Integration Facilitators program for disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Berlin

Icons use case study city info



Icons use case study main actors

Main actors

NGO / Philanthropy, other

Icons use case study project area

Project area

Neighborhood or district

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2004/05

The program provides training and qualifications for unemployed people to work as mediators who facilitate the integration of new arrivals in local neighbourhoods.

Newly arrived families living in disadvantaged circumstances often have little or no contact with the public agencies who can provide services to assist them in their daily lives. The program established in Neukölln aims to reach migrant parents through home visits by integration facilitators who are mainly women.  The facilitators make contact with families by reaching out to mothers at schools, playgrounds, doctors, mosques, and shops. The facilitators provide information on topics relevant to issues such as migration, German language skills, work, law, and raising children.

The integration facilitators come from migrant backgrounds or are immigrants themselves. They speak both the language of the family they visit and German. Most integration facilitators and beneficiaries of the programme are Turkish or Arabic migrants and a small number are Polish, Russian, and Eastern European.

The program objective is not to intervene in the family, but to support families in raising their children and finding their way in German society.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Metropolis Award

This project was awarded the 'Metropolis Award' in 2008.

Berlin, Germany

Size and population development
The population registered for the municipality of Berlin in 2017 was 3,613,500, making it the second most populous city in the European Union. The larger metropolitan area has around 5 million people living in 1,347 square kilometres, giving it a population density of around 15,000 people per square kilometre—similar to Mexico City or Tokyo.

Population composition
It has been estimated that up to 30 percent of Berlin’ s population are of foreign origin. The foreigners originate from other parts of Europe—such as Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Russia, Spain, Bosnian, Bulgarian, and Italian—as well as from countries outside of Europe, such as Turkey, Palestine, Iran, Syria, Egypt and Ghana. The largest non-native population comes from Turkey; in the year of 2010, there were more than 100,000 Turkish registered as inhabitants of Berlin.

Main functions
Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany, as well as one of the nation’s 16 states. It is situated approximately 112 miles (180 km) south of the Baltic Sea and lies in the wide glacial valley of the Spree River, which runs through the centre of the city. The city extends over an area of 891.7 square kilometres and stands at an average altitude of 34 meters above sea level. After the reunification of the two Berlins in 1990, Germany began a process to centralize the capital to Berlin (replacing Bonn, the former capital of West Germany). Since then, Berlin is the place where the German House of Representatives and the German Bundestag hold elections. However, it wasn’t until 2001 that the Bundestag and the government of Berlin were fully established under the same roof. Berlin is also a city of great cultural significance, which is evident if one considers the amount of historical landmarks that tie the city’s history to its multiple overlapping pasts. Some of the most important landmarks include the Holocaust memorial (inaugurated in 2003), remnants of the Berlin Wall (taken down on the 9th of November 1989), the Reichstag Building (which dates to 1884). As the capital of Germany, Europe’s most populous and economically powerful country, Berlin is also the centre of, culture, politics, media and science in the country and serves as a European hub for air and rail traffic.

Main industries / business
As the 4th largest economy of the world, Germany participates of a wide array of industries with a famous efficiency. In Berlin one may find strong state-owned enterprises, like the Deustche Bahn (the railway), which employs the largest amount of general population (more than 20,000 people). Other companies that thrive in Berlin are: the Deustche Post (DHL), the technology company Siemens, the automotive manufacturer BMW, and the telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom. Hence, one may assume that Berlin specializes in the secondary and tertiary sectors of economy. Tourism brings more than 135 million visitors to the city (which include day-time visitors as well as overnight ones). Apart from other student cities in Germany like Köln and Munich, Berlin houses some of the most well-reputed universities in the world: the Freire Universität Berlin and the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, with more than 30,000 students each.

Sources for city budget
Berlin draws its budget for public expenditure largely from taxes, transfers received, fees, fines, and operating revenues. This money is federally approved and spent in such a way that it can also be used in the form of funding for companies, not only to comply with the provision of quality public services.

Political structure
Berlin serves both as a city with a local government and as capital of Germany. In regard to the latter, it houses the Bundesregierung (Federal government), the Bundestag (Federal parliament) and the Bundesrat (the States’ chamber of Parliament). Each of the 16 states of Germany has representation in Berlin. It is governed by the Berlin Senate which is comprised of 10 senators and the Governing Mayor. Also, the embassies of other countries from around the world are housed in the city. The 16 states (Laender) have a similar standing to the federal government in respect to most issues.

Administrative structure
Berlin is administrated by the Senate and its 12 districts or boroughs. The Senate is the city’s central administration, in charge of city planning, public policy, and regulation of public and private spheres. The district administrations decentralize some public functions, with reasonable difference between the various localities.

Many social integration projects in disadvantaged neighbourhoods fail due to a lack of communication and trust between public agencies and citizens. Learning from the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands, in 2004, the Berlin district of Neukölln provided training for 28 women to undertake the role of Integration Facilitators (formerly called “neighbourhood mothers”). Facilitators act as a contact and resource point primarily for women and their families. For example, facilitators can accompany people to public administrative offices and doctors. 

From 2004 to 2009, the programme focused on families with young children six years and younger and facilitators visited approximately 4,200 families.  After the success of the programme, the age was extended to families with children twelve years or younger. 

In October 2013, a decade after the program started, the Berlin Senate Department for Work, Integration and Women launched the Regional Framework Programme for Integration Facilitators to ensure the high-quality and professional deployment of integration facilitators.

By the end of 2014, the program was expanded to include 11 facilitators dedicated to work with refugees and in 2018 the program commenced operating in other districts in Berlin.

The objectives of the project are:

  • 'open doors’ for integration, 
  • strengthen parents, 
  • encourage new language skills by motivating individuals to attend courses in German, provide information on child raising, education and health by visiting day-care centres and arrange specific support for families.  

The state framework programme includes a comprehensive range of support and training courses for Integration Facilitators:

  • The work of the integration facilitators is founded on a basic qualification of at least 100 hours. This is continually supplemented through additional qualifications. The training educates the facilitators in physical and mental child development, the German education system, healthy nutrition for children, and parenting skills.
  • All integration facilitators have the opportunity to participate in coaching and supervision sessions.
  • There are regular networking events for the project managers and the integration facilitators of all projects.

Once the training is complete, the facilitators go into their respective neighbourhoods and spread their knowledge with other families. In this way the programme has empowered migrant women to take on active roles in their communities. In their three-year term as integration facilitators, they are also endeavoured to encourage other interested migrant women to take active roles in the programme.

The integration facilitators visit families and provide education in ten fields:

  1. Day-care centres and school systems
  2. Healthy food / health care
  3. Children´s rights / non-violent rearing
  4. Bilingual education
  5. Dealing with media
  6. Development of fine motor function
  7. Physical development
  8. Sexual development / gender roles
  9. Drug prevention
  10. Prevention of accidents. 

The education takes place over a period of 10 family visits. Each visit is one and a half to two hours long. The facilitators are given informational material from the training to help them, and provide reading material for the families to go over and discuss with one another after. The facilitators team also meet weekly with one another to exchange information, strategies, and discuss problems they encounter.

The integration facilitators are able to open doors for families that have withdrawn into their own communities and hence have little or no access to local childcare or the education system and cannot be reached in other ways. Close cooperation with the local childcare centres, ‘parent cafes’, school based youth centres and teachers are essential for the success of their work. Close cooperation with early education professionals and teachers facilitates cooperation with the parents.

Funding for the programme has come from local and regional government levels. The Berlin Senate Department for Work, Integration and Women is the lead agency for the project

The funds for the promotion of integration pilots operating in all Berlin districts, are allocated according to socio-spatial criteria in consultation with the district administrations.

The implementation of the state framework programme is coordinated by a specialist unit. In addition, an advisory board has been set up to provide technical support, comprising Senate administrations, districts, the Job Center and the Berlin-Brandenburg Regional Directorate of the Federal Employment Agency.

The Management Authority sits within SPI Consult GmbH and is  the intersection point between the specialist administration and those implementing the programme. It serves as a liaison office, advises on both the allocation procedures and the specialist engagement of the Integration Facilitators, organises the specialist supervision and qualification offering for the Integration Facilitators, and supports publicity work. The Management Authority is the central point of contact for the work of the integration facilitators, bringing together, coordinating and networking all regional activities.

After several evaluation reports, the programme has achieved great success and interest from the community has rapidly grown. Many women (and men) apply to receive training to become integration facilitators, and more families enjoy the benefits and education provided by the program. Children are enrolled in early education programmes and mothers are educated about the importance of early childhood development. Mothers receive training on games to play with their children to foster positive growth. The program has expanded to include Roma families.

The programme has helped change attitudes towards local government and increased cultural understanding and language abilities of groups that traditionally have no communication with public agencies.

The programme has been successful in empowering women. Both neighbourhood facilitators and women who join the programme benefit in terms of confidence building and positive social interaction. The facilitators also benefit by receiving an income.

The programme has been successful in building trust between local government and immigrant communities and has contributed to the overall integration of new arrival families into Berlin.

In February 2018 the program involved 202 integration facilitators who are generally employed by independent agencies and active in 18 different programs at district level.

The integration facilitators programme has faced many challenges. Although Facilitators were mainly influential women in their communities, finding citizens to sign up for the programme was difficult initially. The programmes aim to sign up large families and families with children yet enrolled in school, however, these families have little to do with the city administration and distrusted the programme.

The programme has demonstrated it can be successfully transferred to other cities.  The program idea originated in the Netherlands and the initial program in Neukölln has now been implemented in other districts of the city.

-Integrationslotsinnen und Integrationslotsen:

- Stadtteilmütter: Approaching Integration Through Education in Berlin-Neukölln, Ally Brantley, Michelle Cho and Ruth Langer in Humanity in Action

- Neighbourhood Mothers Leading the Way in Neukölln, article in "Citiies of Migration", 17.04.2013

- Vom Modellprojekt „Stadtteilmütter in Neukölln“ - gestartet durch das Programm „Soziale Stadt“ – zu einem erfolgreichen Berufsbild, Franziska Wozny, Quartiermanagement Berlin (german)

- Integrated Urban Governance Manual

(see links below)

On the Map

Map placeholder

Want to know more about this project?

Alix Katharina Rehlinger
Berlin, Germany

Alix Katharina Rehlinger

Individual | social worker - division manager

Photo gallery

Related case studies

Cost sharing and multi level collaboration for social inclusion : Rusken
Oslo, Norway

Cost sharing and multi level collaboration for ...

Oslo like every city maintains and cleans its public green spaces as part of its greening activities. At the same time the city is providing vulnerable people with inclusive employment opportunities through two programmes.

Solar powered schools
Hyderabad, India

Solar powered schools

The project aims to provide low-carbon power supply for public buildings and their neighbourhoods.

Jugendcollege: training and education for young migrants in Vienna
Vienna, Austria

Jugendcollege: training and education for young...

Jugendcollege provides free education, training and a mentoring programme for young migrants, asylum seekers and persons entitled to an asylum or subsidiary protection allowance aged between 15 and 21 in Vienna.