Hildegard Schooss

Ashoka Fellow
Hamburg-Eimsbütte, Germany
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Hildegard Schooss was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Hildegard’s multigenerational houses challenge the marginalization of excluded groups by reintroducing venues that foster neighborhood relations. By adapting the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” to industrialized societies, caring for children, the elderly, the sick, and the handicapped are collective and mutual responsibilities. Having been described as “public living rooms,” the centers allow the elderly, women, and children to claim a public space. The multigenerational houses managed and operated by their members, provide peer-to-peer contact and exchange on a drop-in basis. Basic social and family services are also made available, in addition to support for entrepreneurial activities and trainings by providing workspace, consultancy, and skill-building activities.

Multigenerational houses impact communities on several levels. They influence the quality of parenting and child-raising, as well as the quality of family relations. They also revitalize neighborhoods, bring new family services and facilities to the communities, and provide a platform for grassroots players to be involved in local governance. The multigenerational housing movement, which has been led by Hildegard since the 1980s, has contributed to the transformation of social institutions and changes in legislation. It has created a paradigm shift in the field of social work and social welfare: Mothers and families are no longer seen as mere clients of professional programs, but as active participants in local planning and decision-making.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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