19.1. Short description
“Kreuzberg Acts – entrepreneurship in the district” pursues a twofold approach towards social inclusion. On the one hand, jobseekers and local entrepreneurs, half of them migrants, receive comprehensive consultancy to explore their entrepreneurial potentials or rather stabilise their business. For instance, those interested in founding a start-up are coached by local mentors how to apply for public subsidies and how to launch an effective marketing campaign. On the other hand, the project is simultaneously striving for street credibility by building bridges to the local economy. Through the strengthening of local networks processes of gentrification are counterbalanced that go along with a rather one-sided setting of cafés, restaurants and luxurious stores at local in-places. In order to maintain a sound mix of local businesses the project eases cooperation of retailers, grocers and social services providers (e.g. physicians and carers) that also evoke a sense of belonging to the district. Moreover, project leaders and participants develop strategies of how locals may benefit from the districts’ booming economic sectors such as healthcare or tourism. Inventions are thought of in a neighbourhood-friendly way, e.g. by devising small-scale business ideas that fit the local social ecology.
In short, members of the local economy should do both – get together and become profitable. During all these activities project leaders are constantly both facilitators and lobbyists for their clientele. The innovation results in the intertwining of two activities that are usually separated: on the one hand, individual consultancy for (future) entrepreneurs; on the other hand, a kind of concern with community development and urban planning addressing different local groups. Thereby, Kreuzberg Acts also bridges economic and social concerns.
19.2. Conceptions and ways of addressing users
According to the concept and vision of Kreuzberg Acts, social inclusion is thought of as something that inevitably takes place in the local environment and depends strongly on the plurality of people’s opportunities to unfold their entrepreneurial potentials. Therefore, service offers are twofold: on the one hand, people are encouraged in their decision to become self-employed by receiving various support to improve their skills as entrepreneurs before applying for a start-up financing grant; on the other hand, individual consultancy and coaching is accompanied by collective support for the local community of (future) entrepreneurs. Among other things, the collective dimension of the project involves devising common marketing campaigns, facilitating networking activities and boosting joint ventures between local businesses. “We are not only helping local entrepreneurs individually, bringing out the best of their potentials, but feel responsible for the long-term development of the district’s local economy”, underpins the project manager. Perceiving project users as social beings, embedded within a local context, asks for an approach that is sensitive to people’s multiple ties and requires complex ways of addressing users. For instance, one experienced user of the project, a 25-year-old owner of an American Diner restaurant, reported that she has been visited continuously by someone of “Kreuzberg Acts” who addressed her from the beginning as a member of the local community of entrepreneurs – a dimension of belonging she had not been aware of before. In short, due to strong local references, Kreuzberg Acts addresses their clientele as entrepreneurs within the local economy, (social and active) citizens, and community members. In all these roles, the project addressees learn that their entrepreneurial success depends not only on individual competences and sufficient incubation time for their business idea but is also inseparably linked to the overall development of the district.
19.3. Internal organisation and modes of working
From September 2009 until October 2012, Kreuzberg Acts operated in three neighbourhoods with special development needs. All of them belong to the so-called NM programme (another innovation we focus on above), combining spatial and urban planning with sectorial policy interventions. The project is funded by a federal programme of the ESF called Education, Economy and Labour in the Neighbourhood aiming to provide “innovative interventions in managed neighbourhoods”. Currently, the project employs four people from LOK.a.Motion (see below), responsible for public relations, marketing, social media and communication with local companies. The main task of project coordinator Luna Weineck is building networks by contacting politicians, local authorities, the chamber of commerce, job agencies and neighbourhood managers. Since affordable flats and sales floors have become scarce in the district, housing companies have become pivotal partners, having a huge impact on the social and economical structure of neighbourhoods. In doing lobby work, Ms Weineck generates trust among all relevant stakeholders while tracing opportunities for the project to connect. Kreuzberg Acts is one of several projects by Lok.a.Motion, an organisation that operates at the crossroads of European and federal labour market programmes and the local level.
Within the last 3 years Lok.a.Motion has run four major projects and has initiated several forms of cooperation with local stakeholders. Starting as a non-profit-organisation for “youth welfare and local economy”, Lok.a.Motion turned towards an entrepreneurial approach and now holds the legal status of a non-profit limited liability company. With respect to working relations in the organisation Lok.a.Motion presents a sharp contrast to public administrations where the size of staff is stable and jobs are socially protected. Operating with few permanent staff Lok.a.Motion has sufficient leeway to decide whether a certain project actually suits their key professional principle, stating that any engagement must pursue the development of its social environment. The flip side of the agency’s flexibility is that Lok.a.motion is not a good employer in traditional terms by benefitting from unsecured precarious jobs.
19.4. Interaction with the local welfare system
In terms of local embeddedness, Kreuzberg Acts is a hybrid. Even though the project has cultivated solid relations to most of the relevant stakeholders, it remains to a certain degree an alien element, disturbing routine patterns of local welfare governance. Being both embedded and dis-embedded at the same time constitutes the innovative character of Kreuzberg Acts. This ambiguity is mirrored by the project’s relations to job agencies and local authorities, the two most important welfare providers at the local level. Although both institutions acknowledge (and partly depend on) the work of the project, Kreuzberg Acts (as similar projects too) is mainly perceived as an “ad-hoc consultant” for vocational training while lacking the status of a normal service provider funded on a regularly basis. It hence coexists with the local welfare system, rather than interacting with it frequently. As a result, Kreuzberg Acts fills a rather unsteady intermediate position depending on the respective situation of available projects. As a response to the challenge of coping with uncertainty the project team has developed a cooperative manner and invests much in trust-generating activities for acquiring new orders. However, this approach has its limits due to the competition with other project providers.
Defending the project’s design and modes of working against the theft of innovative ideas is of utmost importance. This is a dilemma, given the fact that close cooperation and a steady knowledge exchange is both a precondition to have a stake in the local landscape of service providers but also a risk to lose its own competitive advantage. “We have to prove that we are innovative otherwise we cannot develop new projects”, says Ms Weineck, who argues for a patent law that protects project concepts as it does commercial products. In comparison to established welfare institutions, tensions concern in particular the driving mission and the underlying working culture. Foremost, the way of addressing users differentiates Kreuzberg Acts from established policies in the field of labour. Especially in comparison to the job agencies its logic of integrating people is poles apart. Job agencies pursue a fairly sequential approach where every minor support depends on jobseekers’ compliance in advance – be it with regard to reveal their financial situation or to take any job they are offered. In sharp contrast to job agencies’ verdicts of employability, Kreuzberg Acts follows a process-orientated and tightly-structured approach, encouraging people to realise their entrepreneurial potential according to their interests and personal skills in a gently way.