Sandra Schürmann

Ashoka Fellow
Witten, Germany
Fellow Since 2009


This profile was prepared when Sandra Schürmann was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Through its key project, JobAct, Projektfabrik takes a different approach to youth unemployment. Targeting groups of 30 long-term unemployed youngsters with no special interest or talent in acting, the ten-month program closely intertwines innovative theater and other artistic pedagogy with careful mentoring and job coaching. Youth create a theater performance in the first five months of the program and in the second phase they complete a five-month internship.

Sandra is using theater pedagogy as an empowerment strategy that enables young people and their job coaches to work on constructing individual life perspectives and realizing first steps to long-term employment. By participating in a play from design to execution, unemployed youth learn basic skills such as punctuality, reliability, teamwork, and communication. Complementary to this experience, youth are empowered to apply for jobs. They write applications—first for internships and then for vocational trainings and jobs—supported by group work, individual coaching, and mock interviews. Both experiences are closely linked to achieve the essential transfer of skills and motivation. In producing and organizing the play, everyone finds his or her unique and important position, from stage setting to PR, from costume design to ticket sales. Every participant also has to find his/her role in the play and perform on stage. The effect is striking: The participants not only gain personal self-esteem and an identity as a team, but they also understand that they have the potential to create something out of nothing. They see how much they can achieve when they take personal responsibility. In comparison to the low placement rate of other youth employment programs, the rate of job placement for youth graduating from a Projektfabrik JobAct program is 65 percent.

So far, JobAct has reached 1,650 participants in five states across Germany, with 55 theater premieres over the last four years, attended by 10,000 visitors and highly publicized through media and awards. Sandra is spreading the program regionally and to other target groups and influencing the landscape of public funding employment programs.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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