On the 11th of December 2019, the Denkfabrik invited politically engaged young adults to a Thinkathon and an ensuing exchange of ideas with Federal Minister Hubertus Heil. Goal of the Thinkathon was the development of thematic focus areas and realistic scenarios of a digital working society 2040 from the perspective of a younger generation.
"Close the Gender-Pay-Gap. Now", it said boldly on a t-shirt of one of the participants of this year’s Thinkathon. The aspiration of the participants, whose ages ranged from 16 to 27, was clear from the very beginning: We, the young people, do not only wish to be heard but also want to be involved in the decision-making. The Denkfabrik organized the Thinkathon and invited the young activists to discuss the future of work and talk about their visions of a working society 2040. The impressive hall of stone – otherwise used for high-level conferences by the ministry – was quickly transformed into a creative thinking room that spanned four "working islands" including meta-pinboards and sitting cubes – just as flexible as the modern working culture itself.
"Politics thrives on the exchange of information and the competition for best ideas. But especially for young people, conventional formats leave only few possibilities of involvement or opportunities of being heard. The BMAS wants to fill this gap with the Thinkathon and start an interactive discussion with young people."
Björn Böhning, the responsible state secretary for digitalization in the BMAS, summarized the goal of the Thinkathon in his greeting speech as follows: “Politics thrives on the exchange of information and the competition for best ideas. But especially for young people, conventional formats leave only few possibilities of involvement or opportunities of being heard. The BMAS wants to fill this gap with the Thinkathon and start an interactive discussion with young people.” After all participants introduced themselves with two hashtags each that best described their personalities, the group assembled into four working groups in which the future of work was being looked at from different perspectives. The moderation of the event was taken on by Tijen Onaran, founder of the women’s network Global Digital Women, and she guided the diverse group – pupils, students and young employees – through the day.
Young generation with demands on the work of the future
The participants quickly filled the thinking room with life and focused on topics such as values, methods, upskilling as well as digital practice in the new working world. During the presentation in front of Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil, the participants articulated specific requests to the Ministry of Labor itself. The focus of those requests was on the wish for more dialogue – the participants therefore encouraged an extensive dialogue of value for digital work in rural areas as well as for global institutions. They instantly presented an appropriate catalogue of values in which the term “satisfaction” was chosen as the strategic motto of a working society 2040.
Good work needs good education
Education and apprenticeships had high priority for the participants: They demanded for an offensive approach on apprenticeships, for while putting on a higher value on handicraft trades, one could fight one-sided academization and the growing uncertainty of the challenges of lifelong learning in a digital working society. The central demand: There is a necessity of a new digital interface within the federal government that supports the lifelong path of “good education for good work.” The term “good work” was purposefully defined broadly: To prevent building the future of a working world on the costs of another generation or other countries, the importance of sustainable and transparent supply chains was being addressed. For the young participants it was clear: For a successful digital (and new) working world, it is essential to invest early on and continuously in skills of the individual worker – starting as early as the first year of the apprenticeship or even better, starting in school.
"With this format, we want to inspire a change of perspective, and we will evaluate your suggestions and see you again next year to talk about them."
The suggestions also convinced the minister. In the ensuing discussion, Hubertus Heil did not have to be asked twice to offer the participants an invitation to the Federal Ministry of Labor after an attendee of the event raised him a question. "With this format, we want to inspire a change of perspective, and we will evaluate your suggestions and see you again next year to talk about them."
The topic of diversity in the new working society, especially the structural disadvantages of women, was a big part of the discussion in every working group. The participants identified politics as the primary responsible catalyst in order to shape a diverse and fair working environment. Dr. Julia Borggräfe, Head of Department "Labor and Digitalization" in the BMAS, encouraged all participants in her closing statement to continue to work as loudly and convincingly on their values and visions of a future and advised them to further engage themselves in the shaping of a digital working society.
Global Digital Women, Female Zero One, ACI
Global Digital Women, Female Zero One, ACI
Founder and presenter
Tijen Onaran is the founder of Global Digital Women, an international company of creatives of the digital industry with the goal of more visibility, empowerment as well as consultation in all questions concerning diversity. In addition, as member of the Handelsblatt Expertenrat, she regularly publishes articles about topics such as digitalization, entrepreneurship, diversity and conducts weekly interviews with personalities from the economy and society for the podcast "How to Hack" from Businesspunk. In the beginning of the year, her first book "Netzwerkbibel" was published. Prior to her self-employment, Tijen was a parliamentarian of the German government, an Europe assemblywoman, and active in the Office of the Federal President as well as working for unions and a university.