The 3rd Year of the CITYMAKERS China – Germany Program has started. Why again? What so far? And what to expect?

Published October 2018
Location Berlin

Katja Hellkötter, Founder of CONSTELLATIONS International, the agency behind CITYMAKERS, and lead program curator summons up the achievements of the last two years and looks at what lies ahead in the coming year for the evergrowing community of creative and innovative citymakers.


Three insights led to the program’s design in 2016. First, technological innovation needs to be complemented by social innovation and a more holistic view to sustainable development. Second, a large group of people who studied architecture, urbanism, and city planning between China and Germany are a potential leverage point for stronger Sino-German people-to-people relations. Third, creativity, culture and diversity are transversal design parameters whose power to generate impact is underestimated. Thus CITYMAKERS’ mission was set: to grow and enable a network of pioneering citymakers across disciplines who create novel models for livable cities.

What was the outcome so far?

Stories of pioneers to share – Although neither mainstream, nor against the mainstream, there is a critical mass who are seeking fresh approaches that can nudge the status-quo. CITYMAKERS has scouted and recorded the stories of 70 plus inspiring citymakers.

Global innovation, local idea creation – Many challenges of urbanization are shared globally. In view of the urgent need for solutions, to source ideas globally in order to be contextualized at the local level can be a source of inspiration, and who knows, innovation. Our citymakers are inspired and supported throughenabling eco-systems that facilitate shared learning. Check out the processes and tools for cities and citymakers that we compiled in the 2nd edition of the 2018 annual CITYMAKERS-Recommendations.

Growing new fields – In 2016, we embarked with the idea to cover thematic blind spots within Sino-German cooperation that we did not see highlighted by other players: Three topics had moved into focus in the 2nd year of the program: Urban Farming, Future of Living, Cultural Memory. For six months, three cross cultural teams worked on joint project ideas. To witness how these ideas transformed into actions and continue to evolve until now – also after the Robert Bosch initial funding phase was over – is promising!

What to expect in the coming year?

New blind spots to look at – While we will continue to explore the topics from the last round we will also look into some other themes. This is what is on our agenda for the coming year: Urban Rural Interfaces – here, we take the upcoming conference “Regions on the Rise” by ANCB- Aedes Metropolian Laboratoy in Songyang in mid-November as an impulse. Healthy City – looking at sub-topics ranging from food to biodiversity, to sport & exercise and animals in the city and last but not least Kids in the City – will be other gaps we want to fill. Beyond that, we will stay open for suggestions from the citymakers community. Let us know what you think is relevant!

Adding value to sister-city relations – The assumption that a program like CITYMAKERS can add value to the cooperation framework of sister-cities between Germany and China – to date, there are 101 German municipalities with China partnerships! – was a rationale from the very beginning of the program concept. In 2018, we were happy to have been invited to make a CITYMAKERS-contribution to the “Dritter Runde Tisch China” organized by Engagement Global (SKEW – Service für Entwicklungsinitiativen). In 2019, Berlin and Beijing will be celebrating the 25the anniversary of their city partnership. With support from the Senate Chancellery of the The Governing Mayor of Berlin and its Division for International Relations we started a Berlin-Beijing Creative Cities Mapping-project that will result into an attractive visual map by end of 2018 and is intended to pave the way for further joined actions in 2019.

Top-Down Bottom-Up Cooperation – In the 2018 CITYMAKERS-Recommendations, we stated: multi-stakeholder cooperation and an integrated strategy for German actors from the third, private and public sectors are not only a potential for innovation but also a risk management measure for protecting and expanding spaces for bottom-up non-government citymakers. We are happy to have some individual citymakers who – thanks to travel grants from the Robert Bosch Foundation –  will contribute to the upcoming German Ministry of Environment endorsed conferences on cautious urban renewal and transition cities hosted by NAX – The Network for International Architecture Exchange of Federal Chamber of German Architects and ICLEI – Local Government for Sustainability in early November in Beijing.

CITYMAKERS-Ambassadors – We are also excited about a small yet powerful constellation of five individual professionals that have been nominated to join the above conferences: The sustainable city system thinker: Roman Mendle, ICLEI – Local Government for Sustainability, Smart Cities Program Manager and Builder of the “Urban Transition Alliance”; The Cultural Heritage Urban Planning Advisor: Ping Kong, Independent UNESCO Heritage Expert, Board Member of Institute of Heritage Studies at ICOMOS Germany; The Municipal Green City Strategist: Architect Sebastian Schlecht, from the Green Capital Europe Essen. The city passionate start-up entrepreneur: Jonas Schorr, Co-Founder of UrbanImpact from Berlin. The cultural architect and Sino-German space maker: WANG Keyao, Architect Founder of ZHISpace Xian, German Chancelor Scholarship Awardee (2017). And with this promise in mind: “If you align the interests and passions of a group of five – you can change the world!” we look forward to contributions that make a difference.

Sustainable businesses and scalable social impact – CITYMAKERS identified a number of good stories and practices that already exist. However, the hardest part still is: How to turn good ideas into really good plans and feasible and sustainable long-term models? Thus, this coming program year, we want to address this need more seriously. For late spring 2019 a CITYMAKERS-Social Business Lab is in the pipeline. Calls for applications will be out in January 2019!

Partnerships & ecosystem awareness – Seeking synergies with other actors in the field and strategizing existing collaborations into new models will be of high importance for the future of the CITYMAKERS network. We look forward to identify how to grow stronger together with dialogue partners from the previous two years, such as with the China Center at TU Berlin and their network URBANIXX, with civil society actors such as our citymaker friends from Kollektiv Raumstation Weimar-Berlin-Wien and in particular also with other Robert Bosch Stiftung supported programs such as the Actors of Urban Change in Europe, or city related thematical groups hosted by the Robert Bosch Alumni Academy, and last but not least with similar bilateral and multilateral programs supported by other international foundations. Here, we act in the spirit of the recommendation by Sandra Breka, member of the Robert Bosch Stiftung Board of Management: “To help the network of CITYMAKERS China – Germany grow, I believe it needs to develop into a multilateral platform.”

What else is important at the bottom line?

Community is Key – The new paradigm of “Co-“: From collaboration to co- housing/working/living: Although the understanding of livable cities can differ depending on people and context, there is one common value that the CITYMAKERS program identifies as valid throughout cultures: Creating a community. Our CITYMAKERS WeChat community is such a place, which gives a feeling of “belonging to the same trusted larger circle”. We are going to further support and facilitate this community building with online-exchange as much as with off-line exchanges. A first off-line community meeting in the CONSTELLATIONS CITYMAKERS-studio in Berlin Weissensee is scheduled for November 23rd. Furthermore, we are looking for actors/agents in two other cities in Germany who are interested in being host to a CITYMAKERS Map & Meet Event. Reach out to us!


Further information

Besser leben in Metropolen in China und Deutschland, article by Philip Wurm



Katja Hellkötter | Founder and Managing Director CONSTELLATIONS International, overall lead CITYMAKERS China – Germany, head of the CONSTELLATIONS Berlin office,

Luisa Keinprecht | Project Manager at CONSTELLATIONS International Berlin and for CITYMAKERS China – Germany,