Hamburg, Germany

We are Hamburg! Won’t you join us?

City of Hamburg

September 15, 2011

An innovative marketing campaign recruits diversity into local government while promoting inclusion across the city.

Can an innovative marketing campaign – ads on the subway, a slick website, flyers targeting parents – help a city improve the diversity of its municipal workforce?

Each year the city of Hamburg recruits over 600 people for training towards jobs in areas such as the city administration, taxation, police and fire services.  Annual monitoring of the city’s vital signs – from economic data to demographic profiles – also made it clear to city officials that their recruits did not represent the diversity of the city’s population. Young people of migrant origin were underrepresented with the city administration and services.

In 2006, the city of Hamburg set an ambitious target to increase cultural diversity among its city workers. At the time, only 5.2% of candidates came from a migrant background even though they represented 26.3% of the city’s population (and 45% for the 6-18 age group). The plan, legislated by the city Senate, aimed to have up to 20% of applicants, trainees and apprentices come from a migrant background within five years.

A People’s Campaign

Recruitment is every employer’s challenge. To reach out to potential applicants from across a the city landscape, the city launched a highly innovative marketing campaign – Wir sind Hamburg! Bist Du dabei? (We are Hamburg! Won’t you join us?) – aimed to prove to young people and their parents how determined the city was to attracting young people with different cultural backgrounds to the civil service.

Its key message is clear: “We are looking for young people who come from different cultural backgrounds. We need your experience, your knowledge and your intercultural knowledge.”

To achieve the city’s goals, the Senate’s own Centre for Training and Personnel Development (ZAF-Zentrum fur Aus- und Fortbildung) ran the campaign. ZAF focused on three areas: improved marketing and outreach of training opportunities, a new emphasis on ‘intercultural competence’ to open up the applicant pool, and a program of ndividualized support during the training.

The Wir sind Hamburg! Du bist dabei? campaign’s hub is a web niche within the city’s own website. It includes information on how to apply, what qualifications are necessary, who is eligible (German citizenship is not necessary) and links to multilingual brochures in Turkish, Russian and German. The site also contains other examples of outreach from a team representing the city at a local dragonboat race and video diaries about working for the city of Hamburg.

What about having your daughter or son trained by us?

Considered critical to the campaign’s success was the decision to include parents into the marketing pitch. Recognizing that parents played an important role in helping decide students’ career choices, publicity materials were directed specifically at this target group. Flyers like the one entitled Wie wäre es, wenn wir Ihre Tochter oder Ihren Sohn ausbilden? (What about having your daughter or son trained by us?) describe the city’s recruitment goals and outline the various training options and opportunities available to their children.

These multilingual flyers were distributed to migrant organizations as well as other groups involved in intercultural work with parents. They were also given out at parent-teacher nights, other events at schools as well as made available at various city agencies.  It turned out to be one of the most useful approaches to outreach. In an evaluation of the project, most parents not only found the flyers informative, they also stated that it was the first time they heard of the new training opportunities within the city.

Beyond informing parents and students that the city of Hamburg is hiring, the campaign has also emphasized the importance of intercultural awareness within the city Senate’s training and human resources departments. Officers in charge of training and personnel go through comprehensive training courses on diversity and intercultural competence.   The screening test for candidates, as part of the application and selection processes, includes both “culture-open” components and intercultural knowledge questions.


Wir sind Hamburg! Bist Du dabei? made an impact very quickly. At the starting point in 2006, 5.2% of the candidates newly recruited for training towards middle-level and upper middle-level civil service within the city administration were of migrant origin.  By the following year, the number had doubled. In 2013, 100 of 600 newly recruited trainees from an immigrant background, representing a total share of 17% – a big leap forward for the Senate of Hamburg and all its residents.

This Good Idea was identified by the Open Society Foundations’ At Home in Europe project as a good practice promoting inclusion, social cohesion and nondiscrimination. For more on this practice and the At Home in Europe project, read Living Together: Projects Promoting Inclusion in 11 EU Cities (OSF, 2011)

This Good Idea will be featured in “Marketplace of Good Ideas” at the 2014 Cities of Migration conference in Berlin. Learn more about the conference.

Making it Work for You:

  • Have a city office coordinate the project.
  • Open up the application process by paying more attention to cultural competencies.
  • Gaining access to parents is critical since they play a key role in their children’s career choices.
  • It is important to work with migrant organizations to reach the target groups.