Detroit has become a contemporary metaphor for the death of the American dream and the downfall of the industrialization era. Urban ruins and poverty dominate the scenery. To many, the cityscape has brought upon the comparison to what Berlin used to be like shortly after the fall of the Wall. But as with any biblical apocalypse, the collapse of a working structure can be the perfect grounds on which to build something new; to envision an utopia which has no place in a well-defined and thoroughly designed system. In Detroit, people have created new communities and social supporting structures to help each other out, even when the institutionalized infrastructure fails. When there’s no regulated backbone to fall back onto, you have to have a strong social bond to your community in order to create a life.
This is the context in which the DETROIT SOUP was born, an open-source event series that unites neighborhoods over a simple dinner – a soup – in order to support ideas which will help the community in one way or another. On the 25th of September, the event will also be held for the first time in Berlin at Kraftwerk Mitte (Tresor): BERLIN SOUP.
The event is hosted by the Detroit-Berlin Connection g.e.V and the Initiative Happy Locals. Personally, I love the direct approach of bringing people together. How many of you know your neighbors? How many of you have had ideas to enhance our urban lives, but didn’t have the resources? A project like SOUP can definitely bring new inspiration to a city like Berlin, where more than ever we need tight and strong communities to counter the forces of anonymous money. So what’s SOUP all about? How does it work? I talked to the coordinator of BERLIN SOUP to get more insights on the projects.
What is BERLIN SOUP?
BERLIN SOUP is a public dinner, where people can share their creative visions for their neighborhood or their city. Everybody is invited to come. 5 € gets you a bowl of soup, bread and a vote. At each SOUP dinner there are four presentations on projects ranging from art, urban agriculture, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology and more. Each presenter has 4 minutes, and the audience members can ask each presenter up to 4 questions after their presentation. After the presentations, audience members are encouraged to discuss/debate before voting for one of the projects. Whichever presenter gets the most votes wins all the money collected at the door in order to make their projects reality! It’s a post-capitalistic experiment in micro-funding.
Why does Berlin need a SOUP?
The soup idea is a great opportunity for all kinds of people in the city to meet in a safe space. Every audience member and every guest votes with their part of the entrance fee and their voice, and thus partake in an essentially super-democratic process enabled by the debates with the other participants.
Besides, Detroit in Berlin are very similar in a historic context – there’s this aspirational mindset comparable to the fall of the Wall. The DETROIT SOUP was created by Amy Kaherl in 2010, when the city was at it’s lowest low. People were jobless, homeless, and couldn’t rely on any capitalistic structure to fall back on. But it’s not just Berlin and Detroit. I think every city needs a SOUP to unite the diverse members of a neighborhood.
Who is the BERLIN SOUP for?
Everyone – people of all color, gender, age, religion and class are invited to partake in the Berlin Soup and to present their ideas for the neighborhood.
What do I have to do to present my project?
Everyone is invited to submit their ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline is the 20th of September. All you have to do is describe the project in a few words and answer the following questions:
- How are you going to use the money generated by the SOUP event to realize your idea?
- Why is your project important for Berlin?
- What’s the timeframe for your project and how would you present its development at a future SOUP event?
What is your favorite project that was realized in a Detroit SOUP?
While I was there, Harriette won the idea of a mobile soup kitchen with which she wanted to cater to the homeless of Detroit. And she left with almost 1000$ to start – with standing ovations.
Do you also want to expand the SOUP – for example to Wedding?
Right now we are focusing on Kreuzberg and Mitte, but we do want to expand on the concept overtime and grow organically.