The social business querstadtein offers Berlin tours which are led by former homeless tour guides. Starting in April 2016, the organization also offers guided Berlin tours which are led by refugees. Scout24’s Social Media team got together with querstadtein to help them improve their online communications activities. We also talked to Tilman Höffken, the organization’s project leader, about its history, impact and future plans.
1. What’s the story behind querstadtein?
Tilman: Well, quite a simple one: In 2013 the two founders of querstadtein, Sally and Katharina, had the idea to develop a social business that enables former homeless persons to tell their own story – not press or third persons – but themselves. The main goal: Raising awareness for the topic homelessness in a rich country as Germany; and to show that persons living on the street are humans with very individual fates. The good thing about city tours: You can connect all-day places with personal stories and see a city from a much different perspective – this is our educational approach.
The same goes, by the way, for our refugee tours: Our tour guides from Syria show Berlin from a totally different view. For example, we show the Sonnenallee – the so called “Arab Street” – by playing a little game: on small notes we hand out words written in Arabic and then ask our attendees: “Can you find this shop?” by this we can make them actually feel what it means to be completely new in a society.
2. How did querstadtein and Scout24 meet?
Tilman: Last year I took part in a workshop in which people from companies and social startups gathered together to exchange knowledge. Company representatives took time to coach the startups and Mareen Walus, who is Senior Corporate Social Responsibility at Scout24, was my coach. In the end we had to present our results and were selected to explain them to Mrs. Zypries, who was Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy at that time.
3. Each tour is personal and special in its own way but do you see similarities between them as well?
Tilman: All our former homeless tour guides of course share one important similarity: The all used to live on the street. However, their tours are absolutely different from each other. Everybody has a completely different story to tell.
Our refugee tours, I would say, share a little bit more similarities. However, the most impressing part, their way to Europe, again is a very personal part. But one thing combines our two tour concepts, refugees as well as former homeless persons: Both groups are often spoken about – but rarely spoken with.
4. How do you recruit your tour guides?
Tilman: Mainly through our networks – this counts especially for our former homeless tour guides. The founders of querstadtein have set a very solid network within the social community in Berlin. This helps us find new guides. Nonetheless, it really is a hard piece of work to find the right tour guides… Actually we would need our own recruiting team…
5. What are the future plans of querstadtein? Do you want to expand your business to other cities as well?
Tilman: We have different ideas for the future. One of course is to set up new branches in other cities. However, our priority actually is to develop new tour formats here in Berlin led by persons you would rather not expect of being tour guides… But I don’t want spoil too much – this will start next year. For this year we are planning to provide over 600 tours – last year we made 400. This growth needs some new structures as well, which will be set up this year.