The Maecenata Foundation’s Tocqueville Forum was established in April 2016, after years of unsuccessful efforts to establish a centre for civil society or civil society research in Berlin together with other academic institutions.
Civil society, only recognised in recent years in Germany as an arena with shared and differentiated characteristics, needs more support than ever before, in order to be seen and acknowledged as an independent arena in society in all its variety. On the one hand, the Forum aims to help the dissemination of academic findings; on the other, it contributes to the establishment of requirements and strengthening of civil society under democratic-theoretical aspects.
Joining together different approaches appears to be especially urgent. Above all, it is about facilitating dialogue, for example between civil society research and practice – but also between civil society, politics and the economy. Access to information is of equally high importance.
In October 2022, the previously independent programme Europa Bottom-Up was integrated into the Tocqueville Forum.
The Tocqueville Forum’s main areas of focus
At the intersection between academia, politics and practice the Tocqueville Forum aims to:
- strengthen civil society practices and research through support services and discourse and conduct applied projects,
- establish cross-sector needs through taking part in open exchanges,
- develop common cross-functional and multidisciplinary practical recommended solutions for current problems,
- launch networks, take part in them and coordinate them where necessary,
- offer room for reflection for current and potential civil society fields of activity, operating principles and dynamics,
- introduce themes that are important for the development and internal strengthening of civil society into general political, public and academic discourse,
- impart basic knowledge on civil society and foundations to practitioners and other interested parties.
Different project formats should be process-orientated, tested with partners and also on the European and global levels wherever possible. Results and policy recommendations are made available to the public. The Forum particularly looks for cooperation and networking opportunities. Individual projects are carried out in cooperation with other institutions wherever possible. The Forum takes part in community projects and international cooperations.
- Maecenata Library
With approximately 16,000 items, it is the largest library in the German-speaking realm that specialises in civil society, civic engagement, philanthropy and foundations. It is open to the public.
- Training (Intensive seminars)
On civil society and foundations: The intensive seminars are aimed at full-time and voluntary workers in foundations, associations, unions and other civil society organisations, businesses and authorities as well as at potential donors, academic trainees, students from all fields and journalists as well as the simply curious. Alongside the dissemination of knowledge and experience, there is also the opportunity to respond to participants’ questions and for them to discuss amongst themselves. They are held in German.
- The Philanthropy.Insight project
The project aimed to systematically capture the philanthropic eco-system in a new way. A location of philanthropic action beyond the so-called ‘impact paradigm’ can be a first step towards defining a more specific and more responsible role for philanthropy within civil society. Sponsors, foundations, benefactors and experts are invited to create a common framework, which allows philanthropy to utilise its full potential.
- Zivilgesellschaft Info
The project was a proposal that shone a light on the variety and commonalities of civil society and made its actors (more) visible. The online platform offered extensive, up-to-date information on civil society, civic engagement, philanthropy and foundations in the areas of ‚current news,‘ ‚events,‘ ‚publications‘ and ‚Openings.‘ There was also the possibility to refer to the expertise of numerous pofessionals from civil society academia and practice, who were available to answer all kinds of enquiries. The project was redefined in 2021.
Announcements from the Tocqueville Forum