/ Clarat / by Stefan Shaw & Anne Schulze

A new home for clarat refugees

When Germany was faced with an unexpected influx of refugees in summer 2015, the Board of Benckiser Stiftung Zukunft called a meeting to discuss one crucial question: what can our Foundation do to help refugees get support for their integration in Germany?

The answer was obvious: in the previous year, we had started to develop clarat family, a web-based directory of offers of support for families seeking help. This tool would be equally suitable for listing propositions of assistance to refugees. And we had employees who were extremely skilled in distilling appropriate sources of help from a bewildering multitude, translating these into a comprehensible version and language, and making them accessible to people who might otherwise have capitulated in the face of the overwhelming complexity of the internet.

Thus, the decision was made and clarat refugees was born. The Foundation Board authorized several millions of euros in funds to enable the rapid development of the project. Why? Quite simply, because a solution was urgently needed, and we were the only group who were in a position to tackle it at the necessary scale. At the same time, we agreed that this would be a development project that – as soon as it was up and running – would be handed over to a suitable provider of aid to refugees, since the support of refugees in Germany is not the long-term key focus of our Foundation.

Our objective with clarat refugees was to map the existing offers of refugee support in 10 metropolitan areas, as well as additional inter-regional offers that would be available to refugees regardless of their place of residence in Germany. Now, a good two years later, we have finished mapping a total of 11 metropolitan areas and list over 7,000 offers, all of them not only in German, but also in Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Polish, Russian, English and French. Moreover, this has been a success: currently 70% of the users view the site in Arabic and Farsi.

The time had therefore come to start looking for a suitable partner who would continue the task of managing clarat refugees. We have found a partner who is more than suitable; in fact we consider them to be the ideal partner. This partner is Handbook Germany, a site that is sponsored by the Federal Chancellery and which provides numerous short films in multiple languages to help newly arrived refugees get their bearings in Germany. With around 160,000 views per month, Handbook Germany is probably the most widely used portal for refugees in Germany. Since summer this year, we have already witnessed the beginning of a close cooperation between Handbook Germany and clarat. Entries on clarat were thus increasingly delivered on the Handbook Germany site to supplement general information on Germany with a variety of offers of support.

A few days ago, we made our decision: as of the start of the new year, 2018, we will hand over the clarat refugees platform to Handbook Germany. Handbook Germany will integrate the offers listed on clarat refugees into their platform and thus ensure the continuation of the work that has been done so far. Although our choice seemed so obvious, it was in fact a hard decision to make, as it means that we will have to part with our employees. The development of clarat refugees was a huge achievement in terms of both conceptualization and programming technology, which depended on a highly qualified team. The less demanding task of maintaining the now completed platform requires employees with a different profile. We will have to leave the task of selecting the appropriately qualified persons to the new managers.

It is with the deepest gratitude that we look back on the phenomenal efforts put in by our clarat refugees team to develop the project for over two years. Particularly in times when fears of an unlimited influx of refugees pervaded public discourse, anyone who spent a even short time in the clarat office would come away knowing that “we can do this”.

Farewell clarat refugees.

Sincerely, Benckiser Stiftung Zukunft