Our Story

Erck Rickmers, Founder of THE NEW INSTITUTE

Erck’s family’s history is associated with an act of love and courage. It was in 1824 on the island of Heligoland in the North Sea, that his great-great-grandfather Rickmer Clasen Rickmers decided that he would not be bound by custom or status.

Rickmers was from the lower land of the island, the girl he loved was from the upper land. It was both a geographical and a social divide, and marriage between them was out of the question. In an act of romantic anarchism, Rickmers decided to take his future wife to the mainland, in a small boat that he had built himself; they returned as a married couple. In 1834, Rickmer Clasen Rickmers went on to start his own shipyard, and ships, trade, and the calling of the wider parts of the world have been at the heart of the Rickmers’ ever since, connecting larger Hanseatic traditions with the ambition of their times. Four generations later, Erck stayed true to his heritage. He became an entrepreneur and investor in various areas, such as real estate, renewable energy, biotechnology and shipping. The father to five daughters got engaged in politics and served in the parliament of the state of Hamburg in 2011 and 2012. In 2014, together with his family, he moved to the US, enrolling on a graduate program in Religious Studies at the University of California. Here he developed a vision – to give the humanities a bigger role in reflecting and shaping the future of society. To facilitate change through academic insight and practical solutions. The Humanities and Social Change International Foundation was his starting point. It was established in 2016 and supports four research centers at the University of California, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Ca‘ Foscari University of Venice and the University of Cambridge. Their work is dedicated to the areas of truth and values, capitalism and democracy, multiculturalism and environmental studies, and the impact of technology on society. In 2018, Erck was offered a unique property at the heart of the City of Hamburg, a set of nine classicist townhouses with a floor area of some 6.000 square foot, the Warburg Ensemble. He acquired the property to create THE NEW INSTITUTE, a place where an interdisciplinary and trans-sectoral community of academics, activists, artists, entrepreneurs, and administrators will gather to develop fundamentally new concepts for systemic change. Now this vision is becoming reality: a place for people who are willing to go into the open and create things yet unseen. With care, courage, creativity, and commitment, THE NEW INSTITUTE will be a breeding ground for new ideas and viable solutions. An Institute of Advanced Study in urgent times - and a platform for change.


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