Dear readers, 

We are delighted to present to you our 2021 Annual Report. This is the first time we are sharing our successes and the results of our work with you in solely digital form – with a view to lowering our consumption of resources and further reducing our carbon footprint. At the same time, however, a digital annual report also enables us to describe the non-profit projects that we fund or support even more vividly by using interactive graphs and links to further information. Do please let us know what you think of the new digital format.

2021 was a rather special year for Stiftung Mercator: we were able to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Since our establishment in 1996, we have provided over 800 million euros in funding for 1882 projects (as of the end of 2021). With our co-funders, partners, and the foundation’s 90 or so employees, we develop solutions for social, societal, and ecological challenges and provide people with new perspectives. During the course of these years, our pragmatic, knowledge-based and non-party approach has allowed us to acquire many supporters. For example, Germany’s  Federal President also congratulated us on our anniversary and paid tribute to our commitment. Making reference to Gerhard Mercator, after whom our foundation is named, he described Stiftung Mercator as a pioneer, companion and guide that has been creating insights, ideas and inputs for quarter of a century.

In 2021 we achieved a milestone in the foundation’s ongoing development: in launching the 2025 Mercator Strategy we have made the digitization of all areas of life the central focus of a new thematic field. With the Digital Society team we set up in 2021, and together with our project partners, we have already generated some initial impetus to ensure that digital technologies and infrastructures are developed and implemented on the basis of ethical values and democratic rights and used by business, state and civil society for the benefit of all.

In addition to climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, we find ourselves faced with another far-reaching crisis in the form of the Russian war against Ukraine. Putin’s invasion of a sovereign neighbouring state is an aggressive attack by an authoritarian regime against democracy, pluralism, and freedom of opinion. The war confronts us with imperialist ambitions and an attempt to redefine European borders. Nonetheless – and precisely because of this – we are convinced that multilateralism, cohesion, and cooperation form the basis for peaceful coexistence in 21st-century Europe. We are moved and shocked by the fate of people in Ukraine. Stiftung Mercator therefore supports Ukrainians who have stayed in their homeland, as well as those who have fled the war.

“Action is the antidote to despair.” In line with these wise words by the American folk singer Joan Baez, we are taking action in these difficult times and remaining optimistic.

Do you have any questions or comments about our work? If so, we would love to hear from you.

With kind regards,

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 Ruhr is one of the preferred regions for our projects.

 Our 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.

Consequently, Stiftung Mercator GmbH has at its disposal not only its corporate capital but also assets that guarantee funds for its strategic development and the non-profit activities based thereon. In terms of financial planning, this corresponds to the situation of foundations which fund their activities out of their own assets.

Our carbon footprint

The carbon emissions (Scope 1-3) generated by Stiftung Mercator amounted to only around 400 tons in 2021 due to business travel, journeys to and from work, face-to-face events and overnight stays that simply did not happen because of the pandemic. Emissions had been around 4.5 times higher (1,817 tons) in 2019. As in previous years, Stiftung Mercator used climate protection certificates from the Gold Standard to offset unavoidable carbon emissions in 2021. The funding goes to a programme that enables Chinese smallholders to build biogas facilities.

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. In line with a sustainability concept adopted in 2021, the use at events of reusable or biodegradable materials is paid greater attention. In addition, the foundation’s employees have been able since 2021 to lease a bicycle at preferential tax conditions, allowing them to travel to work in a climate-neutral manner. Since 2021, scholarship holders and staff have for the most part been opting not to take climate-harmful short-haul flights or long-haul flights involving only a short stay at the destination.


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 AlgorithmWatch Policy und Advocacy Project description AlgorithmWatch hat sich zum Ziel gesetzt, algorithmische Systeme und deren Auswirkungen auf die Gesellschaft zu beobachten, zu analysieren und Forderungen zur Entwicklung, dem Einsatz und der Regulierung der Technologie in die öffentliche Debatte einzubringen. Die Förderung ermöglicht es der Organisation, ihre Positionen strategisch zu stärken, sie wirksamer zu kommunizieren und zivilgesellschaftliche Perspektiven effektiver in die politischen Verhandlungen einzubringen. Project partner AlgorithmWatch Granted total sum 1.240.000,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 01.01.2022 - 31.12.2025 Status laufend Scope Digitalisierte Gesellschaft
Project name Audio-visuelles Archiv: 60 Jahre Kultureller Integration (KulturForum Türkei Deutschland) Project partner mehrere Projektpartner Granted total sum 25.000,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 01.05.2021 - 31.12.2021 Status abgeschlossen Scope Europa in der Welt
Project name Basketball baut Brücken Project description Förderung des deutsch-chinesischen Austausches an Schulen durch Basketball. Angesprochen werden Schüler*innen in Deutschland und China. Durch die Einbindung von Sprachmodulen im Rahmen von schulischen Basketball-Aktivitäten, der Durchführung interkultureller Begegnungen in Deutschland und China und der Konzeption einer thematisch ergänzenden multimedialen Plattform. Project partner Bildungsnetzwerk China Granted total sum 257.500,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 15.03.2021 - 28.02.2023 Status abgeschlossen Scope Europa in der Welt
Project name Bedarfsanalyse Agora Digitalisierung Granted total sum 250.000,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 01.08.2021 - 31.05.2022 Status abgeschlossen Scope Digitalisierte Gesellschaft
Project name Berufsbildung für Mädchen und junge Frauen der Roma-Community Project description Modellprojekt zur Erhöhung der Teilhabe junger Romnja an Berufsbildung und qualifizierter Erwerbstätigkeit durch Empowerment, persönliche Begleitung und Sensibilisierung des gesellschaftlichen Umfelds Project partner Internationaler Kultur- und Sportverein der Roma Carmen e.V. Granted total sum 90.000,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 01.01.2022 - 30.04.2022 Status abgeschlossen Scope Teilhabe und Zusammenhalt
Project name Buchprojekt 60 Jahre Anwerbeabkommen (Correctiv Verlag) Project partner mehrere Projektpartner Granted total sum 52.677,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 01.05.2021 - 31.12.2021 Status abgeschlossen Scope Europa in der Welt
Project name Center for Planetary Health Project partner Deutsche Allianz Klimawandel & Gesundheit Granted total sum 1.440.000,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 01.12.2021 - 30.11.2025 Status laufend Scope Klimaschutz
Project name Chancengerechte Plattformarbeit Project partner Minor - Projektkontor für Bildung und Forschung Granted total sum 520.000,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024 Status laufend Scope Teilhabe und Zusammenhalt
Project name CIVIS Talk Project partner CIVIS Medienstiftung GmbH für Integration und kulturelle Vielfalt in Europa Granted total sum 250.000,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 01.11.2021 - 30.04.2023 Status abgeschlossen Scope Teilhabe und Zusammenhalt
Project name Clean Energy Wire (CLEW) III Project description Informations- und Medienservice, der Qualitätsjournalismus rund um die Energiewende macht und unterstützt. Das Projekt wird in eine dritte Förderphase geführt. Project partner 2050 Media Projekt gGmbH Granted total sum 5.600.000,00 Granting year 2021 Duration 01.01.2022 - 31.12.2026 Status laufend Scope Klimaschutz


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with its devastating consequences and suffering for the people there has destroyed many of the things that we took for granted in terms of economic, security and energy policy. The war in eastern Europe has made it abundantly clear how important it is to have a reliable supply of energy generated by renewables. Global warming remains a global crisis whose effects are already dramatically visible around the world. We are therefore committed to ensuring that this important topic, which is linked to the Ukraine war, does not slide down the political agenda.
This war and its consequences are likely to preoccupy us for a long time to come. The focal issues set out in our 2025 Mercator Strategy tie in with this crisis: drawing on our expertise and our projects in the area of Participation and Cohesion, we support Ukrainian refugees. Our activities to combat fake news and hatred in the area of Digital Society are important when it comes to countering disinformation and division on social media platforms in connection with the war. With respect to Climate Action, the security policy aspects of decarbonization are becoming a focus.
And as far as the foundation’s work in connection with China is concerned, it is important to critically examine imbalances in terms of trade and dependencies in energy and security policy.
The war in Ukraine has drawn the democratic forces in Europe closer together. All members of the EU have become even more conscious of the importance of cooperation and the value of reliable institutions. This strengthens our commitment to civil society organizations, the rule of law and freedom of expression throughout the continent. We are keeping our spirits up and remain optimistic.