How do we solve the social problem of bringing together professional, employment and family life as a family so that adults can fulfill their careers, the children are happy and the whole family gets their due? Something like this may have been the key question that Agnes Model and Stefanie Santila Krause asked themselves in 2018. During their parental leave, they became friends and found time to develop their visions. Five years later, they can look back on a proud result: a multi-generational meeting place with which they have created a place that meets the needs of many people – and has closed a gap in the community. The star spoke to co-founder Agnes Model about how something like this works.

Ms. Model, when and how did everything about begin? My co-founder Stefanie Krause and I met privately as young parents in 2018. We discussed how to get back into work and both had fun doing it. We enriched our parental leave with the idea of ​​how to balance work and family life here in a semi-rural area. We live in Butzbach, a town of 26,000 people between Gießen and Frankfurt, and asked ourselves: How can you continue to meet your professional demands here? Where can you find a meeting point here? Although there are still restaurants and a shopping area, the city center is not yet extinct. But none of the young families who have moved here know what is available locally. How can we support each other and where can we dock as a family? This is difficult in the restaurant, we lacked a family center. Back then we didn’t even know terms like family center or other social institutions. So we looked at how other cities solve this and talked to a lot of people. And then we asked the community what kind of areas there were where you could fit in with a stroller, but also with a walker. Our idea to close the gap came about at a time of great influx of young families due to unaffordable housing in the cities. We have experienced demographic change here. You no longer have your family of origin locally, so not everyone has grandma and grandpa, but grandma and grandpa don’t have their grandchildren nearby either. We thought it would be good to bring the generations together again.

Board of Directors and Supervisory Board (from left to right): Stefanie Santila Krause, Dr. Agnes Model, Walter Strasheim-Weitz, Regine Richter, Christin Löbrich.

If you would like to support “” in the German Engagement Prize, you can do so here: Vote

How did you proceed? We looked at different business models, stood on the market, looked for interested parties and then founded the company during the pandemic. We are a non-profit cooperative because this is a project that needs many people. Due to the pandemic, we were unable to rent rooms, so we invited digital meetings to bring people together who want to shape their community. We created a festival and offered four weeks of cultural events for families. Between events you could come to the park and try out coworking. We repeated this in 2021 with appropriate funding for outdoor culture. And since 2022 we have existed with our premises in Butzbach, now as a permanent cooperative with 155 members and ongoing courses, coworking, as a meeting place for all generations, childcare and much more.

Do members contribute financially? There are different levels of how people get involved. Some have a financial stake in the company and pay a one-off amount of 100 euros and then own a share in the company. It’s actually more of a sign that you support the idea. There are no annual membership fees. But for us it is an important contribution to building equity. There are also many volunteers, some are members, some are not. Some come regularly, open the shop and support us. Others occasionally make offers such as sewing, knitting, crocheting, and crafts for children or only get involved on a project-by-project basis.

The offer to work in the presence of children is in high demand. Is there no kindergarten or daycare center in Butzbach? Coworking with childcare emerged when the pressure was greatest here. Three years ago, the municipal supply was completely overloaded with daycare or crèche places for children aged one and over. Previously, new development areas had been advertised here, but the daycare places had not been expanded accordingly. We didn’t want to replace this municipal mandate and set up a daycare center. The municipality should solve the problem. But there is a need for other models of care, something flexible for a few hours a week. Knowing that you’ll finally get a daycare place in nine months doesn’t help because you have to sit at the computer for two or three hours beforehand, perhaps to contact your employer or write applications. You can’t do everything at night when the child is sleeping. Some parents don’t want five-day care when their children are under three years old, but only want a childminder two or three days a week. But that doesn’t pay off for the childminders. So there are already daycare centers here and if you can’t get a place, in the country you’re still expected to have your mother take care of it first. These are different social discussions here than in Berlin, for example.

I watched this little TV movie that introduced “” and wondered if I could sit there and work. For me, I had to answer that with a crystal clear no. Coworking probably doesn’t mean an eight-hour day, does it? No, but there are different types of work. The film was made on a Tuesday, which is the day with childcare, so it’s restless. The people who use this hope to get a little more done than they could at home. Some mothers are more resistant to noise if they know that the child is well cared for. On other days it is much quieter and is therefore already a good place to do your work in shared spaces. Ongoing, five days a week, offering spaces for coworkers who need quieter space is the next step in the coming year.

How did you find your current space and how much space do you have? We are on a ground floor of 120 square meters, it mainly consists of 90 square meters of multifunctional space. One area is separated with acoustic walls, there are work tables and chairs, etc. The area that actually always exists is the area for playing. There is also a small garden, about 20 or 30 square meters, where the children can go out in the summer. There is also a kitchen, a bathroom, a small storage area – and that’s it. We’re bursting at the seams. On the one hand, it’s nice to say after two years, okay, the concept has proven itself. But we need more space, a team meeting room and a dedicated room for the children. At the moment everything is merging and we are pushing and folding tables and chairs to sometimes turn it into a yoga area, sometimes a workplace, sometimes more space for the children.

How do you finance this place? There is a resolution that the municipality will finance half of the rent for three years. We are also recognized as a family center by the state of Hesse, which means we receive annual funding, which we can also use to bill rent money. We also have a purpose-built business in which we offer courses in the broadest sense in the parent-child area, exercise, relaxation, creativity, culture and generate income through this.

Does that mean these courses are paid? Exactly. There are free offers such as information sessions, family consultation hours or the advice café, which the family fund comes to, or the employment office for reorientation in professional life or the business get-together. And then there are paid courses, such as those sometimes offered by family education or a VHS.

Does Tuesday child care involve a volunteer employee? That’s how we started, but this is now done by fully trained educators who we pay on a fee basis. You can take advantage of the offer without having to pay a fixed amount; it runs through donations. Fortunately, we are not yet feeling this shortage of skilled workers; there are educators who find it to be the right working model for them. Our need for child care is increasing, and we will probably be able to – and must – expand this in the coming year.

There are many older people, especially women, who cannot make ends meet on their pension. Can you offer them a mini-job if they want to come reliably? Yes, we have already implemented some of it that way. We have so-called hostesses who are there for family or multi-generational cafés and make sure that cake is always there and that the coffee machine is running. Some like to do this on a voluntary basis, for others it can be a mini-job. We continually try to create offerings that appeal to both young people with children and older people. Funnily enough, this works very well for everything related to handwork and creativity. Grandma then teaches knitting, and there are more and more children who are interested in it – and that’s where they meet. We also have a search-find wall where you can socialize. For example: I have a garden that is too big for me at my age. What young family would want to take care of this? In this way, the generations come together on very different levels. An asylum seeker who wants to learn German is currently helping us with Tuesday care. She just wants to speak a little more German. She comes from Turkey, is actually a teacher and would like to switch to being an educator.

Can you pay yourself salaries or do you do it all on a voluntary basis? We are now managing to pay part-time salaries to the core team, including the 520 euro senior citizen. We’re not all going to get rich from it, but it’s not like it was in the early years when we were all working entirely on a voluntary basis.

The German Engagement Prize honors civic engagement in Germany. Anyone who won a prize for voluntary commitment between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023 could be nominated by the organizer of this prize for the German Engagement Prize 2023, which was the case with “” with the Hessian Demographic Prize. The German Engagement Prize describes its work as follows: “The German Engagement Prize is the most important award for civic engagement in our country. As a prize of prizes, it combines the competitions that encourage voluntary engagement. It inspires enthusiasm for engagement, makes it visible and strengthens appreciation for volunteer work.”

Let’s come to the big finale: the German Engagement Prize. I didn’t even know him until our conversation. Participation is important to you because you can win 10,000 euros, right? Yes, that is very important. But at the same time it is also an opportunity to talk about our concerns in a different circle. They didn’t know the price, and we didn’t know it either until recently. We were nominated by the team from the Hessian Demography Prize, which we won last year. The German Engagement Prize is a challenge for us because the nominated institutions have to compete for votes themselves. But when it comes to answering the social question of how professional, working and family life should work and what offers society has offered to date, we are at least a building block with an answer.

Maybe you can tell me what you are particularly proud of? Something where they think: “We did really well!” What I find particularly nice on a day-to-day basis is that the encounters work. Many people find contact points through “” and often find solutions to their problems. Now in reality it is actually the case that knowledge is passed on across generations. And that you can find a place of work again that was once possible for different generations. The fact that it worked out like this makes us very proud and happy.

How did you come up with this very unusual spelling for “”? It developed from the name. There is the historical term “the whole house” for the house and farm community in the 16th century. For us, it became “the good house” and when we found out that internet domains no longer had to end with “.de”, but also “.haus”, we adopted that for the logo, “”.

And 250 people of all ages now meet there every week. Exactly!