Carpool Community Engagement - How Civil Society Shapes L.A.'s Neighborhoods (Interview Series)

During their Fellowships at the Thomas Mann House, historian and innovation researcher Rubina Zern-Breuer and Swenja Zaremba, research associate at the Centre for Cultural and General Studies at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, focused on meaningful interactions between public administration and civil society. The two met with a variety of activists, social workers, and community organizers to talk about their practices and experiences in the City of Los Angeles. From infrastructural challenges to problems with racism, housing, gang criminality and poverty: How can local participatory approaches strengthen trust, help individuals and repair urban infrastructures? What transformative potential for public organizations as well as for civil society networks can these approaches hold? Together with their guests, they explore how collaborative approaches on the local level can effect communities – and what we can learn from them for Germany in terms of trust and collaboration.

Join Rubina and Swenja in the Thomas Mann House van on their tour through different Los Angeles communities! Learn more about the different approaches, methods, projects and civil society initiatives and how they make a difference in the city.

Watch Part I Here:


Part 1 includes interviews and tours with Jordan Wynne, Housing and Homelessness Policy Expert at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Blair Imani, Author & Activist, and Tony Brown, CEO & Activist at Heart of Los Angeles.

Watch Part II Here:


Part II includes interviews and tours with Kiara Aileen Machado, Visual Artist, Paul Vandeventer, Founder of Community Partners, and Fredid Toledo, Administrative Assistant at Homies Unidos.


Rubina Zern-Breuer, born in Kiel in 1982, is a research project coordinator at the German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer, where she has headed the Innovation Lab for Public Administration since 2018 and also teaches. After studying Modern and Contemporary History as well as Sociology at the University of Karlsruhe, she completed her PhD at the University of Würzburg, spending time abroad at the DHI Rome, among others. In addition to coordinating public science projects at ZAK | Centre for Cultural and General Studies at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Rubina Zern-Breuer further positions took her to the University of Heidelberg and as a senior researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI. As a Fellow at InnOsci, a think tank of the Stifterverband and part of the InnOpeers Network for Open Innovation, Rubina Zern-Breuer focuses on trust building in multi-stakeholder processes. She is interested in current developments and innovation processes at the interface of science, administration and civil society as well as the application of creative and design methods. She has been the Equal Opportunities Officer at the University of Speyer since 2019.

Swenja Zaremba, born in Braunschweig in 1980, coordinates the German network of the Anna Lindh Foundation as a research associate and head of the team "Interculturality and Globalization" at the Center for Applied Cultural Studies and Studium Generale (ZAK) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). She studied Literature, Journalism and Communication Science in Karlsruhe and Nancy. In addition to coordinating public science projects at ZAK, other positions took her to the headquarters of the Goethe-Institut as a trainee and to the University of Damascus for a teaching assignment. She publishes on topics in the field of international cultural relations, civil society and participation, interculturality and internationalization. She was a member of the working group "Civil Society in Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy" and is a member of the working group "Middle East/North Africa" of the German Foreign Office.