I have always been attracted to creating innovations; a project that did not include this potential never really satisfied me. I strongly believe that we all hold different roles and positions in life, and that it all works together. Sometimes I see society as a spaceship flying through space. There are those who are spearheading the ship, those who are in the middle field, and those at the back of the ship. The innovators make sure that there is a focus on change, the middle field make sure that society is prepared and the changes do not go too quick, and those in the back make sure that good traditions do not get discarded in the process.

The innovator role, as much as it satisfies my sensibilities, is not always easy. You are often the target of controversy and are met with resistance. By the time society is ready for your innovation, years have passed and the whole thing has often been repackaged by others and is introduced under their name. On the other hand, innovations are often historically “in the air” and you discover that other people in totally different contexts or totally different parts of the earth have developed similar approaches and concepts at the same time you did.

It can be painful to watch “your baby” being watered down and adapted in ways that take out the innovative edge. These are inevitable elements of social process and development, but for an innovator it takes a lot of personal patience and maturity to deal with them. On the other hand, it is probably even more painful if your innovation gets totally ignored and is never implemented at all.

All the social movements I was involved in targeted social innovations (see Movements). The Mother Center Movement was a very special experience, since it was sparked off  “top down” through us social scientists, but turned into a “bottom up” grassroots movement that spread over the borders of Germany and was transferred to many other countries.  In this section you will be introduced to two innovative instruments I have authored. The Grassroots Women’s International Academy (GWIA), a peer learning format I developed as part of the Expo 2000 in Germany and the Competence Audit for Migrants I developed together with a colleague as my last project at the German Youth Institute. Both have been picked up by others and transferred to different countries and contexts.