Location: Dithmarschen, Germany
Vulnerable group in focus: Single parents
Coordination: Diakonisches Werk-Schleswig-Holstein, Hannes Muehlens
Did you know? 12,1% of the families in Dithmarschen are single parent families, of which 4009 are mothers and 886 are fathers.
Do you speak German? Visit the AllDi website or the local blog of the Accelerator Team.
Social Start-Up Biography
On this page we want to document the AllDi micro project and its development into an independent social start-up. To take you with us on this journey, we update this interview diary every other month. If you have further questions, feel free to contact the local coordinator (see above). If you want to learn more about certain terms you may encounter here (such as "micro project", "social start-up", "Accelerator Team" and the like) please check our "the ideas behind the project" section.
|Choose your issue of the AllDi biography:
DEC 2019 FEB 2020 APR 2020 JUL 2020 OCT 2020 DEC 2020 APR 2021
Tell us about your Micro Project in three sentences
AllDi (Alleinerziehende in Dithmarschen) is an initiative for and by single parents that co-created a regional website for their peers to network and communicate with each other. Before, there was no public place or platform in which single parents could find valuable information specifically targeted at them; relevant events and activities were promoted only in a "mouth to mouth" way without structured communication channels. Now, our goal is to develop further and improve our service and to become independent from European funding.
Who are the persons behind the initiative?
At the core of the project are four single parents who meet every month to coordinate the upcoming steps. Moreover, the social service provider Diaconie of Dithmarschen is involved in the meetings. The innovative element is that the project is not just “for” single parents, but also “by” single parents. For instance, they learned about web design, fundraising and journalistic writing to be able to develop and maintain their internet platform on their own. This approach is essential to ensure that the contents actually meet the demands and expectations of single parents in the region, which would be different if an “outsider” would do the job. In addition to the development and maintenance of the website, the group furthermore organises information events (e.g. a presentation about divorcing and children) and actively promotes the project (e.g. through stands at Christmas markets) to become better known.
What are your long-term goals?
Our two long-term goals are to ensure the initiative’s long-term financial viability and to recruit additional participants. Both goals are actually interrelated because having a critical number of participants is the first prerequisite for a stable organisational setup. To reach more potential participants, we work with low-barrier project presentations in everyday situations. Moreover, we aim at cooperating with established organisations or events to approach future group members.
Which topics do you currently address in your micro project?
We are currently about to organise three thematic evenings for single parents where external referents from different institutions will provide input. To give an example, the topic of the first evening seminar will be “separation and its consequences in relation to the age of the children”. In addition to sharing knowledge and information, these events should also help us to establish our micro project location (the meeting point “Hoelp”) in the region and to attract further members for our team. Our micro project organises the event series entirely on its own, this includes for example finding speakers, promotion and all kinds of practicalities.
What are your challenges at the moment?
We aim to increase the number of micro project participants to stabilize our project. Many of our activities should support this endeavour either directly or indirectly – be it an AllDi stand that we organised at a local Christmas market in December, an information leaflet the we developed over the past months, or the lecture series that we just talked about. These are but a few activities and we are quite active when it comes to outreach efforts. At the same time, we try to develop a strategic approach to avoid that these remain isolated or uncoordinated measures.
What are your short-term goals for the next months?
We have many plans, one of them is to organise a seminar weekend with all members of our micro project and Accelerator Team. This weekend should be used for team training and to make further progress on our way towards becoming an independent and mature social startup. Organising such a weekend seminar is actually quite challenging as we had to take care not only of the place, the schedule and so on, but we also had to organise child care. Eventually we managed it, now the planning is almost finalised and we look forward to the seminar weekend!
Tell us about your recent achievements at AllDi!
Just before public life in Germany was put on hold due to COVID-19 we embarked on a team-building training weekend. We met in a small town on the North Sea Coast and worked with creative tools to identify challenges (such as communication) and potential solutions. Apart from this seminar, we made progress in terms of communication and outreach. For example, two members of our team organised a promotion event in a local kindergarten where we had the chance to acquaint parents with our activities. As this event turned out successful, we identified further daycares and other institutions that we want to approach.
All over Europe, we are faced by the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our daily lives. In how far does it influence the work in your Accelerator Team? What about the services offered by your social start-up during this situation?
In particular the issue of member recruitment has come to a standstill right now. As we are not allowed to meet and all public events are cancelled, our efforts to raise awareness for AllDi and to invite potential members and people who are simply interested in our topics are nullified. This is the most important out of many challenges emerging from the current situation. In general, the level of uncertainty is very high, which makes it difficult to plan ahead.
It is already more than three months ago that most restrictions caused by COVID-19 were introduced. How did you experience this time? How do you cope with the “new normal”?
We used these special times for activities that do not require physical meetings. For instance, we reworked the AllDi website and discussed whether social media such as Facebook could help us to improve our outreach. In Addition, we have used our website to inform parents about financial support in this particular situation and we have published numerous creative craft ideas for children and parents as well as web links for children with exercise, learning and entertainment opportunities for the time at home. One such example is a nesting box for insects, which you can see on the picture below. And finally, just a few days ago, now that several restrictions were eased again, we met for a “micro project breakfast” with the Job Centre of Dithmarschen, the Equal Opportunities Officer of the County and with KDA, the “Church Service in the World of Work”.
Tell us more about this “micro project breakfast”. What is it about?
The micro project breakfast is an empowerment support tool that all partners in SEMPRE Accelerators are testing. It is meant as an opportunity to bridge the gap between social service staff and social service users. The event also gives us the opportunity to promote user involvement and show good examples to social service providers. And finally, the event is a possibility to establish informal contacts and network for the micro projects. Here in Dithmarschen, the AllDi team exchanged with three social service providers. This meeting was interesting for both sides – for us as a micro project, but also for the social service providers. For our micro project members as social service users, this event was important as we had the opportunity to provide insights into our work and our offer. Through the meeting, we considerably strengthened our network, as the three organisations are now familiar with our strengths and the services we offer and could refer to us in their work. On the other hand, the county representative told us that she learned about the importance of lobbying. This has been further aggravated by the Covid restrictions, where the needs of single parents were simply not included. Single parents have too little lobby for their concerns, she confirmed – and we hope that through the breakfast, we could raise at least a little bit of awareness.
Summer finally arrived, and now we want to look ahead: what are your plans for the next months?
On a strategic level, we started to think about an idea that emerged from our workshop in spring and is inspired by the social start-up of our Latvian partners in Vidzeme: the “AllDi Café”. Once the current restrictions are over, this could become another tool to raise awareness for our initiative. While for the time being a “real” café seems out of reach, we were thinking of alternatives such as a regular open meeting in an existing café, but maybe also a so-called “white dinner”, or yet another format. However, these plans are still at the very beginning; at the moment we are discussing basic questions for the setup and organisation of a potential “AllDi Café”.
We hope you enjoyed summer! We heard that last month AllDi committed to a local aid action related to COVID. How was it?
It was a great success! Together with local partners and supporters, we organised an initiative to distribute book gifts among children of single parents here in the region. The action was a great success, no only for the children, but also because we specifically supported local bookstores and experienced good cooperation with our partners.
How did this project come about?
A local NGO, the "Ladies’ Circle 82 Dithmarschen”, received a donation from a company from the region, Petersen-Rickers. To reach out to children of single parents, they contacted us – AllDi – to support them with the practical organisation since we are in direct contact with many single parents in the region. Further information on the action is also available here. Apart from the direct benefits for the children in the region, this activity also helped us as AllDi to increase our visibility.
It is Christmas time, and we would like to take this opportunity to look back at the year 2020. We are all trying to live with the limitations brought by the pandemic, and despite all this you are constantly working on the strategic and structural development of AllDi. How was your year? What were the most impressing events from the everyday life of your group?
Regarding our goal of attracting more participants, we engaged in several outreach activities throughout the past months. For example, the group decided to start a Facebook site and maybe later possibly also a Facebook group. It would allow for more interaction, for exmaple through surveys, google alerts or simple comments. Our next step is to ask the local social service provider, the Diaconie of Dithmarschen, for support with data protection and the legal notice. We started into the year with two major, strategic goals for AllDi: getting more participants and getting financially sustainable. We are confident to succeed, especially with regard to increasing the number of participants – which is actually one of the main reasons for many of our events and activities. While this year was indeed overshadowed by the pandemic, we actually started into the year with great motivation! In January we met with the entire SEMPRE Accelerators partnership in Vilnius for a partner meeting and a training day on leadership and team management, which we then tried to implement here in our group after returning back home. Just before COVID-19 turned into a pandemic, we were organising thematic evenings for single parents here in the region – with the aim of providing information, but also as an outreach instrument for AllDi. We also managed to run a team-building training with AllDi just before the outbreak of the pandemic. In spring, we had to limit our activities due to the lockdown and physical distancing requirements. We tried to move everything online as quickly and as good as possible and social media and our website to reach out to potential group members virtually - but still, many of our plans had to be cancelled or postponed. During summer, we were able to resume some of our activities. For instance, we contributed to a local charity action in which books were donated to children of single parents. In September we were even able to meet in person with our fellow social start-ups from Denmark and Nordfriesland. Our Danish friends from Hear Me Out reported about this visit in their social start-up biography.
Today is our last interview. In our very first interview, you mentioned that you follow two strategic goals with your social start-up: to secure its financial viability and to increase the numbers of participants who actively contribute to AllDi. How is it going?
Regarding our goal of attracting more participants, we engaged in several outreach activities throughout the past months. For example, the group decided to start a Facebook site and maybe later possibly also a Facebook group. It would allow for surveys, google alerts or simple comments. Our next step is to ask the local social service provider, the Diaconie of Dithmarschen, for support with data protection and the legal notice. On another level, we interviewed the county administrator of Dithmarschen. From the interview, we wanted to learn about his capacities to improve the conditions for single parents and how he can support the development of further empowerment projects like AllDi. While this does not contribute directly to our goals of increasing the user base and stabilizing our social start-up, it does have indirect effects. Through the interview, we hope to highlight the value of social start-ups like ours and sensitize for the right framework conditions that need to be in place if such projects should be able to succeed.
And in concrete terms? what is new? What change did you achieve throughout the past one and a half years?
First and foremost, through our many events and information offers we increased awareness among the population for our activities. Moreover, we managed to keep our participant base stable and even attracted new members. In terms of finances, we will continue with our events such as Christmas markets, which are not only for promotion, but also provide an income for our initiative. For the year 2022, we developed a finance resources plan, which provides a stable framework, gives security and allows us planning ahead.