Founded in 2020, the ANSTOSS DEMOKRATIE initiative brouht together the ERSTE Foundation, the European Forum Alpbach Foundation, the Robert Bosch Stiftung as well as the Mercator Foundation of Germany and Switzerland. The aim was to establish a long-term partner structure supporting democratic culture in the D-A-CH region – the German speaking countries in Europe.

A co-creative incubation phase of 2 years served to shape the initiative’s exact form according to specific and future needs. The iac Berlin serves as the hub’s incubator for achieving goals such as:

  • Developing criteria for an inclusive, decentralized and lean partner structure
  • Facilitating the building of a cross-border network
  • Supporting pilot projects

The body coordinating the incubation process had an interim role and is not a part of the later partner structure.


This initiative was founded to meet some of the central questions facing democracy today and in the future – such as:

  • How can we prevent pro-democracy actors and community leaders from becoming the target of online hate speech and, as a result, physical attacks?
  • How can we systemically meet the challenges that anti-democratic agitation poses to societal negotiation processes?
  • What forms of collective action and what - possibly hitherto unusual - partnerships are required for this?

Anti-democratic threat

Every day, we experience threats to social cohesion in our open society. These threats are large and diverse – ranging from people denying the COVID-19 pandemic to so called Reich citizens in German speaking countries and extremists in general.

Traditional media’s continuous loss of relevance, digital and analog echo chambers, and the increasing dissemination and use of fake news are contributing to the spread of anti-democratic tendencies in the middle of society.

A joint response

A response to these threads needs to go beyond legal charges, institutional reforms or advertising campaigns. It requires a new visibility and connectedness, as well as joint action by pro-democracy actors not only in digital and analog metropolitan areas but especially in places where people grow apart from democratically constituted society.

The ANSTOSS DEMOKRATIE initiative sets out to answer these demands by joint action.

Lessons learned from the incubation phase and the transition to the next phase of the initiative will be shared later in 2023.

If you want to know more about the initiative or support the joint effort, please do not hesitate to get in touch with:

Vinzenz Himmighofen