While sitting here and drinking a cup of coffee, I lean back in my chair and remember the past seven weeks – “Trend Seminar, wow, what a journey”. A big smile appears on my face and a feeling of accomplishment kicks in. As the caffeine starts to rush through my body, thoughts emerge resembling the roller-coaster experience we all have gone through. New people, new challenges, and a pandemic with Covid-19 that completely turned everyone´s world upside down.

On the 2nd of March 2020 our class, “Spring 2020”, kicked off its very first day as the new CDTM batch. Ahead of us 26 students were seven weeks of full-time intense Trend Seminar, with a yet unknown project partner in a yet unknown industry. The center assistants, the two Philipps, running this course had remained faithful to the tradition to keep the project partner and industry secret until the first day. No matter how many times we raised our glasses during the kickoff-weekend, their mouth remained shut. Only a little hint was given to us: “It is something that affects all of you”.

At least we knew, it would be something that would make our hearts beat faster – the possibility to have an impact. On the day of the revelation, we were baffled. With 700 billion € market size, 4.8 million employees and over 80 million customers only in Germany our industry definitely provided the opportunity to have impact – no doubt.

The industry I’m talking about, our Trend Seminar industry, is public administration. But we weren’t just sent out there blind. Our project partner Tech4Germany represented by Anna Hupperth, had been taking on the challenge to digitalize the public administration in Germany for a while. As an initiative under the patronage of the head of Federal Chancellery Prof. Dr. Helge Braun, Tech4Germany recruits young talents from fields of technology, product and design to develop user-centric solutions for federal ministries. After getting to know our project partner we were ready and excited to get started.

The game plan was clear. For the first few weeks we were going to tackle an in-depth analysis of major trends in public administration as well as their corresponding drivers. In the second phase, the scenario phase, we were then going to cluster the major drivers to identify the most impactful ones. Extrapolating these would allow us to define a scenario matrix with four different outcomes depicting public administration in 2040. The last phase would be all about ideation and building sustainable business models in the area of public administration.

Our class was expecting to spend a good amount of the upcoming 7 weeks within the four walls of the center and thus we quickly made it our second home. Snacks and coffee were organized to keep the energy-level high. The fridge was  filled with cold beer and pizza, great after work get-togethers were guaranteed. Soon we would host cooking nights and table soccer sessions.

Within a week, however, we were pulled out of this. Not just us, but the whole world. Suddenly, from one day to another Corona was determining our lives. As it forced university institutions to shut-down, we felt like Trend Seminar was on the brink of collapse. I can vividly remember how we gathered our whole class of students and sat together weighing up options. “How will we continue? Will we continue at all? Can we make this work?”. In this moment, we experienced uncertainty in its purest form.

Within this situation of reluctance and doubts, however, encouraging voices became louder. We were all at the CDTM to apply digital technologies. We were all here to overcome uncertainty and solve real-world problems. It was clear – Trend Seminar was going to continue and we would make it work. Within a day, slack became our new living room and scribble our new table soccer. While we were moving apart physically, we moved together mentally, bonding through new initiatives such as daily video chat workouts, meditation sessions and remote speed-friending.

Trend Seminar continued and we worked on the next phases remotely. Our creativity  came to light during the scenario phase, where we had the chance to extrapolate our findings to public administration in 2040. “What does public administration look like in twenty years from today?”. It was also expressed in funny video-conferencing call backgrounds and theme songs from “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” during class votings. During the final phase of Trend Seminar, our class had come up with 150+ business ideas.

Five of these ideas were developed in detail over the last two weeks ranging from enabling citizen engagement to providing support for the elderly as well as introducing digital assistance to citizens, democratizing public administration data and driving user-centered development of digital public services.

If you are now curious about the specific outcomes of Trend Seminar, then stay tuned. A comprehensive report consolidating all the findings regarding public administration in the digital era will be published soon. Follow us on LinkedInInstagram and Facebook to be kept in the loop.

Here a glimpse on what Trend Seminar looked like:

Post-its and white boards were used to structure our thoughts and the knowledge from numerous insightful expert lectures.

To get our head free and relax, we challenged each other on the mostly awesome table soccer.

The kitchen was not only used for creative coffee breaks, but also for after work cooking nights and drinks.

After we went remote, parties continued in the virtual space with a cleverly devised interactive party map linking different video chats to dance and game rooms.

Background music, telephone jokers and a presenter added the right feeling to class votings.

Whether it was after an intense remote party or long class discussion session, meditation helped our class to stay focused.

Excitement and relief after having our final presentation in front of our project partner.