Business Council for Democracy

The Business Council for Democracy (BC4D) gives the private sector a role in building resilience and protecting democracy

Liberal democracy is under pressure. Strengthening it and making it more resilient is a task for all parts of society, including businesses. For many entrepreneurs and managers, this is an important matter.

The BC4D – a joint initiative from the Hertie Stiftung, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and ISD Germany – is an innovative opportunity for adults, who rarely receive the chance to take courses on digital civic culture. Here, employees can learn more about the spread of hate speech, targeted disinformation and conspiracy theories and discover what they can do to counter such harms and how they can protect others around them.

As a new alliance for the protection of democracy in the digital age, BC4D tests and develops courses that provide team members with the essential knowledge and skills to recognise digital harms. The aim is to strengthen personal responsibility and resilience against polarising and radicalising content. The courses are voluntary and open to all, regardless of their age or level of professional training.

Why do we need the BC4D?
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted increasing social polarisation in Germany. The internet has become even more important for everyday life, but the knowledge and skills necessary for a healthy online debate culture and confident handling of information are often lacking. At the same time, we are seeing an exponential increase in hateful, polarising and violent content.

Until now, the majority of existing training programs have only reached younger people. BC4D’s training courses are therefore deliberately situated in the workplace and thus in a setting where social interaction is practiced by adults of all ages. Many employers also enjoy great credibility with their employees. For them to act as representatives of a vital and fair democratic culture is one of BC4D’s goals.

As a new alliance for the protection of democracy, BC4D offers companies and other employers, as well as trade unions and business associations a great opportunity. It has the support of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände e.V, BDA). After all, basic democratic values, social cohesion and political culture should also be part of work culture; just like sustainability, the protection of liberal democracies must be added to the agenda of the private sector.

Through this initiative, BC4D looks to strengthen liberal democracy at a time when hate and false news are becoming increasingly normalized and are being spread both online and offline.

What do we want to achieve?
The conditions under which democracy takes place have changed significantly in the digital age. BC4D aims to empower people with the knowledge and skills of digital civic culture that are relevant for this. The project connects civil society, businesses, and citizens so that they can jointly contribute to maintaining social cohesion in the digital age.

In BC4D courses, employees from different companies can learn and practice how to recognize and challenge hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy theories. As a result, participants gain a deeper understanding of the role the internet plays in regard to the social polarization of democratic societies. Among other things, they are provided with strategies to show courage online, so that the internet can continue to function as an important space for necessary debates and to ensure that diversity, tolerance and respect are maintained.

How does the BC4D work?
With the input of renowned experts, we have developed a digital curriculum on the topics of hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy theories. The curriculum is continuously updated to incorporate latest research as well as current examples.

In the pilot phase from March to May 2021, the BC4D courses have been trialed in six companies. The Alba GroupEvonik Industries, the Kion GroupNomos-GlashütteUFA and Volkswagen AG have been participating as pilot partners. In groups of 15 to 20, employees of these companies have received trainings from professional trainers on digital citizenship. The courses took place in eight weekly sessions. An evaluation of this pilot phase showed that than 95% of participants would recommend their colleagues to join the BC4D training and a large majority of participants appreciate that their employers stand up for democratic values.

Since autumn 2021, the training courses have been made available to a significantly larger number of companies and their employees. So far, the BC4D program has been implemented in 16 companies, among them again Volkswagen AG, Evonik Industries, the KION Group and Nomos Glashütte, and in this second phase has welcomed companies such as Deutsche Bahn, Nokia, Hochtief and IG Metall, with up to 200 participants. The BC4D course will be implemented in up to 100 businesses until the end of 2023, aiming at reaching 2.000 participants.

The courses take place online, are interactive and utilize concrete examples and exercises. The overarching questions include: What can I do if I am subjected to hate speech myself? How does digital counter-speech work? What advice and legal options are there for those affected? How can I recognize conspiracy theories and suspicious sources? What makes people vulnerable to digital manipulation? and What consequences does digital polarization have for our society? 

The next round of the BC4D will include partner businesses:

  • Akquinet
  • Bosch
  • Bulthaup
  • Deutsche Bahn
  • Deutsche Bank
  • EOS
  • Evonik
  • HOCHTIEF
  • IG Metall Bavaria
  • KION Group
  • Leipzig Group
  • Nokia
  • NOMOS Glasswerke
  • Press and Information Office of the Federal Government
  • Sparda Bank Berlin eG
  • Stadtwerke Munich
  • Foundation of the German Economy (Stiftung der Deutschen Wirtschaft)
  • Volkswagen
  • Bito AG and HausNext
  • Otto Group
  • Charité
  • Daimler
  • Bertelsmann
  • Stromnetz Hamburg
  • Finetech

For more information on how to participate, please click here.

“Under what conditions does democracy take place in the digital age? We want to provide the necessary knowledge and skills for people to better protect themselves and others against manipulation and polarization online.” – Huberta von Voss-Wittig, Executive Director, Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD Germany)

“Democracy needs advocates in all areas of life. So also in the world of work.” – Elisabeth Niejahr, Managing Director at the Hertie Foundation

 “Hate and incitement have no place in our ranks. That’s why the Business Council for Democracy is important to me. We want to promote civic engagement among our employees and open up new perspectives for good cooperation. That is more important than ever.” – Hiltrud Werner, Member of the Board of Management for Integrity and Legal Affairs, Volkswagen AG

“New approaches are needed to strengthen democracy – at BC4D, civil society and businesses are leading the way together, strengthening knowledge about how to deal with hate speech, conspiracy theories and disinformation.” – Claudia Rolf, Team Leader, Robert Bosch Stiftung

“How can I deal with digital hate speech? How do I respond to conspiracy ideologies on the internet? When it comes to a digital democracy, these questions concern us all and must be tackled between new alliances. The professional environment plays an important role in this. This is where the Business Council for Democracy is doing real pioneering work.” – Melanie Dense, Senior Project Manager, Robert Bosch Stiftung

Ursula von der Leyen

“Companies benefit from social harmony, not just in the company, but in society as a whole. So why shouldn’t businesses play an important role in strengthening our democracy?”

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

As an employer, we consider it our responsibility to strengthen social cohesion. That’s why we support the BC4D democracy initiative.Steffen Kampeter, Chief Executive, Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA)
  • Gegen Verschwörungstheorien am Arbeitsplatz

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    Courtesy ARD Audiothek

  • Aufklärung in der Mittagspause

    Sie leugnen die Gefahr durch Corona oder hetzen gegen Flüchtlinge: Verschwörungstheorien und Populismus verbreiten sich oft über den Kollegenkreis am Arbeitsplatz. Ein neues Bündnis will nun gegensteuern.

    Lesen Sie mehr im Spiegel

  • Aufklärung für Kollege Aluhut

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    Lesen Sie mehr im FAZ.net

  • Hilfe gegen den Hass

    Im Netz tummeln sich Hassredner und Verschwörungstheoretiker. Wie Unternehmen ihre Mitarbeiter schulen, die Gefahr zu erkennen und sich dagegen zu wehren.

    Lesen Sie mehr im Süddeutsche Zeitung

ISD’s BC4D team

Huberta von Voss-Wittig
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Huberta von Voss-Wittig

Executive Director, ISD Germany

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Huberta von Voss-Wittig
Huberta von Voss-Wittig

Executive Director, ISD Germany

Huberta von Voss is Executive Director at ISD Germany, where she has led the expansion of ISD's German office since 2019. She has previously been part of the leadership team of the New York based NGO Seeds of Peace. Her efforts as Director for Public Affairs and Communications led to steep digital growth, new media engagement, a Podcast series as well as a series of high level events in New York and Washington, D.C. Huberta is the author of "Portraits of Hope: The Armenians in the contemporary world" (Berghahn Books) as well as "Arme Kinder, reiches Land" (Rowohlt) on child poverty in post-reunification Germany. She has appeared on various German and international TV shows and is fluent in English and French. She serves on several boards, among them United Ways Germany, to foster social cohesion. Huberta was awarded the Leo Baeck Medal (2018) and the BGA Medal of Honor by the British-German Association. She is a member of the Young Leader network of the BMW Foundation and an alumni of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Elisabeth Niejahr
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Elisabeth Niejahr

Managing Director at the Hertie Foundation

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Elisabeth Niejahr
Elisabeth Niejahr

Managing Director at the Hertie Foundation

Elisabeth Niejahr is the Managing Director for the area "Strengthening Democracy" at the Hertie Foundation. 
Gil Jung
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Gil Jung

Head of Communications and Events, ISD Germany

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Gil Jung
Gil Jung

Head of Communications and Events, ISD Germany

Gil Jung is the Head of Communications and Events at ISD Germany. As a communications expert with many years of international experience, Gil acts as ISD Germany’s main interface between the media, key stakeholders and programme teams, as well as on all organizational matters. Gil worked as a journalist in Bonn London and Paris before switching to public relations. She has left a broad portfolio of clients from the private sector behind to support the strategic expansion of ISD Germany in the DACH region.
Sina Laubenstein
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Sina Laubenstein

Educator at the Business Council for Democracy, ISD Germany

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Sina Laubenstein
Sina Laubenstein

Educator at the Business Council for Democracy, ISD Germany

Sina Laubenstein is an Educator at the Business Council for Democracy (#BC4D) at ISD Germany. She is involved with developing and implementing a training program for adult audiences, empowering them against a wide array of online harms (hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy myths). She previously worked for the Berlin-based association Neue deutsche Medienmacher*innen e.V., being the project lead of the No Hate Speech Movement in Germany. She has further worked with the Council of Europe and consulted various Federal ministries and foundations on topics such as digital citizenship, hate speech and radicalisation online. Sina holds an MA in Global Studies and Societal Change from Malmö University and a BA in Political Science from the University of Mannheim. She has co-authored the ISD report Hate Speech and Radicalisation Online: The OCCI Research Report.
Nathalie Rücker
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Nathalie Rücker

Team Lead & Manager at the Business Council for Democracy, ISD Germany

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Nathalie Rücker
Nathalie Rücker

Team Lead & Manager at the Business Council for Democracy, ISD Germany

Nathalie Rücker is a Team Lead & Manager at ISD Germany, working for the Business Council for Democracy (BC4D). She delivers and further develops the BC4D training programme for adults that teaches strategies of digital civil courage and equips participants with the knowledge and skills to stand up against hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. Previously, Nathalie worked at the intersection of peacebuilding research, conflict prevention and human rights empowerment in Germany and abroad, implementing projects, focusing on the capacity building of civil society actors-- particularly women's rights and youth organizations. She is a trained conflict mediator, holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in Public International Law and International Relations.
Zoë Rübbert
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Zoë Rübbert

Trainee

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Zoë Rübbert
Zoë Rübbert

Trainee

Zoë Rübbert is a Trainee undergoing the ISD Germany Traineeship curriculum, which allows her to be involved with, and learn from, a diverse range of projects in the areas of research, policy advice and civil society involvement. In addition to her Traineeship she is also a part of the project management of the Business Council for Democracy, an adult education project about digital citizenship and countering hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy narratives online. Zoë holds a BSc in International Relations from Leiden University.