One of the pressing issues in front of Europe is the social inclusion of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. During the last several years, civic wars in Middle East and Africa have led to major migration waves from these countries to Europe. With 162 thousand asylum applicants registered in 2018, Germany accounted for 28% of all first-time applicants in the EU Member States (EUROSTAT Statistics). These newcomers have troubles to communicate and be accepted by host communities. The national policy cannot create the needed conditions for their social inclusion. In that situation, only community-led initiatives are able to stimulate the intercultural dialogue between host communities and migrants.
An excellent example for such an initiative is Über den Tellerand. Its founders aim to meet the challenge that refugees and locals rarely meet in everyday life. They see personal contact as the foundation for integration in the society. They give impulses and spread their concept to share intercultural coexistence in Germany and Europe in the long term.
Über den Tellerand is a non-profit organization, registered as an association in April 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
Über den Tellerand started as a student project in the beginning of 2013. The young people were provoked by large protests of refugees occurred in Berlin at Oranienplatz. The founders of the organization wanted to find a way to meet refugees with the host community in order to allow them to get to know each other on a more personal level. Therefore, the young people organized a cooking event with the refugees at Oranienplats in the Berlin area of Kreuzberg. The cooking sessions led to the publishing of a cookbook, which included recipes and personal stories of the refugees who contributed them. The cookbook itself was developed during a student competition organized by the Free University of Berlin. The team received the Funpreneur Prize in December 2013. Four hundred copies of the cookbook were printed and quickly sold. There was so much demand that the team realized the potential to professionalize the endeavor.
Later one, the idea was developed with the help of the Social Impact Lab in Berlin and the association Über den Tellerand was created. For the founders, it was important for local residents and refugees to get together as equals and learn from each other.
The association has a two-level governing structure – the Executive Committee and the General Assembly. All departments and structures within the organization are subordinated and accountable to the General Assembly. A member of the association can become every natural or legal person. The association consists of voting members and supporting members.
Currently, in the association are working more than 14 people who are responsible for the different projects of the organization. The advisory board meetings are held once a year and have a consulting function.
As a model project, Über den Tellerrand inspires and motivates encounters and exchanges between cultures. The network of the organization already includes intercultural communities in over 30 cities, which they call ‘satellites’. Every year a Satellites congress is organized with more than 40 voluntary contributions throughout the whole Germany.
Über den Tellerrand has many sponsors and supporters in Germany and abroad, among them are IKEA, CoCoon, Bosch, Technical University Berlin, and BioInsel. The organization is open for international collaboration and expanding its network of satellites.
The team of Über den Tellerrand believes in a world of social cohesion, mutual respect and openness to diversity. It is their conviction that all individuals, with their individual strengths and abilities, can contribute to a society in which everyone meets at eye level.
The organization enable people to work together, to promote a society in which every human being is an equivalent member. The team succeeds in doing so by:
Über den Tellerrand is based on the fundamental values of humanity, mutual respect and in its work is independent of governments, religious communities and political parties. Moreover, it is part of the self-concept of cooking outside the box, according to which human rights, tolerance and equality of all people regardless of their origin, gender and religion, serve as the basis of any action.
The main goal of the association is to contribute to the integration and social participation of refugees in German society through education, training, and assistance to refugees and host communities. The scope of work is guided by the following principles:
In doing so, the organization sets the following objectives:
The team of Über den Tellerrand constantly enriching their activities to reach their mission. Some of the main activities include:
Champions project – by working with a lot of volunteers, the team is running educational and community-building programs in Berlin and Germany. These programs include cooking, beekeeping, urban gardening and a wide range of other activities, which enable cross-cultural engagement and lead to friendships between refugees and host community members.
Inselgarden – in a cooperation with the TU Berlin and the Biolnsel, a small intercultural island garden was created in 2016 in the Schöneberg neighborhood of Rote Insel. The neighborhood care together for the cultivation and harvest. The island garden is an exciting place of biological diversity and a relaxed place of encounters, where people can learn a lot from each other and make friends. In the self-built raised beds people cultivate regional vegetables and convey in weekly workshops to gain knowledge about horticulture, sustainability and urban gardening with direct application reference.
Kitchen on the Run is the mobile integration incubator of Über den Tellerrand. The blue kitchen container carries the idea of an open and diverse society to new places. The team promotes personal exchange between refugees and locals in order to get to know each other on eye level. With a kitchen, built into a shipping container, the team travels Germany and Europe. In a homelike atmosphere, they organize cooking evenings where refugees and locals can get to know each other at the kitchen table, reveal their favorite recipes, tell personal stories and start friendships.
Building Bridges – It is a specially designed program that ‘builds bridges’ between people and supports new and old comers in finding a home outside of home, while, at the same time, helping Germans get to know their new neighbors in a more transparent and positive way. The team connects a German national with an old comer who together form a team and work on supporting a newcomer in starting a new life in Germany. The teams then meet on a weekly basis to do an activity of their choice. In addition to that, group meetings are organized twice a month and include picnics, cooking together, going to musical events, team-building events, etc.
Job Buddy program – It is a specially developed mentoring program, which supports newcomers upon their arrival in Germany. In a 1:1 mentoring relationship, a person with a professional background helps a refugee with the application process and provides an orientation to the German labor market.
The main target groups of Über den Tellerrand are newcomer refugees in Germany, as well as local communities in different cities. A special emphasis is also set to the youth participation in organization’s activities, for example, Building Bridges program is designed for young people, aged 18-27.
The challenge in front of the founders of Über den Tellerand was related to the experiment that they decided to initiate by inviting locals and refugees to participate in a cooking event together. The positive outcome of the first event and the success of the published book gave them more confidence in achieving their goals. With the help of Social Impact Lab in Berlin, they managed to create a formal organization and to continue with their work. With the earnings of their cookbooks and cooking classes, the team supports their non-profit activities and the whole association. In addition, they receive state funding and private donations.
Über den Tellerand, which means ‘beyond your plate’ in English, is a commonly used German expression for open-mindedness. Über den Tellerand association has become an enriching and inclusive international community where ‘people on the move’ come to find a sense of belonging and experience care and compassion.
The team applies a holistic approach to the complex process of integrating newcomers into German society, while at the same time acknowledging and empowering their agency. By bringing newcomers together with their host communities, Über den Tellerand aims to create a sense of belonging as well as reduce stereotypes and prejudices on both sides. These efforts contribute towards the creation of a more united, inclusive and open society.
Über den Tellerand can be identified as a good practice for social inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers. It is a community-based project, driven by young people, which teaches us that social inclusion and overcoming of stereotypes and prejudices can be accomplished only by working with target groups on personal level. The association brings tangible changes in the lives of refugees and helps local communities adapt in the new demographic situation in Germany and Europe.
During the last years, Über den Tellerand has been inspiring more young people to take part in the organization’s activities and to create similar events in many cities across Germany. This fact proves that the adapted holistic approach for integrating refugees through culture is suitable for promoting human rights, tolerance and equality in our societies.
Über den Tellerrand introduces a holistic approach in integrating newcomers through culture. As a social innovation, this model has already proven its positive affect on refugees and host communities and it has been multiplied in other German cities. Expired young people manage the satellites of the association and organize different events and programs for integration.
The community-based model for social integration of refugees offered by Über den Tellerrand can be easily transferred in other regions and countries. The model can be adapted in any other community, which faces the consequences of migration processes of contemporary global world.
1. Website of the Über den Tellerrand: https://ueberdentellerrand.org.