In 2007, a bold idea was set into action. Since then, Berlin has become home to a think tank that carries progress not only in its name, but also – and more importantly – at the heart of its agenda.
What started out as a modest organization has grown into a network that spans far beyond Berlin. Das Progressive Zentrum has sparked discussions, researched, debated, and provided progressive insights for the past 15 years. Looking back at when we started, it truly was another era: In 2007, Angela Merkel had only been Chancellor for two years, Steve Jobs just introduced the first iPhone, Tony Blair was leaving office, and Nicolas Sarkozy became President of France. Since then, the world has undergone radical transformations and our society and politics have changed along with it. But can all of this change be considered progress?
The narratives and approaches to politics of the last decades are struggling to hold sway: peace through interdependence, prosperity through growth, freedom through trade. What may have made sense in the past will not automatically offer guidance in the present. Convictions that seemed irrefutable in 2007 might now be called into question. This has led to a growing skepticism of liberal democracy’s once unquestioned promise of progress. Today, many are concerned about the future: Will I be able to lead a good life? And will my children be better off than I was?
For this promise to regain credibility, it must be renewed. We at Das Progressive Zentrum are determined to do our part and have decided that the time for a fresh start and a new vision has come. Our aim is to identify the possibilities of progress under the new political and societal conditions, while breathing life into the abstract concept of progress through tangible and positive visions for the future – and in doing so, ultimately renewing the promise of progress.
For the 2020s, Our mission is to guide politics towards a green and just transformation of society. This challenge cannot be met just with technocratic solutions or stop at reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. Instead, it must be a comprehensive political, economic and societal effort on a global scale that fundamentally changes the way we live. Such a transformation must be guided by strong political leadership and in cooperation with all relevant societal actors.
In order to bring about this change, we will concentrate on four areas of work: Protecting and growing liberal democracy, restructuring our economies and society around Green New Deal frameworks, building modern state capacities to strategically shape transformation, and empowering progressive actors to sustainably and quickly bring about progress.
Humanity’s relationship with the environment has proven to be untenable. In order to avoid a disastrous climate collapse, we need to find modern solutions to live sustainably. This requires rethinking our current economic model so that it is more just, green and innovative. Unlimited consumption for the benefit of the individual can no longer be seen as a viable goal to universally strive for. Instead, we must continually improve as a society by combating social and economic inequalities and living within our planet’s boundaries. At stake is prosperity for future generations. This is why Europe needs a Green New Deal.
The state and its institutions urgently need to adapt to the pace of societal change. On the one hand, this requires a swift digitalization of its infrastructure and a cultural shift at state institutions. At the same time, the modern state needs to be able to act sustainably, think in the long-term and prioritize the improvement of public goods and services on its own accord, instead of having to hastily react to outside pressures and crises. The just transformation of our society will ultimately depend on the state’s ability to govern.
Good ideas alone do not bring about progress – they require powerful advocates and smart strategies to be put into effect. This ranges from developing convincing narratives, and growing broad coalitions to establishing a contemporary style of leadership to bring about lasting change. Together with partners from across Germany, Europe and North America, we devise strategies to win robust progressive majorities that can deliver on their promises.
The power of democracy lies in the people’s ability to build their shared future together. This is especially important in face of the climate crisis and new technologies, which will continue to cause disruptive change. As we strive for legitimate representation and genuine participation that leads to equitable and better solutions for all, this openness leaves democracy vulnerable to attacks. We are acutely aware that the continuity of democracy cannot be taken for granted. To ensure its long-term viability, we believe in the strength of adjusting to new challenges, defending core values, and persistently engaging in processes of (re-)democratization.
These areas will frame our work as a progressive think tank. We want to both guide the general political discourse and accompany the current German administration in its efforts to achieve progress by offering constructive criticism where it is due. We want to initiate conversations that offer orientation in the face of mounting crises and growing insecurity. We want to be a platform that brings together progressives across party, sector and state lines. With all this in mind, we have given our work a new strategic focus and visual identity. Everything we have achieved up until this point has been thanks to our team and the many collaborators on the way. We look forward to continue growing our network as we begin this new chapter.