A democracy cannot function if you basically have a political civil war: The sense that politics is a zero-sum game, where one side loses everything and the other wins everything, and it’s all about winning against the other side. That can bring you political wins for a certain amount of time, but it doesn’t stabilize democracy itself and it doesn’t lead to more what in Germany we call sozialer Friede — ‘social peace,’ a sense of togetherness.

— Bastian Hermisson

Bastian Hermisson is the executive director of Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, a political foundation affiliated with the German Green Party. In this conversation, we discuss the origins of German political foundations and the work they do to foster an engaged citizenry.

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