From the small local refugee helper for smartphones as a spontaneous entrepreneurial voluntary work in Dresden to a large Germany-wide digital system with several solutions and high utility for the weaker in society within the framework of the non-profit IT helps gGmbH founded for this purpose.

Refugee aid 1.0
In the summer of 2015, the refugee crisis presented Germany with major challenges. Many people helped with their respective possibilities. Companies have also got involved in their own way – monetarily or with corresponding services. This is how Germany’s first digital refugee helper for smartphones was created in Dresden. This helpful multilingual app for the initial orientation of refugees in Dresden attracted a lot of attention. The recipe for success: Generally helpful information with local contacts on site as answers to many basic questions about life in Dresden as well as combined direct help. The app is well designed and professionally developed for smartphones under Windows, iOS and Android. The content is available in German, English, French and Arabic. The app is free, easy to find and offline. The catchy name Welcome App Dresden is intended to welcome strangers to Dresden. In addition to the Welcome App as an entrepreneurial honorary position, the Dresden IT company Heinrich & amp; Reuter Solutions GmbH, for short, HeiReS®, gave a young refugee from Syria a permanent position as a web developer in August 2015, which convinced them with active integration and courageous refugee aid.

Refugee aid 2.0
Shortly after the release of this local welcome app, it became clear that the same approach would be necessary across Germany. Similar digital solutions have also emerged in other regions of the republic. The makers of the Dresden Welcome App drew the logical conclusion and launched the Welcome App Germany on all platforms as a higher-level Germany-wide solution on the Day of German Unity on October 3, 2015. Operating this system in a growing and sustainable manner for Germany reaches its limits when it comes to volunteering. Sustainability and professionalism require an economic basis. The makers of the Welcome App Germany secure this through a sensible business model in which they found commercial companies as sponsors on the one hand and on the other hand enable cities and districts to be included under the umbrella of the Welcome App Germany for a small allowance. In mid-2016, refugees moved out of the focus of public perception and the problem was perceived as solved. Now it was about solutions that improve the cooperation of all those involved – regionally on site as well as across Germany. The makers of the Welcome App Germany have thematically faced this challenge. For a better cooperation of all those involved in the integration process, software variants were created that are also useful for the helpers, consultants and administration. As an extension, the Welcome App now offers sockets for tablets, laptops, modern desktop computers and terminal computers. The variety of languages ​​was expanded to include Farsi and Russian. Direct contacts on site become the central instrument of cooperation and the basis for successful integration into local life. A wide range of individual regions including local contacts is growing under the umbrella of the Welcome App Germany: over 60 cities, more than half of the state capitals, many districts and Saxony as a state pioneer. To support the coexistence in Germany and the successful integration, the information was extensively expanded to an almost book-like volume including illustrations in many subject areas such as constitution, religion, clothing, food, the state system, language, history and others. Multimedia components were added with explanatory videos on various topics. HeiReS® has once again gone far beyond its core task of the digital solution Welcome App Germany and made donations of almost € 10,000 to various refugee aid campaigns in 2015 and 2016.

Refugee Aid 3.0
Spätestens Anfang 2017 stellte sich eine reine Flüchtlingsfokussierung als wenig sinnvoll heraus. Es ist notwendig, sich an Migranten aller Art zu wenden und diesen ebenso Hilfestellungen zum Leben und zur Integration in Deutschland zu geben. Alle haben den Wunsch nach Informationen und sowie direkten Ansprechpartnern in einer verständlichen Sprache. Die Macher der Welcome App ziehen frühzeitig Konsequenzen und erweitern den Kreis der angesprochenen Zielgruppen auf Migranten aller Art, Motivationen und breite Herkunftsländer. Damit werden auch Menschen, die zum Arbeiten, StudieRefugee Aid 3.0ren, Geschäfte machen und sogar Reisen nach Deutschland kommen, angesprochen. Der Informationsbedarf sowie die lokalen Ansprechpartner sind oft sehr ähnlich, nur sind die Herkunftssprachen vielfältiger anzusetzen. Somit kommen Griechisch, Türkisch, Bulgarisch, Polnisch, Spanisch, Portugiesisch als Sprache hinzu; viele weitere sind geplant. Damit möglichst vielen Menschen die wertvollen Inhalte der Welcome App zur Verfügung stehen, werden die Inhalte auch medial noch breiter angeboten: als PDF zum Ausdrucken für Integrationskurse, als Website-Lösung und als WPF-Desktop-Fassung für ältere PCs, sowie Varianten für digitale Book-Reader sowie als gedruckte Buchvariante. Migranten, die schon etwas länger in Deutschland sind, haben ähnliche Fragen: Wie bekomme ich Arbeit? Wie funktionieren das Bildungssystem und die deutsche Bürokratie? Wie erhalte ich eine Wohnung? Wo kann ich schnell und einfach Deutsch lernen? Diesen Problemstellungen begegnen die Macher der Welcome App Germany mit weiteren gravierenden Erweiterungen. Zu einem Schnelleinstieg in die deutsche Sprache über den Sprachwechsler der App kommen Phrasen zum Deutschlernen als Kombination aus Deutsch und der jeweils anderen Sprache. Das audio-visuelle Lernen wird gefördert durch einen bebilderten Vokabeltrainer und skizzenhafte Videoanimationen der in der App enthaltenen Texte mit deutschem Sprecher. Ein weiterer Bereich „Unternehmen und Arbeit“ unterstützt das Zusammenbringen von Migranten und Arbeitgebern vor Ort mit direkten Interaktionsmöglichkeiten. Erneut gibt HeiReS® einem syrischen Flüchtling eine Arbeitsstelle, welche im August ggf. sogar in eine Ausbildung zum IT-Fachinformatiker fußen kann.

Refugee aid 4.0
The much bigger step, however, is the transfer of the Welcome App to the non-profit company IT helps gGmbH, founded in March 2017, in order to be able to help even more actively with IT. With the IT helps gGmbH, the possibilities have grown far beyond refugee aid. In addition to migrants and foreign citizens, other larger target groups are served with helping IT solutions for the weaker members of society:

  • For children and young people from socially disadvantaged families as well as educational institutes and schools with the purpose of better teaching and learning in the sense of practiced Education 4.0
  • For people with difficult access to the labor market such as women, the disabled, foreign citizens and senior citizens as well as companies and labor market actors to create fair opportunities on the labor market
  • For foreigners of all kinds who would like to learn German, as well as those responsible for integration for better cooperation in Germany
  • For people with disabilities who want to consume digital media and need everyday relief, as well as responsible helpers and those responsible for inclusion for real accessibility and active participation or inclusion

The Welcome App Germany will be part of the growing cosmos of various digital solutions. These solutions are all made available free of charge, in multiple languages, across platforms and with low accessibility, as digital formats that are available worldwide and as innovative social solutions from Germany. In this way, the socially disadvantaged could also become the winners of digitization. Just as the Welcome App has been around for a long time, there are also good approaches for the other digital solutions – created as a basis by HeiReS® and now operated or further developed by IT helps gGmbH.

In addition to the IT solutions for Germany, discussions are currently underway to expand the platforms for Greece, Italy, Austria and Sweden as well as a job market platform with Bulgaria. International cooperation with aid organizations and with the political level in Germany and international approaches to cooperation could also promote the export success of refugee aid 4.0.

But we can’t do all of this alone. Only together can we be really helpful with digitization.

Please contact us and support us so that IT helps gGmbH can really help.

About Peggy Reuter-Heinrich
Permanent employment at HeiReS® as head of the design and UX unit as well as CEO; Founder, partner and honorary managing director IT hilft gGmbH;
Designer for almost 25 years with a focus on software and mobile solutions, also author, trainer, speaker; honored with several awards such as Microsoft MVP Awards, Red Dot Award, German Design Award, A-Design Award