Who we are

The Hertie Foundation

The preamble to the foundation’s constitution states: "The Hertie Foundation is based on the life’s work of its founder, Georg Karg, owner of the Hertie Waren- und Kaufhaus department stores, who died in 1972. He was a man who felt a duty not only towards the company and its employees, but also towards the common good, to which he dedicated his fortune. His life and work are a model and a benchmark for the foundation’s work. The assets belonging to the Hertie Foundation are dedicated to the common good, making them similar to public funds. This gives the foundation a mission and a duty, so it is swift to act and innovative, and also cost-conscious and efficient." 

Mankind is at the heart of the Hertie Foundation's work. It seeks to find solutions that benefit people and that lead to concrete improvements in living conditions. The funding areas are set out in the foundation’s constitution: neuroscience, democracy training and European integration. Within these fields the foundation invests in people and develops projects that serve as sources of inspiration, role models and disseminators. 

In the foundation's fields of activity, innovation and sustainable foundation practice are combined. In line with the foundation’s motto “Inspiring. Enabling. Achieving.”, it has a will to create, to combine conceptual and operational actions, follow long-term goals, see itself as a learning organisation and follow the effect and cost effectiveness principles.

In order to make the most effective use of resources, the foundation focuses on best practice solutions. It makes a point of contributing its own expertise and its own specific experience. In order to be able to initiate new developments in its project work, the foundation always provides fixed-term support. 

The Hertie Foundation provides the impetus to spur on other community actors. It helps people to help themselves. This means that it expects beneficiaries to make an appropriate contribution as well. In an era when government actions have to be supplemented by citizens’ initiatives, the Hertie Foundation sees its work as a contribution to an active civil society.

In 2003/2004, the Hertie Foundation founded the Hertie School to institutionalise research and teaching on new forms of statehood and governance. 

Visit the Hertie Foundation's website for more information.

Areas of activity

Brain research

In the area of neuroscience, the foundation promotes research and dialogue on the subject of the brain and combatting brain disease. Key areas are support for clinical brain research (in particular through the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research) and multiple sclerosis. In addition, the foundation supports neuroscience initiatives for innovative forms of research, education and communication.

With an average funding budget of nine million euros per year, the Hertie Foundation is the biggest private funding body supporting brain research in Germany, and the third largest in Europe. In the area of multiple sclerosis, the foundation is the leading funding institution both for MS research and self-help for MS sufferers.


Strengthening democracy

The foundation’s Strengthening Democracy area covers projects that safeguard social cohesion in Germany and the rest of Europe.

Democracy is about more than elections every few years – democracy, as the foundation sees it, forms the basis for peace, freedom and security, and is a pillar of our society. However, democracy involves a constant process of consolidation. And now this process is in danger.

Democracy is taken too much for granted. It is being eroded: by governments’ inadequate efforts, which are reflected in dwindling public confidence; by injustices caused by capitalism; by citizens’ feelings of powerlessness; by unsuccessful integration; by a lack of education and an unthinking approach to information; by media hysteria and many other factors.

People’s confidence in the ability of the established political powers to solve problems is dwindling. The results? A strengthening of the political fringes, populism, new nationalism, ‘alternative facts’, political apathy and non-voters. The Hertie Foundation wants to convince people – the younger generation in particular – that a commitment to democracy is worthwhile.