This year's Winter School "Growing Cities, Growing Responsibilities – Take the lead to a sustainable future!" has been a very enriching experience. In the moment, we are evaluating the week and will soon publish our follow-up report. If you are interested in taking part in the next oikos Winter School, the new team will soon be set and will inform you about next year's topic and the exact date here on this website. Meanwhile, please check for news on our Facebook-page.

The seven day long 2019 oikos Winter School was full of lively discussions, thought-provoking speakers examining a wide variety of topics, and a lot of fun in the process of finding solutions for a better future. Starting the week, participants had the chance to share their personal expectations. Besides the intellectual input we also wanted to generate a positive and comfortable atmosphere so we integrated several team building activities.

Throughout the week we learned, among other topics, about the risks and opportunities that come with the development of megacities. The founder of Bicycle Dutch showed us what an incredible chance the bicycle represents for the change of urban mobility. The North Rhine-Westphalia ministry of construction gave us government perspective insights into urban development projects. Furthermore, civic engagement in urban development was addressed.

Our location in the former coal mining area, the Ruhr-area, displays a unique opportunity to look at the structural and cultural transition currently in process. In the middle of the week, we went on an excursion to the Zeche Zollverein in Essen, the biggest of the old coal mining industrial hyperstructures.

On the last day we witnessed an interesting panel discussion on necessary (constructional) measures to achieve the energy transition followed by a keynote on Smart Cities. The week was finished with an extensive reflection about the learned input. 

15th oikos Winter School

The topics of 15th oikos Winter School conference ranged from Megacities and Smart Cities to new energy and transportation concepts to civic participation and Urban Farming. We also took a look at the interesting development of the Ruhr-area, the metropolitan region of the former hard-coal industry, where this conference took place.

Since 2007, about 30 students from all over the world come to Witten once a year for working on issues of sustainability. Here, respecting the triple bottom line of social, ecological, and economic sustainability receives special attention. For one week, the participants analyze theories, methods, and case studies and reflect different perspectives and ideas.

The oikos Winter School is organized by the members of the oikos chapter University of Witten/Herdecke. We are continuing the the past years’ commitment in 2019. oikos International was founded in 1987 as an international student organization that works at 40 universities worldwide, addressing sustainability issues especially at business schools. oikos International and the local groups at universities are working towards the goal of creating a more conscious approach to the possible consequences of our current action.

The 15thoikos Winter School went by the name: Growing Cities, Growing Responsibilities – Take the lead to a sustainable future!

Cities are the living space of the future. Diverse prognostics predict a 75% share of population living in cities by 2050. With this shift the responsibility to care for the environment is equally growing. As of today, cities already consume two thirds of all available energy and they are responsible for over 70% of CO2 emissions. Smog and particulates are the reason to many people’s suffering. About 80% of the world’s population live within 60 miles of the oceans. Thus, they are inherently threatened by rising sea levels. However, cities have the chance to drive change by taking advantage of the nature of their structure: the network.

In an intensive week filled with lively discussions, interesting speakers debating a wide variety of topics and a lot of fun in the process of finding possible short-term solutions of our ecological challenges. The topics mobility and architecture are the two keystones that guide us through the conference. Further topics like economic and social sustainability have their place as well.

The conference’s goal is to sensitize participants to problem-solution oriented analysis of sustainable development in cities and to provide practical experience in the field. It is time to not only develop solutions but to implement them. Where are the biggest issues and chances?

The conference took place from March 17thto March 23rd, 2019 at Witten/Herdecke University. Witten is in the north of Germany’s biggest metropolitan area, the ‘Ruhrpott’, with about five million inhabitants.

Our speakers


Dr. Kerstin Krellenberg is scientific expert on urban development and sustainability transformations. As a senior scientist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Leipzig, Germany) she worked intensively on urban risks and vulnerability as well as on adaptation of cities to climate change. For many years, her research focus was on megacities in Latin America. Inter- and transdisciplinarity are central to her daily work, with the aim of conducting solution-oriented and participatory research. Currently, she is working at the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (Dresden, Germany) in the research area Monitoring of Settlement and Open Space Development. She is lecturer at Leipzig University in the Joint International Master Programme in Sustainable Development and the Master Programme in Geography.

Dr. Jan-Hendrik Kamlage works in different positions managing projects concerning sustainability, civic participation and many other topics. Examples are “BioDisKo”, which examines the discourse and communication of “Bioökonomische Nutzungspfade”, and “LogMySelf”, which discusses chances, risks and future of lifelogging and self-quantification in discourse with the young generation.

His main position is being the head of the research area Culture of Participation at Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities in Essen.

With his vast professional and academic experience in these fields he will help us to understand what it takes for a sustainability project to be successful and especially how to get people engaged and involved in it.

Mark Wagenbuur is founder of Bicycle Dutch, a blog about cycling in the Netherlands. For many years he has closely followed the planning and development of cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands and he enjoys showing this to the world in his videos and blog posts.

His YouTube channel gives a great impression of Dutch cycling and cycling infrastructure. Visit his blog as well.

Ruth Reuter works in the Ministry for Regional Identity, Communities and local Government, Building and Gender Equality of the Land of North-Rhine-Westphalia in the Department of city planning and monument conservation with a focus of energetic urban renewal, climate change adjustment and urban development funding.
After her studies of spatial planning in Dortmund, she worked on the local government level in urban and brownfield renewal projects.
The presentation will discuss the process of urban renewal in the view of green city strategies and the necessary cooperation between different stakeholders (local government, stakeholders from neighborhoods and citizens).

Wolfgang Sonne is professor for history and theory of architecture at TU Dortmund University, scientific director of the Baukunstarchiv NRW and deputy director of the Deutsches Institut für Stadtbaukunst. He studied art history and archaeology in Munich, Paris and Berlin and finished his PhD at the ETH Zurich. He taught at the ETH Zurich and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. His publications include: Representing the State. Capital City Planning in the Early Twentieth Century, 2003; Die Medien der Architektur, ed., 2011; Urbanity and Density in Twentieth Century Urban Design, 2017; Städtebau der Normalität. Der Wiederaufbau urbaner Stadtquartiere im Ruhrgebiet, ed., 2018.

Frauke Burgdorff, an expert on spatial planning and founder of her own urban development firm BURGDORFF STADT, has worked on large scale regional projects such as “Bildungslandschaft Altstadt Nord in Cologne” (equal opportunity landscape in the northern part of Cologne’s historic centre), the neighbourhood “Samtweberei” or “KALKschmiede*”. Her expertise on moderation between people from different professions and backgrounds is perfect for the Q&A session she will hold.

Anke Unverzagt works in the “Klimaschutzleitstelle”, Hannover City Administration’s Climate Protection Unit, with a work-emphasis on municipal heat planning, energy concepts and consulting of investors. She also works part time at the Ostfalia University with a research-emphasis on monitoring of energy consumption.
After her studies at the TU Braunschweig, she  worked for well-respected engineering consultants and the local climate protection foundation porKlima.

Mrs. Unverzagt will present how you can create sustainable urban development from a municipal perspective using the example of the Kronsberg-district. As preparation for the following discussion, she will explain her perspective on the opportunities and risks of the energy transition.

Prof. Andreas Wagner is an expert for Building Physics at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany.

Since 1995 he is a Full Professor for Building Physics and Technical Building Services at the Department of Architecture of the KIT. He is Head of the Building Science Group at the Institute of Design and Building Technology.

Besides teaching bachelor and master courses his research focuses on (a) building energy performance monitoring and analysis, (b) simulation-based energy efficient building concepts, and (c) on thermal comfort and occupant behaviour at workplaces.

He is Vice Dean for Research of KIT’s Department of Architecture for Research since 2016.

He was also (founding) partner of ip5 Consulting Engineers Karlsruhe from 1999 until 2016.

Dr. Björn Rau is an expert for Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) at the Helmholtz-Zentrum für Materialien und Energie. 

Since 2010, he is senior scientist at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and technology manager for the Competence Center for Thin-Film and Nanotechnology for Photovoltaics Berlin (PVcomB). Since 2011, he also holds the position as deputy director for PVcomB. He is also member of the steering committee “Alliance BIPV” and the spokesman of the working group “Research”.

Dr. Rau focuses on bridging the gap between the initial actors of a construction or renovation project and the providers and developers of technical solutions to inform about the untapped potential of BIPV.

Friederike Rohde studied sociology with a focus on Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Technische Universität Berlin. For some years she has worked as a consultant on issues such as smart city, sustainability management and urban energy efficiency. At the Center for Technology and Society (ZTG) of TU Berlin she did research on smart grids, intelligent urban energy systems and institutional change processes. Since 2018 she is part of a research group about “Digitalization and Sustainability” at Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) and TU Berlin. Her research interests include interconnections between technological developments and societal change and the role of future discourses and imaginaries in shaping transformations towards sustainability.

Jan Bunse studied spatial planning and human geography in Dortmund and Nijmegen (NL) with a focus on allocation concepts for shared spaces (2006-2015). Since 2011 he is member of the management board and active in various subsections for the urbanists (die Urbanisten e.V.) in Dortmund: participation projects with young people, district development through creative industries, projects in the field of urban gardening / farming, digital urban development. Since 2016 Jan is Project Manager for Community Urban Production in the research association UrbaneProduktion.ruhr of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Where and when

University Witten/Herdecke
Alfred-Herrhausen-Straße 50
58455 Witten, Germany

March 17th– March 23rd, 2019

2019 team

We are a team of nine students from the University Witten/Herdecke, Germany, convinced of our shared responsibility in promoting the necessity to act with future generations in mind.

(from left to right)

Florian Mende (B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics),
Leron Lupin (B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics),
Fabio Moyzes (B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics),
Larissa Mendel (B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics),
Konrad Zöckler (B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics),
Elisa Di Fina (B.Sc. Management),
Johannes Buldmann (B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics),
Marlon Warrach (B.Sc. Management),
Philip Samanek (B.A. Philosophy, Politics & Economics)