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Together we create opportunities

Drei Menschen sitzen auf Bürostühlen mit Ablagen in einem Raum vor Plakaten und einem großen Bildschirm.
Reintegration specialists in conversation: Gildas Bagné (front), Rafael Osterloh and Katherine Kellein.

Together we create opportunities

A bright room in the south-east of Munich with murals on the walls. Here, in the offices of the social enterprise Social Impact, the reintegration counsellors are meeting on a Wednesday morning to exchange ideas. At the same time, a mutual client of theirs is taking off from Munich airport to travel back to his native West Africa. Gildas Bagné, a coach for the StartHope@Home Social Impact programme, tells us about the Nigerian who had completed one of his business training courses. His departure was brought forward, which meant that the man hadn’t yet received the training certificate he needs for his career plans. This certificate is important, for example when applying for start-up loans in his home country.

That’s why Ruth Holzbauer made a call to ensure that the young Nigerian did get the valuable document in time after all. She is a reintegration coach at the Training and Development Centers of the Bavarian Employers' Associations (bfz), and in this case she was responsible for the Nigerian client’s qualification. He had just attended her crafts training course, so she swiftly sorted out his certificate. “When deadlines are tight, we work together even more closely”, says Gildas Bagné. Ruth Holzbauer adds: “That isn’t just helpful in this specific case. People then go and spread the word about how we pull together to do the best for them.”

Tailored support rather than competition

A number of different agencies are involved in providing this transnational counselling. They include organisations that could well be in competition for clients. Those who want to go back to their home countries receive tailored support to ensure that they don't lose focus, which is why the various agencies in Bavaria have formed a network to closely coordinate the individual steps relating to each person's reintegration.

One important link in this cooperation is Rafael Osterloh, who acts as a reintegration scout for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in the “Returning to New Opportunities” programme financed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Osterloh is based at the Bavarian State Office for Asylum and Return (LfAR), which is the central office in Bavaria which coordinates the organisational tasks involved in arranging voluntary departures.


He generally makes contact with the women and men who are interested in returning via the return counselling centres, such as the Zentrale Rückkehrberatung Südbayern (ZRB – Central Return Counselling for Southern Bavaria) run by the welfare organisation Caritas. He brings the reintegration counsellors and the LfAR together.

First and foremost, he forms the bridge to the opportunities available in his clients' countries of origin. Osterloh arranges contacts with the advice centres for jobs, migration and reintegration which now exist in 12 countries around the world. Here too, the procedure is coordinated with the cooperation partners. They often have some important insights into the client’s vocational plans and career prospects: qualifications range from those in agriculture and crafts to ideas for starting a business. These form a solid basis for the conversations that the returnees have with the advisors in their countries of origin while they are still in Germany. This close contact reassures clients that they will continue to receive support even after they return home.

Eine jüngere Frau sitzt auf einem Bürostuhl und gestikuliert mit der Hand.
Judith Steinbach from Social Impact praises the effective communication.

Better communication, fewer missed appointments

How does this cooperation work in practice? A core team, which also includes Katherine Kellein and Judith Steinbach from Social Impact as well as Holzbauer and Osterloh, meets on a regular basis, twice a week online and occasionally in person. At these meetings, the returnees’ cases are discussed and procedures are agreed upon directly. These may include aspects such as when a particular training course would be useful and when it is being planned, or if a client doesn't have adequate access to a computer for a qualification or a video call. It also covers who can provide support for this case in an uncomplicated way. “Working with the cooperation partners saves a lot of time and avoids any misunderstandings. It makes communication much more effective”, stresses Judith Steinbach from Social Impact. It also results in clients attending 90 per cent of their appointments. The reintegration scout Osterloh feels that this is major progress, and can't be taken for granted.

Eine Frau sitzt vor einem Ausschnitt eines Wandgemäldes und breitet die Arme aus.
Ruth Holzbauer from the Training and Development Centers of the Bavarian Employers' Associations (bfz).

“Together we can provide a complete service because we complement one another”, Bagné says. One person in the team simultaneously serves as the main spokesperson. “We make a decision based on who has established the best contact”, says Osterloh. This coordinated procedure encourages those who are looking to return to their home countries to trust those trying to help them. They experience a coherent approach rather than a multitude of voices, which is very important – particularly given the difficult circumstances due to the corona pandemic. In 2021, around 55 people from different countries were able to take part in the “Reintegration Coaching with Qualification” initiative that the bfz held throughout Bavaria as part of the “Returning to New Opportunities” programme. More than half of them were able to return to their home countries with useful certificates.

Ruth Holzbauer also has enough experience to know that trust is the most important currency. As a bfz reintegration coach, in recent months she has heard that people are starting to talk about the reliable and coordinated reintegration counselling available in Bavaria, both for people who want to return to their home countries as well as among multipliers in the likes of NGOs. This makes it possible to reach even more people. “It’s becoming widely known now, and the great work we've been doing together is now paying dividends”, Holzbauer states optimistically.

As of: 02/2022

The opportunities for advice and assistance described here are offered as part of “Returning to New Opportunities”.

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Working with the cooperation partners saves a lot of time and avoids any misunderstandings. It makes communication much more effective.
Judith Steinbach, regional manager of Social Impact StartHope@Home

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