I’d like to volunteer – how can I do that? I work in the area of Sustainability – what are the options to cooperate?

Check out our JOIN IN! page

How did you get the idea? Practically, it started after Scott & Karen moved into their flat in the same building where the Baumhaus is being built now and started to connect with neighbors.  After meeting so many good people with such goodwill, we realized that it might be a good idea to have a place where all those people could come together to engage with each other in meaningful ways and collaboratively support each other towards making our lives  and neighborhood more balanced and humane.

When we saw the ground floor space with a big column in the middle of it, the idea of turning it into a “tree” soon followed.  Many of the ideas, concepts and attitudes woven into our history blend together the lives and passions of Scott & Karen as well as the time and ideas from hundreds other people who have been involved.  This project has emerged as a truly collaborative endeavor over the past three years (more: OUR STORY and PEOPLE).

Will the Baumhaus be a CoWorking-Space? Are you a Café? No.  Das Baumhaus will be a multifunctional event and workshop space.  We won’t have regular opening hours.  It can be used temporarily as a café, food projects may rent the kitchen and sell food while local initiatives use another part of the space for meetings.  When there is a conference or workshop series, the Baumhaus might be closed to the public for up to a week.  Also, there will be plenty of times where people work at our tables but we won’t rent desks on a regular basis – those will be temporary events.

Aren’t you guys gentrifying your neighborhood?  Yes, that’s a good question and like many other cultural projects in Berlin and other cities, we unfortunately don’t have the means and power to stop and solve many of the structural aspects of those problems at the moment.  Our space is right in the middle of a changing neighborhood, new cultural spaces pop up, new people, students, artists move here, the rents go up.

However, we are consciously and actively addressing issues of gentrification in ways we can.  We are engaged in efforts to strengthen the economic, personal, social, aesthetic, ecologic and cultural connections and situations between the people who have lived here for a long time and those who have just arrived in recent years.  The Baumhaus project developed out of the neighborhood, we as neighbors discussed these questions from the very beginning.  So a good part of the Baumhaus project is about connecting different constituencies of the neighborhood.  We aim to generate the conditions to build supportive networks of local inhabitants and to provide visibility for various social services like renter’s rights advocates or networks for what is going on in Berlin or connections to initiatives and coalitions working around the issues of gentrification in Berlin.

So far we think that the impact we have had on our neighborhood is pretty good…

Is the Baumhaus a social innovation?  You can think of Das Baumhaus as something like a “face-to-face” facebook / Xing / LinkedIn for like-minded people in one city.  It’s a concept for a new type of urban space, that shall enable flexible social cooperation, contact and engagement.  As far as we know there is no place like that in the city of Berlin but we would certainly like to be part of creating such a networked culture.
The innovative part can maybe be best compared to an urban community garden…  An ecosystem for direct action where instead of focussing on mostly growing plants, we focus on growing sustainable ideas and social networks.
At the moment, our most innovative social initiatives is that the entire space is designated as an “Open Greeting Zone“, which means that it is a place where anyone can feel comfortable walking up to anyone else and introduce themselves; reframing the context of what is socially acceptable and possible in a public space.  This concept has been successfully implemented at our Emergent Berlin festival series as well as by groups like MakeSense and Polly & Bob.

What is your social impact?  We create & curate context, content and environments where an open and positive culture of social and ecologic ways of thinking and acting get supported, where sustainable ideas and lifestyles can be developed.  We work towards:

– building social and professional networks (contact, exchange and cooperation between pioneers of change from many different areas)

– empowerment (towards active engagement, developing skills, practical implementation of ideas and projects)

– motivation to get active (bringing together stakeholders across a broad spectrum of civil society)

– dissemination of knowledge about problems and solutions

– cultural development (making possibilities of action attractive and accessible)

– increasing visibility by making activities and stakeholders visible

– fostering synergies, new ideas and common projects between local, regional sustainable projects and organisations to increase the potential of global impact

Can I rent the space for a public event or private seminar?  The Baumhaus space can be rented for private and public events around themes of sustainable development.  Currently, the space is a construction site.  After renovations and building are finished, you can book the entire Baumhaus space or individual parts including the main space, back room, tree house lounge, kitchen or workshop.  However, we do not host loud parties out of respect for our neighbors, we have cooperations with other event locations in our neighborhood for these types of events.

How are you financing the project and the space so far?  So far, everyone in the Baumhaus project is working pro bono or for reimbursement of material costs.  Over the last 3 years the development of the project, we and donations from friends and family paid for most of our material costs.  Since we secured the lease for our space and started using the space on a temporary basis, a cooperation partner contributes to paying the rent of the space (you can check out ORGANISATION for more details and MITTELHERKUNFT UND MITTELVERWENDUNG (german) for our financial transparency).

For building the space, the founders Scott & Karen got a personal credit form Berliner Sparkasse in the amount of €80,000; enough to build the space into its basic functional form.  We intend to run a crowd-funding campaign through the autumn of 2015 in order to finance the building of some features of the space that will make it special including the actual tree house level (check CROWDFUNDING).  After being built, the space will be run as a social business to make the project financially sustainable and independent.

What does it mean that the space will be run as a social business?  Why not just as a not-for-profit?  We decided to run the space as a social business to secure it long term and not be dependent on project funding which tends to run out after a year or two.  We developed a multi-tiered business concept where the Baumhaus can generate income through 3 areas: space rentals and entrance fees, courses and workshop fees as well as selling products and services from our network of collaborative and freelance partners.  

Separate from the social business, we are founding a not-for-profit (e.V.) whose focus is on not-for-profit culture events and projects through which we can apply for project funding.  Ideally, we will be able to support the running costs of the space, pay back the credit, cover our basic living costs and provide more people from  the Baumhaus project network with income opportunities that support the development of a local sustainable economy.