The Foundation

Dear Readers,

It is simply not possible to present the 40 years of Bertelsmann Stiftung conclusively here, let alone in a brief foreword. Just too much has happened in that time.

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Let me give just two examples to illustrate how the world has changed in the past four decades. In 1977, most people only knew artificial intelligence from the first Star Wars film, which had only just been released. Today AI is everywhere: in the voice recognition software found in mobile phones, for example, and in the traffic-management systems used on major thoroughfares. In 1977, moreover, China and India were two regional Asian powers barely able to feed large segments of their mostly agrarian populations. These days they are rising global players. Their economic progress has in many areas made them the competitors of traditional industrial nations, while also providing their growing middle classes with more purchasing power and prosperity.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Werner J. Bauer
Chairman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung
Board of Trustees

The Bertelsmann Stiftung has also changed – as it had to, given the developments in the world around it. Today it addresses many issues it did not face in 1977. For example, the foundation is examining the use of algorithms in daily life, so that we can better understand the opportunities and risks resulting from AI. In addition, it has established its own Asia program which analyzes the continent’s transformation and the resulting impacts.

To my mind, however, something has remained the same through all these years: the high expectations the founding family, the employees and the public have of the foundation’s work. If I were to express these expectations in my own words, they would be three-fold: The foundation asks important questions of society. It looks for possible answers – conscientiously and everywhere. It takes the best answers and transforms them into proposed solutions capable of being applied in the real world.

Let me briefly explain what I mean by this.

Asking questions: Reinhard Mohn assigned the foundation a very important task, one that will never become obsolete, namely ensuring society is ready for the future. To do that, the foundation must address the major issues and trends that are defining life today and what it will be like in years to come. It must therefore persevere and take a long-term view, looking beyond fleeting daily political events. In other words, the foundation is not a sprinter, but a marathoner.
Finding answers: The Bertelsmann Stiftung is guided by current research and empirical findings. In carrying out its work it must be nonpartisan and objective. It must also look beyond national borders. Adhering to such principles is not easy in an age when “post-factual” is chosen Word of the Year and populists declare war on open-mindedness. It is, however, all the more important. The foundation must continue to present its ideas with a calm certainty. It is not a declaimer, but a facilitator.

Transforming into solutions: Whether the ideas proposed by the foundation are acted upon depends on whether they are of real value to people. The foundation must therefore design and refine its solutions in an ongoing exchange with its target groups. As someone with a background in academic research, I very much appreciate the importance of theoretic fundamentals. Yet the standard used to measure the results of the foundation’s work is not publication in a specialized journal, but the application of those results in everyday life. The foundation is not an ivory tower, but a workshop.
As members of the Board of Trustees, we strive to draw on our different experiences and expertise so that the Bertelsmann Stiftung can continue to meet these high standards. For me, this is a responsibility; even more, however, it is a pleasure. I am delighted every time I come to Gütersloh and am able to contribute to and further develop such an impressive legacy. I therefore wish the foundation another 40 years – and many more after that – of good questions, answers, solutions and, consequently, success.

Much has also changed in the past 14 years in which I have had the privilege of serving on the foundation’s Board of Trustees. Here, too, one thing has remained the same: my enthusiasm for the work the foundation does.

Werner J. Bauer

Executive Board

The Executive Board guides the Bertelsmann Stiftung, sharing responsibility for our programs and for our office in Brussels as well as our foundations in Barcelona and Washington, DC.

Dr. Jörg Dräger,
member of the
Bertelsmann Stiftung
Executive Board
Dr. Brigitte Mohn,
member of the
Bertelsmann Stiftung
Executive Board
Liz Mohn,
of the Bertelsmann Stiftung
Executive Board
Aart De Geus,
of the Bertelsmann Stiftung
Executive Board
“Start-ups fit in not only in Berlin, but also in Eastern Westphalia. Here everyone is pulling together and a vibrant ecosystem for business founders is taking shape.”
Dr. Jörg Dräger, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board
“We have to become faster and, at the same time, take a long-term perspective if we want to shape digital change and all of its impacts in a way that benefits people.”
Dr. Brigitte Mohn, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board
“For four decades, the foundation has been a unique place where current problems have been analyzed and solutions developed and implemented.”
Liz Mohn, vice-chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board
“Europe’s nation-states should use the EU, the only reasonable path, for moving forward in the 21st century.”
Aart De Geus, chairman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board

projects will be run in parallel in 2017


people work at the Bertelsmann Stiftung in four locations: Gütersloh, Brussels, Barcelona and Washington, DC


events were organized by the Bertelsmann Stiftung in 2016

Photography: Thomas Kunsch, Jan Voth, Kai Uwe Oesterhelweg
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