„Society can only develop and execute sustainable solutions for the increasingly complex problems facing it through successful collaboration between political leaders and civil society.
In our projects, we test and explore this collaboration using participatory processes which are open-ended yet results-focused as well as partnership learning.
At our locations and with our teams, we create spaces where new ideas can be developed and cooperation can succeed.”
It´s up to us to change something.
Climate change, the recession and the refugee crisis have placed unprecedented strain on government and society. Our education system is far from inclusive. Capitalism has led to prevailing inequality in which the wealthy are becoming richer and the underprivileged even poorer, while those in the centre ground are trying to feather their own nests and forgetting their traditional societal responsibility.
A great deal needs to be done – but this means there is also plenty of scope for collaboration with political partners to try out ways of doing things differently and with lasting effect.
We need people who can break up outmoded mindsets and replace them with new ideas. Who can identify problems, take heart and say: “It’s up to me to change things.” Who are willing to team up with other people in order to jointly translate visions into new reality. And who think about how their work will benefit society rather than their own financial reward.
There are more people like this than ever before, in all sectors of society.
Our job is to help them, train them, and put them in touch with each other. To this end, we initiate participatory processes. And we provide platforms and places where they can communicate in order to jointly develop new solutions that could change our lives for the better.
Competent Participation leads to sustainable solutions.
As a foundation, we are absolutely certain that solutions must come from the ranks of civil society, be developed with political leaders, and then executed jointly.
Each issue has its own players and interests.
By paying attention to just one of these voices or demands, a solution which is supported by a broad majority and can be sustainably implemented will never be reached.
Therefore, we are convinced that workable solutions can only be forged by all the participants coming together, expressing their opinion, and actively contributing to a solution which reflects everyone’s experience and interests. This model represents the concrete strategy taken by our round tables.
The Breuninger Foundation organizes and moderates round table discussions to enable different groups and interests to achieve concrete results by interacting with each other.
Members of staff from the foundation help reflect the concerns of all those present, moderate the process, sharpen project ideas, involve the stakeholders, and support them on the road to a common goal.
In this way, collaborative solutions derived from team spirit have already been translated into numerous projects and initiatives. One prominent example is the development of an action plan for the enactment of the UN CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) in Stuttgart.
Foundation staff moderated the drafting of specific proposals in coordination between stakeholders, care organizations, the local administration and the city council.
The Breuninger Foundation´s round tables
We train people to lead participatory processes, especially round tables.
We strengthen people’s skills, help them carry out participatory projects, and encourage them to spread the idea of participation and thus initiate change.
Through this training, the Breuninger Foundation has already equipped numerous dedicated people with the know-how necessary to conceive, set up and carry out round tables, paving the way for a slew of successful projects.
Click here to find about the training programme and participatory projects.
The Breuninger Foundation´s round tables
Culture of Exchange - Places of Cooperation
Change requires places where everyone can learn and grow together in an atmosphere of openness.
In 1999, we began developing a culture of exchange on Wasan Island in Canada and using it for the foundation’s work.
In 2007, we teamed up with our sister organization, the Helga Breuninger Foundation, to establish Paretz Campus in the Havel district of the Brandenburg region.
Since then, people from different disciplines and sectors and with diverse backgrounds have met up at these two locations in order to jointly tackle modern-day challenges in an open-ended, results-focused manner.
“We pave the way for social innovations – both in our own projects and in those that we support with our expertise, our network and our experience,” says Helga Breuninger.
“Changes are brought about by society for society, with people taking innovative and hopefully unconventional avenues. This inspires us – and in turn we provide inspirational places as a retreat where genuinely new concepts can be forged and developed free of individual egos and normative constraints.”
Wasan Island is a place with a magic all of its own.
The Breuninger Foundation’s private island is located in the Muskoka Lakes in Ontario, Canada. Its seclusion and ambience allow a unique culture of exchange.
In the summer months, conferences, symposia and retreats are held on Wasan Island in conjunction with international partners. Leading figures from civil society, the arts, science and business come together to share their views regarding specific tasks and to work on solutions together.
The 16 guest rooms are divided among boathouses, guest houses and small cabins. Echoing life in a cottage, bathrooms and other resources are shared. As the accommodation includes twin rooms, groups of up to 24 participants can be hosted.
Download Wasan Island Agenda 2018
Two listed buildings in the remote village of Paretz an der Havel have been acquired and converted by the Partez Foundation, a fiduciary foundation of the Breuninger Foundation.
In the place where Queen Louise of Prussia once maintained her unconventional way of life and ignored aspects of aristocratic etiquette, the aim is to cast customary notions aside and replace them with modern strategies.
Paretz Barn is a versatile meeting place. It’s used by residents and societies of Paretz for traditional festivities, amateur dramatics and the Christmas market. It’s also employed as a concert hall during the Brandenburg Summer Festival and by several groups as a flexible venue.
The Foundation House contains rooms for seminars and workshops as well as four bedrooms.
The Helga Breuninger Foundation´s Paretz Academy was opened at Paretz Campus in 2013.
It stands on the waterfront on the site of the old gatekeeper’s house. Together with the infrastructure of partners such as Paretz Palace, Storchenhof (café, riding stables, holiday homes, venue), Luisenhof (riding stables and holiday accommodation), Gutshof Ketzin (a hotel and bistro), the MS John Franklin and private accommodation providers, Paretz Campus provides a unique setting for events, conferences and meetings large and small.
Download Flyer Paretz Campus
Community Foundations as a Platform for civic Participation
Change and impetus can only come from civil society. Community foundations are the best proof of this.
Therefore, the Breuninger Foundation backs the Community Foundations of Germany of the Federal Association of German Foundations – and provides special support to the Stuttgart Community Foundation.
In 2001, 178 individuals joined forces to establish the Stuttgart Community Foundation. Its purpose is to bring people together who want to take responsibility and make a difference.
Helga Breuninger has been the chair since 1 December 2006. Ever since, she has invested resources from the Breuninger Foundation to advance the Stuttgart Community Foundation – partly in order to set an example for other community foundations.
Round tables addressing issues faced by modern urban society are part of the Stuttgart Community Foundation’s distinctive profile.
Community foundations are faced by a wide range of strategic and organizational challenges and require good coaching.
They need targeted knowledge transfer and the network-based sharing of experience – and both are delivered by the nationwide Community Foundations of Germany.
This independent centre of excellence has been actively supported by the Breuninger Foundation since 2009. It’s a source of information and advice regarding strategic, financial and organizational matters for existing and planned community foundations throughout Germany.
The Community Foundations of Germany thus nurtures civic participation and enables dedicated individuals and groups to translate their public spirit into concrete action.
"As a benefactor, i can promote the introduction of new ideas - and create places where new ideas can be spread."
The Breuninger Foundation was established in 1968 by employer Heinz Breuninger and his daughter, Dr Helga Breuninger.
They shared the conviction that interaction between the general public and political leaders is crucial when tackling social problems – and that a formative role in this process should be played by foundations.
Since 1980, the foundation has been managed by Helga Breuninger. With her innovative mindset, focus on reaching solutions and practical approach to cooperation, she is an embodiment of the philosophy behind the Breuninger Foundation.
After more than 40 years of operational foundation work, Helga Breuninger and the foundation’s members of staff have acquired plenty of experience and expertise in project development with public-sector partners as well as the execution of participatory processes.
A culture of exchange is enabled by a network of local, national and international partners as well as Paretz Campus and Wasan Island.
Apart from the Breuninger Foundation, Dr Breuninger also heads the Helga Breuninger Foundation which focuses on education and placemaking.
Helga Breuninger established the concept of Integrative Learning Therapy and has continued to hone it with projects such as the intus³ learning platform. The aims are to strengthen awareness of partnership learning in the education system, break away from traditional hierarchies and approaches in schools, and involve teachers, parents, students and education authorities in a modern process of development.
The willingness of many people to help others is priceless. Although the best way to channel this public spirit is often in a foundation, this entails a great deal of administrative work and coordination.
To ensure that volunteers keep supporting their projects without their energy and enthusiasm being worn down, on request existing foundations can handle the administrative tasks of a new foundation with similar aims which is still being set up on a fiduciary basis.
The Breuninger Foundation also supports fiduciary foundations. In 2009, the Paretz Foundation was established in the Havel district of Brandenburg with the aim of acquiring listed buildings, repurposing them, and working with volunteers in Paretz to jointly organize the village’s future on a non-commercial basis.
“I’m not the charitable type.” Helga Breuninger’s own description of herself sounds absurd for a benefactor so passionately dedicated to social causes.
But it shouldn’t, because it’s not enough for Helga Breuninger to ‘just’ do good by funding projects. Like any other entrepreneur, she wants to see a return on her investment. The difference is that she wants this return to benefit society in the form of added social value.
Helga Breuninger is certain that money can only buy temporary relief. If support is given to volunteers regarding strategy and action, and they are helped to develop a system which fundamentally tackles shortcomings, financial backing can be turned into sustainable social investment.
A get-up-and-go mindset by nature
Helga Breuninger comes from a Stuttgart business family
After studying economics in Tübingen and psychology in Munich, and then taking a doctorate in psychology at the University of Essen, she set up her own foundation: Helga Breuninger Stiftung GmbH.
She used it to finance a research and training institute at the University of Essen and to continue developing the system of Integrative Learning Therapy she devised.
“Shaking up the education system together with other foundations and with the involvement of civil society remains one of the drivers behind my work as a benefactor,” she says.
In addition to running the Helga Breuninger Foundation named after her, in 1980 Helga Breuninger was placed at the helm of Breuninger Stiftung GmbH (the Breuninger Foundation) in Stuttgart.
Fifteen years later, she set up Helga Breuninger Consulting GmbH, a firm advising on corporate succession and helping to solve succession conflicts.
In 2006, she was appointed chair of the Stuttgart Community Foundation. And in 2009, she and her husband, Volker Donath, established the Paretz Foundation.
Helga Breuninger has received several awards for her services to social entrepreneurship including the Federal Cross of Merit with Ribbon (1999), the Hans-Peter Stihl Prize (2002), the Federal Order of Merit First Class (2007) and the Order of Merit of Brandenburg (2016).
Through her work with the Breuninger Foundation, Helga Breuninger was one of the first to address key issues such as:
The types of support provided are as varied as the beneficiaries and their projects.
Even so, the Breuninger foundations follow clear guidelines. We primarily conduct projects on our own or collaborate with other stakeholders and organizations, involving them early on and offering a retreat where they can critically analyse the status quo.
Accordingly, we’re always operationally active – either by independently pursuing the foundations’ own goals or by supporting projects with values similar to our own.
Breuninger Stiftung GmbH
Tel. +49 (0)711/726 905 0
Fax: +49 (0)711/726 905 69
Dr. Helga Breuninger (Geschäftsführerin)
Walter Bretschneider (Geschäftsführer)