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What clarat taught us

We started working on our clarat project in autumn 2014. At the end of 2017, we handed clarat over to two partner organizations. Why? First, clarat refugees and clarat family were no longer aligned with our strategy. Second, we felt that the costs were disproportionate to the impact, even after over three years of implementation. In many respects, this was a useful learning experience. As such a project was largely new to us, our learning curve was extremely steep. For all the positive developments and achievements, however, there were a number of things that we would do differently next time.

These are the lessons learned. In a nutshell, they are: “Focus. Stay focused. On all dimensions.” Because we hope that managers of social organizations will also benefit from our experience, we’d like to share a more detailed explanation here. Regarding our decision to hand clarat over to new business partners, we lay out the reasons for this in other articles about clarat family and clarat refugees on our Z Blog.

1. Strategy and objectives

  • Convert your idea into a theory of change at the initial stage and define specific strategic objectives on this basis.
  • Based on the above, define concrete and ambitious quarterly operational objectives, which are to be continuously monitored and adjusted as necessary.
  • Keep the target group as limited as possible; do not give in to the temptation to utilize the full range of possible applications to meet the needs of a wide variety of target groups.

2. Growth

  • FTE-related growth should be cautious and linked to specific objectives.
  • The larger your organization becomes, the greater the risk of employing people who deviate more significantly from your system of values. If there are reservations with regard to shared fundamental values, in case of doubt your answer should be “no”.
  • Be aware that every growth spurt can cause (considerable) change to the dynamics of your organization; not all employees will welcome change to the same extent as each individual deals with change differently.

3. HR and organizational development

  • When selecting your personnel, always pay attention to whom and what you need. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by an interesting CV when in fact the job requirements call for a different profile. Employ experts for the job from the outset where appropriate. This avoids the problem of over-qualification or under-qualification. In addition, use probation time thoroughly.
  • When it exceeds a certain size (> 15 employees) an organization needs new structures and role descriptions. Make informed decisions in this regard and communicate these clearly within the organization.
  • Do not be overly concerned with yourself and your team instead of your product. In the event of fundamental conflicts that threaten the cohesion of your team, set clear boundaries. If this does not solve the problem, separate yourself from the people who are causing these conflicts. Accept the fact that not everyone likes you.

4. Product development – process and methods

  • Think of your product as a product and not as a project – your first priority is to find one effective application for your product.
  • Use methods of agile product development (build-measure-learn). Starting at an early stage, get constant feedback from your actual users (user research); do not get lost in your personal hypotheses on user behavior or distracted by enthusiastic responses from others who are not your target group.
  • Digital product development is never complete. You should always aim to keep developing your product according to user feedback and relevant analyses.

5. Product development – content

  • These days, everyone uses the internet. It is therefore essential to understand how people and specifically your target group use it.
  • In our case: both refugees (clarat refugees) and families (clarat family) first need to be informed about the social support system in Germany before they can search for specific interventions or points of contact that are useful for them.
  • Information on the internet must be presented in a credible and targeted manner. Socially disadvantaged target groups need to be supported with “outreach internet”.

6. Marketing

  • Begin early with marketing measures that are specifically aligned to the target group and review these from the outset. Try different measures.
  • Review these various measures employed by means of a Return of Investment (ROI) analysis and rearrange priorities as needed.
  • Familiarize yourself with search engine optimization (SEO) – a highly complex issue with great potential.