Interview mit Anne Kjær Riechert, Gründerin der »ReDi School of Digital Integration«
Das Interview wurde auf Englisch geführt. Um Annes Antworten unverfälscht wiederzugeben, haben wir die Originalsprache beibehalten. Foto: Kathrin Spirk
»It becomes something you want to do again and again«
Anne Kjær Riechert has always been passionate about showcasing productive ways to bring people together in order to create a better world. Her words always lead to actions and her latest and most prominent project is the »ReDi School of Digital Integration« which came out of an initiative that she started at the Berlin Peace Innovation Lab in 2012 when she moved to Germany. The ReDi School teaches coding to asylum seekers and refugees and has managed to be established as a talent pool of programmers and IT specialists for big companies. In her spare time, Anne is also running the humanitarian project »Kids Have a Dream« which is collecting and exhibiting drawings of dreams from youth all over the world. Anne’s success is rooted in a deep human-centered understanding of project design and entrepreneurship. She is holding a Bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship from the KaosPilot school as well as a Master’s degree in Peace Studies from ICU Tokyo. With Ada, amongst other things, she talked about how to find the right partners for your enterprise and how to communicate difficult topics.
Name: Anne Kjær Riechert
Profession: Founder, Social Entrepreneur
Startup: ReDi School of Digital Integration
Have you always wanted to be a founder?
If you had asked me when I studied at the KaosPilots, if I wanted to start my own business, I would probably have said “no". I enjoy working with people and my opinion about being a founder was that it was something that was quite lonely. But thinking critically and organising different projects was rooted already in my secondary school education. When you have small project successes early in life you get curious, you learn and grow from it. It becomes something you want to do again and again. It is something that enforces courage. I started doing little low-risk projects in the beginning and the bigger the projects got, the more I started realising: This is actually enterpreneurship.
How can women start a business and have a family at the same time?
We need to see more female role models who have happy children and also manage to run successful startups. We also need to see more supportive fathers. Being an engaged dad and a good husband/boyfriend/partner of somebody who has a startup, should be attractive. We as female founders need to get better at sharing our professional and private worries as well. It sometimes feels like these worries are purely personal matters, but we have a lot in common and a lot to learn from each other. It is important to find mentors who are very honest with you about what it is really like to be a founder and how to cope with the challenging sides that also come with it. My work and my life are the same thing and my goal is to have a 24 hour lovely life.
What do you focus on in your communication around the ReDi School?
Honesty and showing the reality. Being "a refugee” is only a legal status, but refuges in Europe are unfortunately often viewed as a homogeneous group. They certainly are not! When our students walk through the doors at ReDI they are viewed as individuals, with different interests, dreams and talents. I have honestly never worked with such a talented group of people. Our students have gone through so many challenges in their lives already, but still take the opportunity to prove themselves and show what they have to give - that makes ReDI School a fun place to be. I can’t wait for our students to be 10 years ahead. They are going to do amazing stuff. I have no doubt about it. They already are: I love Bureaucrazy, Dalili, Jasmin Catering and The Hamza Show. Just some examples of our students entrepreneurial mindsets.
You are working with corporate partners. How does that work?
Our goal is to always create a win-win-win situation with our partners. Doing good for our partner, good for our students and good for society. We were able to get Angela Merkel to come visit the school in April, and of course we invited our partners to come as well to be part of that discussion and exchange. This is something they could probably not have done on their own. They in turn allow us to do things that we can’t do on our own. By teaming up 1+1=3. By working together we both become stronger. This is the kind of partnerships that I really like to develop. It is extremely productive; Our partner Klöckner & Co has already hired two of our former students for full time work and they want to hire a third.
What are the next steps for you with ReDI school?
We are launching the new women’s program just now and this is going to grow a lot. From December 1st, we have officially started a partnership with the City of Munich (MBQ) and we are going to build a new school there. In spring 2018 we plan to start with our ReDI Kids program. It is important that we engage in the training and socio-psychological support of refugee children and help them learn through good role models. We are fundraising for that at the moment and I hope that within 6 months' time we will be able to start implementing this as a full program. If this all goes well, we want to scale ReDI School to more cities like Hamburg, Dublin, Copenhagen and Barcelona, which have all shown an interest. But we have a ‘Nail it before you scale it’ strategy. So one thing at a time. In the future, I would like to build an international franchise of the school to help as many refugees as possible worldwide.
Which topic is not talked about often enough when it comes to your work?
Bureaucracy. If we want to incentivize more social entrepreneurship, we need to make it attractive to found social enterprises. I could not have done it without a very supportive network and a slight touch of craziness. This is not what is going to give us a high number of social enterprises. We know that the social welfare state has an innovation challenge. We need to see more innovation in the government and in the public sector and this could very well come from social enterprises.
Anne, thank you a lot for the interview!