Wiesbaden, Germany

Wiesbaden, Germany

Make yourself uncomfortable - stretch to the limit - it just might produce the results you need:

In 2009, we applied for the second time to the German Federal Government via the Ministry in Bonn that looks after the Trans-Atlantic Program, for funding of Dancing to Connect. Having hit the jackpot the previous year, we had no idea whether (despite DtC's  success) we could succeed a second time.  Beyond that, we had expanded our reach from 1 State in 2006 and 07 to 3 States in 08 and 09 and now -- lunacy -- intended to work in 4 States in '10. Even though our plans were grandiose, we were attached to each and every element and wouldn't hear of jettisoning a part of it.

So, there was only one thing to do in case the Bundesmin. failed to materialize: Plan B!

Through a contact of a contact, I found the name and e-mail address of a key person in the Education Ministry.  Though I was told that Germany is highly decentralized, and States make up their own mind vis a vis educational programs, I had nothing to lose.

I made my way to Germany 6 months prior to the start of the project -- luckily, the US Embassy in Berlin agreed to bring me over on a Speaker Program.  

I was on my own, spending two or three days in each State, meeting with potential partners from morning 'til late at night, and then jumping on a train to the next city.  I phoned the Education Ministry and spoke to Madame X (I shall refrain from using her real name to protect her identity but for any good detectives, don't bother -- she has just retired!)  who agreed to meet me that evening!   One problem:  Madame X was in Bonn and I was at the other end of the State of NRW, in the small town of Witten, in a very important meeting that ended at 5 pm.  "If you can make it", she challenged, "I'll pick you up at the train station and you can join me at the opening of an exhibition followed by a formal dinner."  

A formal dinner in Bonn was not my idea of a fun evening, considering that my hotel was in Düsseldorf, an hour by train from Bonn, and I had a plane reservation to fly to Berlin the next morning at 6:30 a.m.  

Here's where the stretch came in....

Fortunately, German's love their cars and love to drive fast.  So I hitched a ride to Cologne with Frank, a PR executive who loved the concept of DtC and was part of the group meeting in Witten.  

I had to close my eyes as he sped at top speed on the Autobahn in his deluxe vehicle.  

I sprang out of the car as we reached the train station and boarded the next train for Bonn, arriving exactly on time to be picked up by Mme X.  

By this time, having been in meetings all day in 4 different cities, I was exhausted. Fortunately for me, Mme. X was in the same state, and after we saw the packed crowd at the exhibition, we both agreed that a quiet supper was the best choice!  

We found a table at the adjacent restaurant and dug into some wine and an unexceptional meal.  The exceptional part was our conversation:  We hit it off in a big way and were carrying on like old friends.  

On the way back to the station, I heard the words I had only dreamed of:  "How much do you need?"

Fast forward:  we got the grant from the Bundesministerium, minus about 25% that had been an across-the-boards cut mandated by the government in keeping with the recession.  I contacted Mme. X who promptly filled in the gap and we were off and running with DtC 2010 in all 4 States.   

The take-away lesson here is obvious:  Never turn down an invitation from a potential funder even if it means 3 hours of sleep and indigestion!

For more information, please see Germany 2010 Overview


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North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany