Give Something Back To Berlin (GSBTB) is a project platform and network facilitating neighborhood volunteer work for the growing group of non-German speakers in Berlin. Our community of hundreds of skilled volunteers from over 60 nationalities is active in vibrant projects and collaborations throughout the city. This engagement is challenging current discourse in Germany between newly arrived and established communities, building positive outcomes.
GSBTB creates tools for community integration bringing “privileged” migrants, German locals and vulnerable groups such as refugees together. Our “mothership” is our accessible online platform to inspire and mobilize social engagement and participation. This way we facilitate online interest that takes practical offline form. Through our extensive grassroots initiatives we create meeting points for communities that would otherwise naturally stay isolated from one another. This concrete “think global, act local” program showcases everyone’s capacity to contribute - regardless of passport, status, language, or time spent in the country.
With building partnerships, relationships, and dialogue between people from the already cosmopolitan art, creative and start up-scene with local NGOs and refugee communities, we are creating a form of new sustainable urban integration and culture, while also enabling disadvantaged local communities to profit more from the globalized creative, tech and start-up industries. We call it “making worlds meet working together for a better city“. For this work we won several prizes for social innovation, integration and diversity work i.e. the Blaue Bär for Europe Engagement from the Berlin Senate/European Commission and the SAP Social Impact Lab scholarship as well as the Intercultural Innovation Award from the UN and BMW.
GSBTB started with a spontaneous Facebook post by Annamaria Olsson in 2012. Her own migrant experience, the growing European xenophobia, as well as what felt like few positive and modern and solution-based ways of dealing with different types of migration, all sparked her to write a Facebook post addressing some of these issues, with the appeal to ”get involved”.
The FB post snowballed into things we couldn’t have imagined and the journey from FB post to a full blown project platform was rapid (but not without tons of hard work and challenges). Becoming the collective brainchild of many great minds coming together, GSBTB grew organically into a huge on- and offline community of over 1,000 volunteers from over 60 different countries in over 60 social projects all over the city. It can be anything from work in homeless centers, mentorship programs for underprivileged youth, social urban gardening projects, or creative work with children. We also run nine weekly GBSTB refugee projects involving 75 volunteers, reaching out to over 240 refugee participants with its 32 educational hours per week. GSBTB was involved in organizing refugee projects from the start in 2013, long before the broader refugee engagement started in Germany the last year.
GSBTB started with a spontaneous Facebook post by Annamaria Olsson in 2012 who had moved from Sweden to Berlin to study and work as a journalist in 2008. Her own migrant experience, the growing European xenophobia as well as what felt like few positive and modern and solution-based ways of dealing with different types of migration, sparked her to write a Facebook post addressing some of these issues, with the appeal to ”get involved”. The journey from FB post to a full-blown project platform was rapid. GSBTB was involved in organizing refugee projects from the start in 2013, and became a key player in Berlin’s social, creative, start-up scenes as THE project involving both refugees and “privileged” migrants, as well as big international media interest in our work. We have received requests from other large cities (Taipei, Buenos Aires, New York, Dubai) as well as universities, companies, and organizations seeking our expertise about our model and methods.