Yesterday (11th December) I gave a talk at Absolute Software’s offices in central Hamburg as part of the 12min.me format. The concept is simple: speakers are allowed 12 minutes (and strictly no more!) to present a topic, followed by an equally strict 12 minutes of questions from the audience.
Thanks to Olli Rößling for inviting me. It was a great opportunity to spread the word and also to think in a structured way about what this project has taught me so far and where I want it to go next. There are so many things I could say about Why Hamburg? and I packed a lot in. Here are a few of the things I said.
We can only suceed if Hamburg succeeds
My message was: internationals are rooted in Hamburg, and rooting for Hamburg.
By “rooted in Hamburg”, I mean that we have made a significant investment in Hamburg in one way or another. Whether it be giving up career prospects in our countries of origin, taking time out to learn the language, setting up a business, moving here with our families, or starting new families in Hamburg: each of us has chosen to invest in this place. This means that we are rooted here, and are less likely to move away.
And because we are rooted in Hamburg, we should be rooting for Hamburg. If Hamburg doesn’t succeed, or doesn’t have a positive image, or if it doesn’t appeal to the kind of people that help us thrive – creative, open-minded, diverse, talented people – then we lose out too.
Throughout the Why Hamburg? project, I’ve realised that, being one of these people myself, I have a strong interest in making sure that the people I have met through the project stick around for the long haul. At the moment, other than doing my bit to polish their image and showcase their work, there is little that I can do.
Putting internationals in positions of influence
Ideally, I would like help from people who share my interests to build a strong network of internationals with clout. So imagine if, in ten or twenty years, several of the people we know from the Why Hamburg? project are representing us in the local parliament, or on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, or the founders of successful companies. All of us would be stronger, and Hamburg as a whole would benefit too.
Using our international networks to Hamburg’s advantage
Another thing we can do is use our international perspective and contacts to ensure that Hamburg has a good image abroad. Because we all have a sense of pride and want people to have a good impression of the city we have chosen to live in. But more importantly, because if Hamburg appeals to our peer groups, then we will have a stronger eco-system of the type of people we can work and play with.
I think our role is especially important because, unlike cities such as London, New York, Berlin or Sydney, Hamburg hasn’t – and likely never will – gone “viral”. By that, I mean that question “Why London?”, “Why NY?” etc. would be almost superfluous because people go there simply because of the city’s huge international reputation, and worry about things like work and accommodation afterwards. Cities like Hamburg rely more on coincidences, or rather personal recommmendations, which is where we come in. In a world of social media, I think we can play an important role.
Encouraging internationals to stay
In order to build a long-term network of people, and make Hamburg even more international, we should be looking to support new arrivals using our experience. My experience from Why Hamburg? leads me to the conclusion that, first and foremost, it’s the people that make internationals stay in Hamburg: their groups of friends, family, or business contacts – or, preferably – all of the above.
So this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: by making Hamburg more international, it becomes more attractive to internationals. I think more could be done – and I’d like to find a group of people to do it – to help people through their first months in Hamburg, and encourage them to stay for longer.
Over the past year, my network of international friends and contacts has grown simply by starting the Why Hamburg? project, and I met some enthusiastic people at the 12min.me event, as well as the CiC event at Shhared earlier this month. It would be great if we could all start thinking about how to make some progress on the things I mentioned above, but in a sustainable way without overworking individual people. Perhaps that makes me sound lazy, but I think it’s only realistic.
So if you’re interested in being a part of this: get in touch on john[ at ]why-hamburg.com!