Our history

“To whom it may concern,

You live in Berlin or come here whenever you have an extra dime or some free time. You can’t think of a better place even though you sometimes get the feeling that ‘it was better before’….” 

This was the introduction of the 2012 Facebook post that sparked the community movement, which later became Give Something Back to Berlin (GSBTB). Annamaria Olsson had moved to Berlin from Sweden to study and work as a journalist. As a migrant in Germany, she observed the rise of nationalism, xenophobia, and populist discourse in Europe while being inspired by a handful of positive and solution-oriented grassroots initiatives that addressed various migration challenges. Annamaria thought that migrants and refugees could get actively involved in the process and set for inclusive approaches to integration and diversity.

The 2012 call went viral. It mobilised so many people who wanted to do something for the city and the community they live in. Give Something Back to Berlin grew into a collective brainchild of countless great minds and registered as an association in 2013. Since then, GSBTB has made thousands of newcomers active contributors to Berlin’s social and cultural life, creating strong networks for participation and inclusion.

Our impact

Give Something Back to Berlin quickly evolved into a collective of migrants, refugees, and locals who thought that they have much to learn from each other and offer to the city they live in; Berlin. They believed that migrants and refugees are resourceful and should be given more opportunities to participate in society. At the same time, locals should actively take part in the process of integration.

Today, we have a strong community with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We call it “making worlds meet for a better city”. Since the very beginning, GSBTB has been at the forefront of integration work. We work as a creator, connector, and catalyst for all sorts of grassroots work that makes an impact. We create platforms where we bring together people who otherwise would not easily contact each other. We formed an ecosystem of civic engagements where people work together in various projects ranging from artistic production to city tours, from language learning to gardening. While developing these projects as inclusive initiatives and fighting anti-migrant discourse, we reach 25.000+ people and generate 20.000+ volunteering hours annually.

GSBTB has been involved in organising migrant and refugee projects since its start in 2013, before a broader refugee engagement started in Germany and Europe in the summer of 2015. Unlike the classical approaches in Germany, such as highly politicised humanitarian aid and traditional charity work, GSBTB aimed for introducing new people and fresh energy to the field. We worked directly with self-organised refugee groups to develop innovative solutions. When the “2015 refugee crisis” hit Germany and Europe, we already had a working model that could efficiently address people’s needs, while including volunteers in the process and giving power to refugees. Our working methods have evolved over the years, but these principles remained the same. We work systematically to change narratives about migrants and mobilise our community to engage in local, national and global conversations and participate in decision-making processes about the issues affecting their lives.

Our organisation and exemplary model have been recognised multiple times by local, national and international institutions. We are proud to have received ten different awards until now.

2020 “Active for Democracy and Tolerance” Award of the Alliance for Democracy and Tolerance

2020 “Hatun Sürücü” Award of the Alliance 90/The Greens

2019 “Heroes” Award of the Berliner Zeitung

2017 “The Responsibles” Award of Robert Bosch Foundation

2017 “Listen to Berlin” Award of the Berlin Music Commission

2016 “The Diversity Advantage Challenge” Award of the European Council

2016 Intercultural Innovation Award of the UN and BMW

2015 Blue Bear for Civic Engagement of  the Berlin Senate and the European Commission

2014 “Social Innovation” Award of the Social Impact Lab

2014 “New Neighbor Shift” Award of the Montag Foundation

Moreover, GSBTB has received invitations from renowned people from all around the world and also hosted some of them. The people in the following have honoured us with their visit:

The King and Queen of Sweden, during their first state visit to Germany in 17 years

– Barack Obama, former US President, during his Town Hall meeting in Berlin

– Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, and a delegation from the American Embassy

Katarina Barley, German Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (now Member of the European Parliament)

– Akie Abe, First Lady of Japan, and a delegation from the Japanese Embassy

– Ahmed Hussen, Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Aydan Özoğuz, German Minister for Migration and Integration

– Alice Bah Kunke, Swedish Minister of Culture and Democracy

– Åsa Regnér, Swedish Minister for Gender Equality

– Dr Abdullah Al Karam, Educational Minister of Dubai

Sawsan Chebli, German State Secretary for Federal Affairs

– A delegation from the Office of the Mayor of Seoul, South Korea

– A delegation from Canada’s Leaders’ Round Table on Immigration

Franziska Giffey, Mayor of Neukölln, (now the German Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth)

– A UNAOC network of young leaders from Middle East and South Asian countries

– A delegation of Polish civil society groups

– A delegation of CDU politicians

– A network of young Ivy League student leaders from the US universities and many, many more…

Here’s a wrap-up video from our Extra Special Election Team-Up, featuring our special guest for the evening – Katarina Barley, German Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth: