Henry Alt-Haaker is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow from the 2005 Berlin Fellowship. He currently heads the department “Strategic Partnerships and Robert Bosch Academy” of the Robert Bosch Stiftung as Senior Vice President. He joined the foundation in the role of program officer in August 2013, becoming a senior project manager in October 2016 and serving in his current position since January 2020. His responsibilities include the Foundation’s programs addressing political decision makers, its think tank partnerships and the Robert Bosch Academy. As such, the department contributes to the Foundation’s activities in all its thematic areas.
“Humanity in Action was all I had hoped for and more. I learned a tremendous amount during the program about my country and how others perceive it. There are at least half a dozen people from my year that could call me in the middle of the night and ask for help, and I would not hesitate at all to do what I could.”
Before joining the foundation, Henry headed the parliamentary office of German Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger as chief clerk, served as a political officer at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin and worked for Humanity in Action in Paris. His expertise includes migration and integration, German politics as well as European and transatlantic affairs. He is an alumnus of several German foundations, including the German National Academic Foundation. After having studied German literature and philosophy at Humboldt University in Berlin, Sorbonne University in Paris and Washington University in St. Louis, he obtained a Master in Public Policy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.
Henry entered adolescence in the tumultuous period between the end of the German Democratic Republic and the beginning of a reunited Germany. Growing up gay, in a community that wasn’t always accepting, Henry learned how to empathize with others who felt left out or different and thus began his journey of activism. After having lived and studied in Berlin, Paris and St. Louis, Missouri, Henry applied to Humanity in Action at the age of 24. He hoped to meet other like-minded people also seeking to change the world and, at the same time, hoped to learn more about human rights. Back then, one of Henry’s political role models, Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen, was the chair of Humanity in Action Germany, which served as an even greater incentive for him to pursue the Fellowship. He recalls discussions with other Fellows that opened his mind to discrimination in all walks of life. Moments such as these led him to the realization that he wanted to do more than just participate in society—he wanted to actively change it.
“I wanted to make sure that people do not have to feel like they are swimming upstream and never belong. I think it is safe to say that I would have followed a very different professional trajectory without Humanity in Action.”
To Henry, “our liberal societies require mature, engaged, reflected, vigilant and compassionate citizens. And Humanity in Action is training precisely such citizens.”
As a result, Henry shifted the focus of his studies, earning a Master in Public Policy before then taking a position at the Canadian Embassy as a political officer, which allowed him to work in an international environment. He later decided that he wanted to serve German constituents more directly and transitioned to becoming the chief clerk for the Minister of Justice at the Bundestag. While this position was integral to his understanding of the law, he still felt there was something missing. Four years later, Henry joined the Robert Bosch Stiftung, a major German foundation associated with a private company that is in the fields of diversity and conflict transformation, among other areas. Today, he serves as Senior Vice President at the Foundation. For him, it is a privilege to spend his days working with a small team of dedicated, smart and passionate people, who all try to make the world a more just and peaceful place. Henry couldn’t be happier about where his Fellowship with Humanity in Action has led him.
“I hope we will one day live in a society in which diversity is embraced, in which everybody truly has equal opportunity to fulfill their full potential, where all kinds of group-based enmities are abolished, people live in peace and in the spirit of cooperation with each other.”
Humanity in Action remains an important part of Henry’s life. He founded both the German and European Senior Fellow Networks and chaired them as well. He has also been an active member of the German Board since 2012, becoming its Chairperson in 2018. Henry’s commitment to Humanity in Action is based on his belief that the current situation for minority rights and democracy is in dire need of further amelioration. In his view, “our liberal societies require mature, engaged, reflected, vigilant and compassionate citizens. And Humanity in Action is training precisely such citizens.” The impact the Fellowship has had on his career inspires Henry to continue to collaborate with Humanity in Action, in hopes that other young people will be spurred to action:
“During my work I meet brave, dedicated and compassionate people from the most difficult environments and with the most painful personal backstories. Their energy and drive can only inspire and motivate others and me. Within Humanity in Action, I meet equally dedicated young individuals who passionately want to make the world a better place. Our Fellows and Senior Fellows are role models to aspire to.”