Issue 92, November 2017
bullet Social Innovation in Germany
bullet - a Digital Directory for Newcomers to Germany
bullet  Innovation: Dein Nachbar - "Your Neighbor"
bullet Interview with Dr. Volker Then, Executive Director of the Centre for Social Investment (CSI), Heidelberg University

The Fresh Index: A Real-Time Shelf Life Indicator 

Social Innovation in Germany
To catalyze social change in today's complex and interdependent world, public sector innovators and civic-minded thought leaders are developing creative new solutions to combat challenging social problems.

A social innovation can be defined as a novel solution to a social issue that is more effective, efficient, or sustainable than current solutions. Microloans, urban farming, parental leave policies, co-working spaces, and public-private partnerships are just a few examples of social innovations that are changing life as we know it today. How societies can generate innovations to improve well-being during a time of complex global challenges is a key question.

The fast-paced growth of crowdfunding platforms, the increasing influence of millennials, and the growing number of NGOs and international organizations that are focusing their investments on innovation are all key trends affecting social innovation efforts. On the whole, increased collaboration with data analysts is driving even more effective social design solutions.

This month's newsletter highlights new developments in the German social innovation landscape. Dein Nachbar ("Your Neighbor") is building an efficient and low-cost social support network across Germany for elderly people in need of care. Clarat, a search engine developed in Berlin, provides an easy-to-use, online directory in eight different languages for refugee youth and families seeking help from experts who provide services in several areas.
Our interview partner this month, Dr. Volker Then, provides insight on social innovation in the German market, shedding light on social entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations that are challenging the traditional view of service. Dr. Then also explains how technological advancements are affecting the growth of social innovation. 


Building a new life in a foreign country can be a big challenge, especially if leaving your home country in a haste. Due to the current global migrant crises, many refugees in Germany are finding themselves in this difficult situation. They need to apply and go through asylum procedures, find a place to live, and locate a job opening; all while transitioning to an unfamiliar culture and learning a new language. Naturally, families could use help from locals during the assimilation process, but finding the right person to talk to isn't always easy. Many refugees simply do not know that there are support services available. That's where comes in. is a digital directory for making day-to-day life and adjustment less stressful for newcomers in Germany.
Thanks to the funding of the Benckiser Stiftung Zukunft, the online directory is free of charge. Navigating the site is straightforward - people can use the  many search filter options and are able to search for services within their vicinity. Users can find information about support services available at various guidance centers and each page offers details in easy-to-understand German or several other languages, including Arabic and Farsi.'s database is constantly expanding: for the help portal  clarat refugees and also for clarat family , which offers the same kind of support to children, adolescents and parents. While the German social sector that cares for these target groups is already extensive, the systems currently in place lack clarity and are not necessarily designed to be user-friendly. aims to provide this clarity and to create an engaging user experience.
In the long term, the data collected from could be evaluated to highlight specific areas where more services are required or to recognize the greatest concerns among the refugee population. In this sense, does not only find answers for questions, but also contributes to increased transparency in Germany's social sector while improving the quality of life of the nation. 

Source & Image:

Germany is heading into a precarious situation when it comes to supporting its elderly population. The demographic development since the mid-20th century suggests that by 2030, the number of senior citizens in need of daily support will increase by 50%, reaching up to 8 million people. At the same time, experts estimate that there will be a gap of 500,000 missing nurses. Both relatives and mobile nursing services will struggle to cope with the situation and provide the necessary assistance to the aging population.
Dein Nachbar ("Your Neighbor") is an NGO that builds an efficient and low-cost social support network across Germany for elderly people in need of care. Its interdisciplinary approach combines logistics network management with the experience of nurses and the activation and training of volunteers to build a reliable non-medical homecare network. This is established through a reliable, non-medical homecare network consisting of a combination of experienced nurses who recruit and train volunteers, willing to offer their help for a few hours during the week. Through the digitalization of the once-cumbersome search for helpers, the NGO is now able to manage thousands of orders in a very efficient way, providing a reliable solution to customers despite the volatile availability of volunteers.
The pilot project is already up-and-running in Munich, and the organization would be able to scale the project immediately. Currently, they are looking for investors, while they continue to raise awareness for one of the central issues of the near future. 

Source & Image: Dein Nachbar e.V.


Dr. Volker Then manages the Centre for Social Investment at Heidelberg University. His publications focus largely on the social economy and investments and he is acclaimed for his expertise in social entrepreneurship. Moreover, Dr. Then has extensive research experience with philanthropy and foundations.  He received his M.A. in history, sociology and economics from Bielefeld University and earned his Ph.D. in social history from the Freie Universität Berlin. He also completed studies at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen and the University of Oxford. He is a senior fellow at the Center for Civil Society in the School of Public Affairs, UCLA.

Beyond his role of executive director at the CSI, Dr. Then is a member of numerous boards and committees, among them the National Advisory Committee of New Ventures, the National Initiative to Promote the Growth of Philanthropy in the USA (Washington, D.C.), the legal and tax boards of three German foundations, as well as the editorial board of Stiftung & Sponsoring, Verlag  Berlin.

In his interview with the GCRI, Dr. Then provides an overview on the latest trends in social entrepreneurship in Germany and specifically, the work at the CSI in Heidelberg. He also discusses the field of social innovation from a business perspective. Lastly, with the rise of technology and its advancing presence in the civil environment, Dr. Then shares his insight on how technology affects the nature of social innovation. To read the full interview, click here.

Image: Stephan Brendgen
Over 152,000 German companies have vacancies offered specifically to people with impairments and disabilities. But for many, the standard online application processes make it exceedingly difficult to apply. A German start-up is developing a tool to help potential applicants cross this digital barrier. Their goal is to create equal opportunities for participation in the labor market through empowerment, skills, knowledge and assistance.

KulturLife is a German NGO that has successfully implemented various European projects in the area of social inclusion of minorities (e.g. refugees or migrants) for the past 20 years. With the development of online tools, KulturLife helps increase the employability of students and trainees and works diligently to enhance the personal, social and professional skills of young people through mobility projects across Europe.

Their recent project "Power of Language" is one of the finalists in this year's European Social Innovation Competition. The idea is to develop an interactive, digital learning device for people with impairments (non-native speakers, learning difficulties and reading weaknesses, etc.). Power of Language will, for example, guide users through the entire process of writing  a job application via an online platform. Thus, enabling them to perfect their personal resumé and cover letter and to download them upon completion. Additionally, the program will provide informative modules and interactive training sessions for job interviews. Developed by Inclusion Europe, the European Association of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, the content and design of the project follow European standards for making information easy to read and understand.

The Power of Language project is made to fit the needs of people who cannot engage without difficulty by making use of existing tools. The Power of Language tool is not only beneficial for potential employers who want to encourage a large pool of applicants, but also vital for job seeking individuals.  
Source &  Image:  KulturLife gGmbH

Bionatic The Fresh Index: A Real-Time Shelf Life Indicator 
When it comes to food quality and freshness, we are used to relying on the "best before" date, all in good faith that food that lasts longer should also be fresher. Yet technically, the "best before" date has no direct connection with product freshness.  Rather, it only states the end of the producer's liability for product edibility.

To provide food retailers with better insight into the quality and freshness of their product, tsenso offers the FreshCloud: a secure and confidential data storage solution for all players along the food supply chain. The cloud analytics build the link between logistics events, such as transportation and storage, and quality assurance. This way the hidden quality costs of the supply chain is made visible. The FreshIndex assesses the microbiological spoilage of food based on accurately measured data and gives quantitative information about food quality and freshness - down to the individual product unit.  The FreshIndex can intuitively indicate to consumers when a given product is of excellent quality and how long it will last. Currently, the FreshIndex is limited to meat and fish products, but an extension to fruits and vegetables is under consideration.

By providing a comprehensible freshness assessment tool for quality assurance, tsenso believes that the FreshIndex can significantly reduce food waste within the industry and also operate in consumer households in the long run.  
Source &  Image: tsenso GmbH