Urte Zahn brings movement to B-Part Am Gleisdreieck, more precisely: Stadtbewegung e.V. with free Tai Chi and Qi Gong classes. With the former corporate manager and startup series founder, Friends for Future is also moving into the Urban Ideation Lab, the laboratory for the urban district of the future and the heart of B-Part Am Gleisdreieck. We had a chat with the enterprising Urte Zahn.
At the age of 15, Urte drove a tractor on her parents’ farm near Greifswald, learned agriculture, graduated from high school, studied business and then had a stellar career; first as a manager at large corporations such as IBM and Bosch, and later as a serial founder of startups. So far, so exciting as well as grueling – until this one moment: Urte was on a business trip to Shanghai when news arrived from home that her parents had fallen ill. “For no money in the world did I want to be in that kind of situation again, not being able to take care of my parents because the job just didn’t allow it,” she says.
So, more balance was needed. In other words: work-life balance. That works wonderfully with exercise. And that’s what Urte brings to B-Part Am Gleisdreieck – every Monday at 6 p.m. and Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., there’s an hour of Tai Chi and Qi Gong on the Schöneberg lawn in front of B-Part Am Gleisdreieck. Anyone and everyone can join in free of charge and completely low-threshold. No prior knowledge is required, every fitness level is welcome, and you don’t even have to change clothes. The program is financed by the state of Berlin and the Initiative Stadtbewegung e.V.
Urte dedicates herself to the far eastern techniques of energy flow and relaxation for over twenty years as counterweight to the stressful job at that time. And here, too, the startup QiLabs is founded right away. Those who can’t make it to Schöneberger Wiese can download their own exercise program to their smartphone using the QiTime app. The courses can be integrated into everyday life at any time and help to find or maintain mental and physical balance – especially as a preventive measure against burnout symptoms or depression.
While the focus today is on inner energy, Urte used to deal a lot with external energy on the job. “Smart solutions for buildings, for example, the topic of resources in general. At some point, for example, my car had to go into the workshop and I suddenly realized that I didn’t need it at all. And in general, it seems absurd to me today that so much energy and material is spent so that a person can get around. That’s exactly the opposite of the principle of Tai Chi, where you try to use as little energy as possible.”
Her decision not to use a car also led to strange scenes at the time, “So, did they find a place to park?” – “Yes, right outside the front door.” – “What? There’s never a parking space free there.” – “There is for a bicycle.” General amazement that a businesswoman like Urte would drive up on her bike. This also led to distortions in the status matrix. A manager without a car? That would put you below the janitor in the hierarchy.
But back to the present: With Urte, not only Stadtbewegung e.V. has moved into the Urban Ideation Lab, but also the non-profit association Friends for Future, which Urte founded together with – of course – friends to do something in times of the climate crisis. Friends for Future develops games, for example, especially for schools, such as the “climate suitcase” or campaigns. The aim is not to proselytize, but to demonstrate solutions in an entertaining way and motivate people to act independently. And the Friends are also otherwise active in the “for Future” scene, for example with workshops on the organization of movements and autonomous teams. Together with Together for Future, the Friends facilitated the Fridays For Future Digitial Congress in February. “The key thing is that as a nonprofit, we only do what we think makes sense and without having to make money from it,” says Urte.
Finally, we asked Urte what has changed in her life apart from balance: “I used to be very focused on tomorrow at work. How is this project developing? What do the figures look like for that project, and so on. Today, especially in these crisis-ridden times, I’m more at home in the present, so in the good old here and now.” If you want to do the same, just come to Schöneberger Wiese on Monday evening or Tuesday morning and learn Tai Chi and Qi Gong from Urte.