Influence of the Tesla Giga-Factory on the perceived quality of life for youth in Grünheide
Influence of the Tesla Giga-Factory on the perceived quality of life for youth in Grünheide

Influence of the Tesla Giga-Factory on the perceived quality of life for youth in Grünheide

by Shenja Li

Within natural economic development and progress there is a shifting impact on the surrounding community’s quality of life fabricating an intricate and compelling research topic that brings into question this dynamic. The research question we set out to answer focuses on a relevant question for the affected society :To what extent has the construction of the Tesla Gigafactory affected the quality of life for youth in Grünheide? Choosing this topic not only goes beyond academic interest and provides a direct link to public debate but is about the impact of large-scale investment on the economy and the subjective view of the young generation. The research aims to not speak about young people, but with them based on a pragmatic approach; to reach those who are often overlooked by public debate.
Young people are active participants in society, and their opinions matter regarding developments that affect their future. For this reason not having a prevailing hypothesis allows for an open approach to the complex issue. The central question is not whether the Tesla Gigafactory will have a positive or negative impact, but how exactly young people’s perceptions of Grünheide as a place to live have changed as a result of the factory’s construction.
The project draws inspiration from the VISION research project, which looks at living conditions and challenges in different regions of Europe. Connection to the VISION project lies in the emphasis on local perspectives and working with local people to gather a comprehensive picture. In this case to find out how the infrastructure changes in Grünheide due to Tesla have influenced the attractiveness for young people.
In order to allow the young people in Grünheide to express their opinion, a semi-structured interview format was chosen. This allowed respondents to freely share their views and experiences while maintaining a degree of control and structure on the part of the interviewers. The choice of a guided interview also allowed various topics to be addressed openly while maintaining some flexibility in the order and depth of questions and the selection of interviewees was informed by pragmatic considerations such as young people who had already completed internships and were considering future career prospects were identified as suitable candidates. Sampling was intended to ensure a diversity of perspectives, including youth who grew up in Grünheide and those who were newcomers there. Making contact and finding appointment times with participants was a challenge that materialized during the research due to the political explosiveness of the topic as well as the skeptical attitude of some young people toward research influencing their willingness to participate. These practical obstacles illustrate how research projects can face unforeseen difficulties in the real world. Interviewers recognized the importance of their own position and expectations during the interviews requiring researchers to take an empathetic approach to build trust. In this research project, a researcher must consider themselves as a “miner” of hidden knowledge, bringing knowledge from the depths to light through interviews.
The research findings within the research group provide powerful insights into the perceptions of youth in Grünheide regarding the Tesla plant and its impact on their quality of life, attitudes and impacts toward the community. Respondents expressed a wide range of views on various aspects. The most significant narrative about the increasingly scarce water supply in Grünheide due to the high water consumption of the new Tesla plant was also echoed by interview participants. Views were split regarding these issues related to the Tesla plant. Some youth see Tesla as the primary cause of the problems, while others suggest that structural problems and miscalculations on the part of the water utility may also play a role. Some youth are neutral and do not see drastic changes, while others are skeptical and criticize a possible collision between conservation and industry.
Interestingly it was also expressed that the Tesla factory brings cultural diversity. One point of view highlighted that the multitude of people from different countries and the diversity of languages are sometimes perceived as exhausting, especially when numerous languages can be heard at the station in the morning. On the contrary, another youth emphasized that he hopes to encounter increased cultural diversity in Grünheide through Tesla. A member of the youth advisory board emphasizes that the Tesla plant has also brought positive effects to the region. This is about alternative development paths and the possibility of approaching local development in a more holistic way hence highlighting both positive and negative aspects of Tesla.
The results illustrate that it takes time and patience to build contacts with young people and gain their trust whilst the semi-structured interview proved useful, especially in the case of lack of experience. However, the results also show that it is important to be flexible during the interviews and ask additional questions to gain deeper insights. The interviews covered a wide range of topics including opinions about Tesla, environmental concerns, cultural changes, educational opportunities, and more. In addition the variety of topics covered reflects how multi-layered the impact of the Tesla plant on Grünheide’s appeal is perceived by the youth.
My personal prior knowledge on the topic of Tesla, Grünheide, and the living situation of young people in this region was limited. While this limited knowledge provided the opportunity to approach the topic with a neutral approach, it also led to challenges. The dynamic between myself as interviewer and the youth as interviewees was characterized by a power imbalance and the absence of a get-to-know-you phase prior to the interviews meant that there was a trust deficit between myself and the participant. In addition, a lack of prior knowledge on the participants behalf was an additional hurdle as an unrealistic expectation was set prior leading to a discrepancy between what I expected and what was actually expressed in the interviews. Furthermore, I found there was too much control and adherence to the guidance questions in the interview process resulting in a lack of questions pertaining to interesting aspects of the young people’s perspectives and a lack of detail. As a result, the interviews were too formal and prevented the transition to an open dialogue.
This self-reflection highlights the importance of being aware of how one’s positionality and preconceptions can influence the research process. In future projects, these personal findings will be taken into consideration to find an appropriate balance between structure and openness in the interview process to allow for authentic and in-depth interactions with interviewees.
In conclusion, studying the impact of the Tesla Gigafactory on the quality of life of young people in Grünheide offers a deep insight into the dynamics between economic development and the subjective perception of young people. The researchers’ self-reflection and the practical challenges they encountered illustrate the complexity of real-world research. Accordingly, the results of this project are significant for the development of future investment projects and contribute to the empowerment of young people as active participants in social discourses.

This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.