Dear readers, 

Because of their conventionality, introductions to annual reports could easily fall victim to the text generator ChatGPT before all that long. That would be a great shame, as good and reliable conventions can send signals of stability and trust in a world characterized by unrest and upheaval. Yet stability and trust will be further undermined if communication is based on less and less authentic experiences and instead becomes a machine-generated product. Ever since the US start-up OpenAI made the tool available to a wide public at the end of 2022, ChatGPT has been making headlines around the world and sparking concerns: What damage could such technology do in the wrong hands? Discrimination, data privacy violations, fake information, propaganda and job losses – the list of possible horror scenarios is long. Some scientists have compared the risks to nothing less dramatic than a pandemic or a nuclear war.

This makes it all the more vital for the technology to be used with a sense of proportion – and to ensure that the digital transformation as a whole is value-driven. One contribution to this will be made by Agora Digital Transformation, a think tank we established in 2022. Headed by Stefan Heumann, the new organization will develop scientifically founded, viable and practical concepts for an approach to digitization that is oriented towards the common good.

Artificial intelligence and algorithms are also playing a central role in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine – when it comes to disseminating disinformation, for example. We are following the developments there with great alarm. Our solidarity and our sympathy go out to the people in Ukraine: as a European foundation, we are particularly resolute in our commitment to democratic values and support Ukrainians who are reliant on assistance, be it in their own country or as refugees.

This brutal war, taking place a mere 800 kilometres from Berlin, has also prompted us to rethink. Encouraged by Stiftung Mercator’s Advisory Board, we have revised our own strategy in consultation with many of the foundation’s partners and experts – placing the emphasis on the search for a new international order.

“Participation not discrimination”, the slogan for our Mercator Forum 2022, is also what those Ukrainians deserve who have been able to escape to Germany. Organized by our section Participation and Cohesion in a Diverse Society, the day and a half-long event saw stakeholders from politics, civil society, science and business join Bundestag Vice President Aydan Özoğuz in an exchange of views. Together, they discussed how structural disadvantages can be reduced, especially in power-sensitive areas of society such as the police, justice and healthcare systems.

The Mercator Forum was not the only event that was finally able to take place face-to-face again in 2022. Be it the summer reception at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, the summer party in Essen, the Mercator Lectures and Mercator Salons on all kinds of topics relevant to the foundation’s activities: for the first time since the start of the pandemic, it was at last possible once again for people to come together in person – rather than via computer screens – to share views and ideas, thereby generating valuable new impetus for our work. This is how ideas for new projects are generated time and again in cooperation with our partners.

Since Stiftung Mercator was founded in 1996, we have provided over 907 million euros in funding for 1,973 projects in all (as per the end of 2022) – of this total, 58 million euros was made available for 91 projects in 2022. It always feels rather arbitrary to highlight individual examples. Nonetheless, we would like to mention one in particular: the Bündnis Sozialverträgliche Mobilitätswende – an alliance for a socially just mobility transition – whose second funding period began in 2022: it brings together representatives of all kinds of social groups, such as natural conservation associations, churches and unions, with the goal of advancing sustainable climate action in the area of transport. And to do so in an ecological, cost-effective and socially just manner. This project is thus a prime example of our desire to benefit the common good – independently of economic, political or ideological interests.

Despite, or perhaps precisely because of the multiple crises that surround us, we remain hopeful and could not agree more with the words of the natural scientist and writer Georg Christoph Lichtenberg: “I cannot say whether things will get better if they change; what I can say is that they must change if they are to get better.”

Dr Wolfgang Rohe
of the Executive Board

Dr Markus Piduhn
Executive Director

About the foundation

Stiftung Mercator bases its activities on its mission statement and the objectives set out in the 2025 Mercator Strategy. We want to enable people and organizations to work together to promote openness to the world, solidarity and equal opportunities.
We see shared knowledge as the basis for change in a plural society. We concentrate on bringing about changes that will be of use to society in four interconnected areas: Digital Society, Climate Action, Europe in the World, and Participation and Cohesion. We do this by developing our own projects, supporting partner organizations and project partners, and cooperating with institutions in Germany and abroad. Funding recipients, co-funders and colleagues are our partners as we seek solutions to problems.

We want to approach our work in a pragmatic, inspiring and non-party manner. We structure our work in as simple and flexible a way as possible and ensure that the working relations between the foundation’s boards, employees and management are based on cooperation.

A diverse team that has a broad range of views on our themes increases the quality and credibility of our work. We greatly appreciate and value the variety of experiences, perspectives, and lifestyles of our employees.

Stiftung Mercator pursues activities in Germany, Europe and worldwide. It has a particular affinity with the Ruhr area, the home of its founding family and of the foundation’s headquarters. The Ruhrgebiet is one of the preferred regions for our projects.

Partner organizations

The foundation has defined a roadmap for its activities in its 2025 Mercator Strategy. Expertise, good networks and professional communication are necessary to be able to effectively shape societal processes and discussions. By establishing thematically focused partner organizations, we build up institutional knowledge in fields that we have identified in our strategy as being relevant. With their help, we aim to generate the maximum systemic impact. They work independently and flexibly but can also draw on the experience of Stiftung Mercator and in some cases of other managing partners.

Development of grants

Balance sheet and annual financial statement

The Schmidt family founded Stiftung Mercator GmbH in Essen and Stiftung Mercator Schweiz in Zurich, endowing the foundation with funds from its own assets. Meridian Stiftung is the proprietor of Stiftung Mercator; this is where the assets provided by the founding family for non-profit activities are invested and managed.

Carbon footprint

Stiftung Mercator’s carbon emissions more than doubled by comparison with the previous year following the lifting of the pandemic restrictions and totalled 883 tons in 2022. The increase in emissions was closely related to the resumption of travel activity and events, some of which were able to take place in person again. Nonetheless, improvements were achieved in terms of paper consumption (which was down 38 %) and staff commuting, which was slashed by around 60 % thanks to more generous rules governing working from home. At our offices in Essen, which is where the foundation’s headquarters are located, energy-saving measures were implemented such as a reduction in core temperature and optimized light control. When placing individual food orders, employees in Essen and Berlin can choose from a list of providers offering sustainable packaging concepts. In addition, work is underway to draw up ecological sustainability guidelines for the foundation’s project partners aimed at raising awareness of the need to consider and implement sustainable concepts from the outset.

The foundation has been calculating its own carbon footprint for many years, based on the standards of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. We identify our own climate-relevant emissions, take planned action to reduce them and offset the emission of any greenhouse gases that cannot be avoided. We continuously review and optimize our internal processes, infrastructure and supply chains, switching wherever possible to more sustainable alternatives.


We want our team to reflect the diversity of our society.

Globalization, demographic change, migration and increasing diversity are changing our society, and indeed are changing us as a foundation. We therefore want to bring together people of different cultural, social, and professional backgrounds, of different convictions, of different ages, and of different physical capabilities. We want to show that we value people who experience discrimination. A diverse team provides us with different perspectives on our topics, increasing the quality and credibility of our work.

Against this backdrop, the foundation’s management and work council signed an agreement in 2021 that aims among other things to increase the proportion of ethnic minorities and people of colour. When recruiting new staff, we always ensure that every stage of the application process not only adheres to the legally required equal opportunity principles but also embraces to the greatest possible extent diverse cultural, professional and social backgrounds, and that this is then also reflected in our team. To ensure that we treat our existing workforce in a way that is diversity-sensitive, we regularly analyse our salary scales with respect to gender equality. We want our words, texts and images to fully represent women, men and non-binary people as independent individuals with equal rights and or equal value.

We use continuing education events, guidelines, and training courses to sensitize our teams and to give careful consideration to prejudices and work to ensure that they have no impact on decision-making. Stiftung Mercator takes care to embrace diversity in terms of gender and cultural, professional, and social background not only when recruiting but also when engaging speakers for events, when appointing committees in project and partner contexts, and when selecting individuals who will be particularly promoted/visible. We are in conversation about the subject of diversity with our network of partners.


Project name 2022 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy Project description Unterstützung der Konferenz "Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy" mit Fokus auf den thematischen "Track" zur Klimakrise. Project partner Democracy International e.V. Granted total sum 25.000,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.07.2022 - 30.09.2022 Status abgeschlossen Scope Klimaschutz
Project name Agora Agrar Project description Agora Agrar erarbeitet Analysen und Politikvorschläge für die Transformation zu einem nachhaltigen Agrar- und Ernährungssystem. Project partner Agora Think Tanks gGmbH Granted total sum 250.000,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.09.2022 - 31.08.2024 Status laufend Scope Klimaschutz
Project name Agora Digitale Transformation Project description Die Agora Digitale Transformation setzt sich zum Ziel, die Demokratie und ihre Handlungsfähigkeit in einer digitalisierten Gesellschaft zu stärken. Der Think-and-Do Tank arbeitet wirkungsorientiert und kollaborativ mit Innovator*innen aus Gesellschaft, Verwaltung, Wissenschaft, Wirtschaft und Politik zusammen. Gemeinsam werden so konkrete Reformvorschläge für ein Update unserer Demokratie entwickelt. Project partner Agora Digitale Transformation Granted total sum 8.631.252,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.09.2022 - 31.08.2027 Status laufend Scope Digitalisierte Gesellschaft
Project name Agora Verkehrswende III Project description Agora Verkehrswende bietet einen geschützten Raum für Stakeholder-Dialoge und stellt Wissen über technologische, ökonomische und soziale Zusammenhänge der Dekarbonisierung des Verkehrssystems bereit. Project partner Agora Transport Transformation gGmbH Granted total sum 7.500.000,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.01.2024 - 31.12.2029 Status laufend Scope Klimaschutz
Project name Aktionswerkstatt Außenpolitik: Handlungsoptionen für Deutschland in der "Zeitenwende" Project description In Werkstattgesprächen entwickelt einen Gruppe aus rund 20 Think Tankern und Policy Makern unter Leitung der DGAP Strategien und Empfehlungen zu den Entwicklungen der "Zeitenwende" Project partner mehrere Projektpartner Granted total sum 550.000,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.07.2022 - 30.06.2024 Status laufend Scope Europa in der Welt
Project name Aufsicht und Durchsetzung des Digital Services Act (DSA) Project description Im Projekt werden Vorschläge für die Ausgestaltung der Aufsichts- und Durchsetzungsstrukturen im Kontext des Digital Services Act (DSA) erarbeitet. Der Fokus liegt auf Deutschland und der EU-Ebene. Project partner interface – Tech analysis and policy ideas for Europe Granted total sum 150.000,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.04.2022 - 31.03.2024 Status laufend Scope Digitalisierte Gesellschaft
Project name Ausbau Universitätsallianz Ruhr Project description Stärkung der Universitätsallianz Ruhr durch die Förderung einer Referent*innenstelle. Project partner Ruhr-Universität Bochum Granted total sum 165.000,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.09.2022 - 31.08.2024 Status laufend
Project name Ausstellung "Als die Bilder laufen lernten. Kino- und Filmgeschichte des Ruhrgebiets" Project description Die Stiftung Mercator unterstützt die kulturhistorische Ausstellung "Als die Bilder laufen lernten. Kino- und Filmgeschichte des Ruhrgebiets", die anlässlich des hundertsten Geburtstags des Essener Filmstudios im Ruhr Museum auf Zollverein in Essen gezeigt wird. Project partner Stiftung Ruhr Museum Granted total sum 25.000,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.01.2023 - 31.03.2023 Status abgeschlossen
Project name Ausstellungen Essen und Berlin Project description Ausstellungen: Öffentlich zugängliche Kunstausstellungen, die abwechselnd in den Räumen des ProjektZentrum Berlin und der Stiftung Mercator in Essen gezeigt werden, bieten Gästen und Besuchern die Möglichkeit, sich künstlerisch mit den Themen der Stiftung auseinander zu setzen. Granted total sum 115.736,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.10.2022 - 31.03.2026 Status laufend
Project name Biennale der urbanen Landschaft Project description Akteursübergreifende Plattform und transdisziplinäres Festival zur Vernetzung, zum Wissenstransfer und zur Leitbildentwicklung über die nachhaltige und klimagerechte Transformation der Städte in der Metropole Ruhr. Project partner JAS - Jugend Architektur Stadt e.V. Granted total sum 15.000,00 Granting year 2022 Duration 01.07.2022 - 30.09.2022 Status abgeschlossen Scope Klimaschutz