter.
Final Conclusion & Acknowledgement
In the words of an MBA student: “Lobbyism is a legitimate and necessary part of democracy in a pluralistic society, as it helps to infuse the parliamentary process with additional information that leads to better decision making”. We want to thank Professor Warning for organizing this year’s excursion and allowing our students to have a first-hand experience of the vast field of lobby and advocacy work. After our virtual excursion in 2021, this year marks the third
in-person travel to Berlin after 2016 and 2018.
Impressions of the Berlin Excursion in 2023
To complete the written report visually, we are glad to share some impressions of the Berlin Excursion 2023 with you. Please watch the videos or click through our picture gallery below.