Directors' Foreword

The crises of the present moment form a complex web of compounding problems. We call this “nested crises” to emphasize that these crises cannot be addressed separately but require a framework that tackles them simultaneously.

Bringing this interconnected web into conceptual focus requires new formats of knowledge and insight generation. In light of this assumption, THE NEW INSTITUTE aims to create the conditions for integrated interdisciplinary research in the humanities and social sciences combined with insights from other sectors, such as business, politics, media, and the arts. This enables academic insight to be probed in conversation with other social sectors. Given the range of contemporary crises – from ecological degradation, climate change, and AI-driven technological innovation to geopolitical shifts, wars, and liberal democracies in crises – it takes interdisciplinary and trans-sectoral research to identify more concrete and specific dimensions of this situation that can actually be dealt with in an institutional setting such as ours.
Since 2022, we have been framing our activities in terms of the global discourse on a New Enlightenment. The goal is to find strategies for bringing sectors into cooperation that are systematically uncoupled at present, with ill-effects on society.

In this context, we address questions such as: How can techno-scientific, economic progress on the one hand and social, moral, ethical progress on the other hand develop together? How can material progress and respect for planetary boundaries be coordinated? How can we both acknowledge the constraints of contemporary reality and yet imaginatively create progressive, alternative futures? And how can the value-laden insights of the humanities and social sciences be brought together with other areas of human practice, from business to politics?
We believe this requires the creation of distinctive research formats. It is not enough to only apply given diagnostic insights from academia to other sectors; these sectors must be participants from the beginning in order to adequately reshape the problem space within which academic work proceeds.

For this reason, we gather fellows from different disciplines, sectors, countries, and cultural contexts to work together on concrete problems in collaboratively structured research teams. Since we moved to our premises in September 2022, we normally invite up to 30 fellows every year to work and live at the Warburg Ensemble in Hamburg. Fellow work proceeds mainly in teams affiliated with our research areas. Since the beginning, our primary goal has been to implement a collaborative fellowship program and to generate corresponding selection and curation principles that allow us to bring a diverse group of fellows together to work on the pressing issues of our time.

Bringing the interconnected web of nested crises into conceptual focus requires new formats of knowledge and insight generation.

On this basis, during the past academic year, we implemented a novel, two-tiered selection process. We published calls for Program Chairs, who specify our research areas into concrete programs. Together with them, we then publish calls for fellowships directly associated with their program so that the majority of fellows contribute to the more specific research outline set by the Program Chairs together with the academic leadership of THE NEW INSTITUTE. Two of those programs, led by Prof. Dr. Michael Brüggemann and Prof. Dr. Dr. Louis Kotzé, respectively (see Section 1.), could already start their work at the beginning of 2023.

The overall research activities of THE NEW INSTITUTE’s fellowship program began in the Academic Year 2021–2022 after our build-up phase in 2020–2021, which took place under pandemic conditions and in our preliminary home in Große Theaterstraße.

We are immensely grateful to our founding director Dr. Wilhelm Krull for the content and formats developed for 2021–2022. This led to the publication of the discussion paper Towards a New Enlightenment, which has served as the foundation of THE NEW INSTITUTE’s program architecture from 2022 to the present.

Since the Academic Year 2022–2023, taking up Wilhelm Krull’s program architecture, our fellow work takes place within three broad, interconnected research areas (see Section 1):

  1. The Human Condition in the 21st Century
  2. The Future of Democracy
  3. Socio-Economic Transformation

Our starting point has been to situate what seem to be isolated crises of the present moment in terms of an updated understanding of The Human Condition in the 21st Century. To be human is to live with a value-laden idea of what it means to be human. Humans are self-determining, “self-interpreting animals” (as Charles Taylor has famously put it). The humanities critically investigate these value-laden, socially shared self-conceptions, thereby shedding light on the direction and purpose of human activities. We therefore ask: What, from a multi-perspectival view, might it mean to live a good life today? What is human flourishing and how is it related to social well-being? How can we determine features of a good life on the basis of the best knowledge concerning ourselves as human beings? In this context, we have not only hosted fellows from the humanities and social sciences, but have also welcomed a number of natural scientists in order to explore the human condition from various angles.

The second research area, The Future of Democracy, investigates the reforms and practices necessary for the revitalization of democracy under the rapidly changing conditions of digitalization, climate change, and geo-political shifts of power. In this context, we look at democracy not only in terms of a system of governance, but also as a value-driven practice that requires particular types of commitment to both rationally transparent procedures and to dimensions of difference and dissent. In 2022–2023, the focus has been on societal potentials for an ecologically responsible and democratically resilient future.

Finally, our research in the initiatives dedicated to Socio-Economic Transformation deals with how to recouple economic progress with social well-being, which includes developing new metrics of well-being, critically assessing the growth imperative of modern capitalist societies, and imagining alternative economic practices. How must so-called “capitalism” be reformed so that profit-making is bound to forms of qualitative growth that contribute to social and planetary well-being?

In the Academic Year 2022–2023, the Institute invited 43 fellows and visitors to work both within the research areas and across them while pursuing their own individual publications and other projects. Thanks to the commitment and creativity of our community of fellows, in 2022–2023, a vibrant institutional life began to unfold through weekly meetings, lunch talks, workshops, and a series of events, in addition to our weekly Wednesday format where both our fellows and invited external guests presented their work on one or several of our interconnected research areas.
As an institute that runs a stipend program, our output is mainly that of our international fellows. Thanks to the support they received to spend up to three terms as part of an interdisciplinary trans-sectoral community in Hamburg, they were able to publish an impressive number of books and articles, host international workshops, attend conferences, and distribute their results in various media formats.

We are proud to report 32 academic publications by our fellows and academic staff. We hosted and co-hosted a total of 23 events, both on site, online and at external location and convened 21 internal weekly lectures. For a complete list of publications, lectures, workshops, conferences, seminars, and book events, please see Sections 2 and 3.

In addition to our primary output, the work of our fellows, THE NEW INSTITUTE is in the process of continuing its own publication series in line with our discussion paper format and the reports of our practice-oriented programs. Several publications prepared in the Academic Year 2022–2023 will soon be published in collaboration with international partners. Details will be provided in our upcoming annual report for the Academic Year 2023–2024.

We would also like to thank Christoph Gottschalk who developed the model of practice-oriented projects and successfully supported the creation and implementation of our The New Hanse project, led by Francesca Bria (see Section 4). In his capacity as a Managing Director until the end of 2022, he built the team structure and was responsible for setting up the operational side of our new institution.

Christoph Gottschalk was also responsible for setting up trans-sectoral partnerships and to develop a media and policy strategy. In this context, in 2022-2023, we continued working with our partners DIE ZEIT and the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung to award the Helmut-Schmidt-Zukunftspreis to a person whose work promotes democracy and the common good. In 2023, we awarded the second Helmut-Schmidt-Zukunftspreis, given annually for innovative achievements in the fields of democracy, society, and technology. Former Finnish President Sanna Marin was the award recipient in 2023, and the prize was awarded on May 4 at Hamburg’s Thalia Theater. (see Section 5).

The organization has further evolved this year. In June 2023, Dr. Britta Padberg joined the Institute as our new Managing Director, bringing her experience with managing academic institutes of advanced study to the work of THE NEW INSTITUTE. Britta Padberg thereby also takes over the role of Anke Hennings, whose experience and outstanding expertise as a CFO in her function as one of our Managing Directors until May 2023 were crucial for developing a stable operational infrastructure.

We are particularly grateful to Erck Rickmers, the founder of THE NEW INSTITUTE, and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for his generous financial and intellectual support of the Institute. Thanks to his incentives and ongoing close cooperation we were able to further develop the transsectoral dimension of our endeavor and to steer our research activities towards concrete visions for positive social change.

This is the first annual report of our activities as Academic Directors. We decided to publish it together with the report for the years 2020–2022 in order to present the evolution of our program and research architecture in the founding and construction phase of our still young institute, which in 2022 entered its second full year of fellowship work.

We hope you enjoy reading this report, which informs you about the fellows, their work and output, and the activities of the Institute.

Prof. Dr. Markus Gabriel and Dr. Anna Katsman
Academic Directors of THE NEW INSTITUTE

| stay informed | stay connected


What is happening at THE NEW INSTITUTE? Step inside by following our institutional newsletter, which ties together the work of our fellows and programs, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.


We use cookies to measure how often our site is visited and how it is used. You can withdraw your consent at any time with effect for the future. For further information, please refer to our privacy policy.