UnMonastery in Berlin Neukölln (Schillerkiez)

After following the Unmonastery idea from the background and simultaneously getting closer to move into my new apartment in Neukölln I finally concluded that my first idea back in Strasbourg seems to make total sense. The Schillerkiez is a great challenge on different levels and since I will be living there as a neighbour my personal interest of getting in touch with the people and become part of the community is natural. So my plan is to start a project there.

My idea is to basically unite all the little pieces of my personal skills toolbox, which should be extended by the participants of the neighbourhood, and to start an exchange on several levels with the people. I see a place of learning, making and building and becoming economically resilient as well as personal exchange, meeting and getting to know each other. So for example if I taught people how to make rings or other jewellery they then could teach each other, build their own jewellery, make stuff to sell or offer courses themselves and while doing all of this the community grows closer, people trust in each other.

first ideas for a project:


Local circumstances


The so called Schillerkiez in the south east of Berlin has become very famous in the last two years since the airport Tempelhof was closed. The neighbourhood has been a problematic spot eversince and known for its violence, poverty, unemployment, lack of education and migrational background. Yet the first signs of gentrification are no more to be denied, artists, cafés, galleries and real estate speculation continue to increase as well as the hatred of the “old inhabitants”. I started to get involved in it supposedly being on the side of the gentrifiers by buying an apartment. I became a target for hostility and started to ask myself how I could contribute to my new neighbourhood in a sustainable way that softens the frontiers and gives those who feel threatened of having to leave the chance to improve their situation, to enable themselves and to participate in growing a neighbourhood that is a functioning, diverse community. As an escapee from monocultural Prenzlauer Berg I don’t want to see this neighbourhood turn into the same boring dead stage of saturated status anxiety.


“Schilleria” - Café for girls and young women, basically the only place in the neighbourhood where muslim girls can go without company and spend time with each other.

“Schillerpalais” - A place for art and action that helps to build community

“QuartiersManagement” - Office from the senate for local support, project funding (insufficient)

“Urban Gardening” - community gardening project on the Tempelhofer field.


– lack of continuous funding for social projects and initiatives (Schillerpalais)

– QuartiersManagement is too bureacratic, asks for big reports but doesn’t pay the people, funding is only for the project itself, it is expected by the people to work on a honorary basis.(!)

– Difficulty to motivate young people to take part in project, e.g. a play about the neighbourhood…




selfempowerment by education, sharing, exchange and community building

reduction of violence and prejudices, increase of interaction, tolerance, open atmosphere


Reach out to the people by appraoching the women and girls at first.

Teach them craft and knowledge that empowers them. The emphasis is on the connection, on what is shared. Being a woman means having a genderspecific socialisation and shared values. This straddles from the role in a family over women-only topics to what is defined as feminine and thus beautiful. All this comes down in making jewellery.



– Involve people in putting together the initiative so they feel ownership in the approach and can be community activists to engage more people.

– Build a trustworthy network with local women teach crafts and skills that are fun and offer them a chance of economic independency.

– Integrate them into the teaching process (jewellery, sewing, knitting…).

workshop module 1: Can we…? 

warm up, playful, not involved in the problem, with girls, outside, nature if accessible, street art, communication

goal: change of perspective, meeting new people, playing outside of the framework of skills,

workshop module 2. How to…?

skills workshops e.g. craft, computer, humanities…, people teach each other with what they know


– Reach out for the men in the neighbourhood once they are curious what their sisters and daughters are doing there.

workshop module 1: Can we…? 

warm up, playful, not involved in the problem, outside, nature if accessible, street art, communication

goal: change of perspective, meeting new people, playing outside of the framework of skills,

workshop module 2. How to…?

skills workshops e.g. craft, computer, humanities…, people teach each other with what they know

workshop module 3. What if…?

build project groups for certain ideas that involve the neighbours, their new skills and how they can make a living from it.


– establish a label like “Made with love and joy from empowered citizens” and sell the products of the community

– build a methodology that can be adapted to other places

workshop module 4. How did you…?

The community becomes independent and self sufficient and can help itself and continues to teach the people and work on integration.

The insights and learnings from the project are put together in a manual of methodology.


short term/first stage: use present initiatives and collaborate

long term: premise with rooms according to the needs

room1: workshop (jewellery, wood, machines),

room2: office/computer

room3: seminars, yoga…,

room4: grouproom, exhibitions, entrée


Create Berlin, IDZ, Goetze Goldschmiedebedarf (for jewellery workshops), Modulor, other material suppliers and companies that produce locally

Diversity and buy in…

Hey Susanne, good to see all those ideas written up! Are there any schillerkiez neighborhood blogs or bulletin boards and email lists where you might also share this concept?

If I had the time to come help out I’d get this idea down in a simplified one page brief that could be handed out to first the people in your own building and then to everyone in your street. Get the newcomers moving into this neighbourhood a chance to feel part of it, the people who do not belong to the demographic you are trying to reach out to. Make the opportunities to get involved as diverse as possible. Take some time to lay this groundwork by talking to the people you pass by every day. Even set up a little chair and table once or twice a week outside your building where you practice your craft with the flyer describing your project and asking for comments, feedback and further ideas from them. Find a more neutral venue to start your project, ask a cafe that has a bit of space to host a craft meetup once or twice a week. Again in this way you gain the attention of a wider cross section of the community, slowly building up engagement from people.

…just a couple of initial thoughts…

Woohoo we’re doing a workshop on Sharing the City!

When Susa told me about the uneasy relationship between the old residents and newcomers in the Schillerkiez neighbourhood of Berlin, I didn’t really understand how much tension was in the air. This city hosts many people I have come to love; over time it has become my second home, but I have always been hesitant to really move here because of the work situation. With property prices in the capital having risen by nearly 40% between 2003 and 2011, it is clear that unless creative ways can be found to better share the city, many of its less affluent residents will eventually be driven out. Some are reacting by blaming the tourists and bohemian hipsters and openly showing their rage …

Offending the Clientele from Sender FN / Retsina-Film on Vimeo.

I am not sure that placing the blame on newcomers alone is really fair or constructive. The existing residents are themselves partially responsible for the social exclusion of others; as China Mieville puts it, all city-dwellers collude in ignoring real aspects of the cities in which they live — the homeless, political structures, the commercial world or the stuff that’s ‘for the tourists’ … In a community where there are underlying tensions we need ways of constructively raising to the surface conflicts of interest between different community members. Rather than approaching this head on in terms of unmet needs one way of doing this is by surfacing the perception and the potential in terms of well-being in the community. To do this kind of work requires a sense of shared responsibility. And awareness of others sharing the same physical spaces .

How to go about doing this is the subject of the workshop that we are hosting at Schillerpalais at 19-21 on Saturday. The aim of the gathering is to meet others who would like to make a positive contribution towards addressing these issues that affect all our communities and to see what we can learn from past or existing initiatives. Susa wants to explore sustainable ways of using our knowledge and hands on skills in goldsmithing, product design and yoga to build community projects that fight social exclusion and poverty. I know a bit about public policy and building collaborations with government institutions from my work with the Council of Europe. Others will have other ideas and initiatives that they are excited about. Who knows, perhaps some would even like to explore the possibility of collaborating in some way…