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InWest - A sustainable structure for neighbourhood services

In the Rheinische Straße area of Dortmund in Germany, the Neighbourhood co-operative uses the ESF to train long-term unemployed people as ‘neighbourhood workers’ who provide useful services to the community while being integrated into the workforce.

Dortmund, a city of some 570,000 people lying at the eastern extremity of the 5 million-strong Ruhrgebiet conurbation, has a proud industrial history, but has also inherited the legacy of the decline of Europe’s iron and steel industries. Away from the western end of the city centre, between the derelict steelworks, stretches the Rheinische Straße. The area around it has been designed an improvement zone, which covers 155 hectares and is home to 9,500 people. Unemployment runs at 14% and 26% of the population have foreign nationality. Its advantages include excellent accessibility (it lies just outside the city’s inner ring road and has a frequent tram service), stately turn-of-the century architecture and cultural diversity. Against that, it has many abandoned buildings, little green space, and it is fragmented by busy roads and derelict industrial areas (steelworks and a major brewery).

The city’s urban renewal strategy (part of the federal Stadtumbau West programme) is based on a SWOT analysis of the area’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and takes an integrated approach to the infrastructural, architectural, economic, social, cultural and ecological aspects. The area benefits from a €16 million budget for the 2008-2017 period, 80% of which comes from the Land and federal levels. Its principal objectives are to promote businesses and job creation, to provide inner-city housing, to improve the state of the building stock, to improve leisure facilities and social and cultural infrastructure, and to activate and organise community participation in around 30 individual projects.

The European Social Fund plays its role in this approach in the form of the federal BIWAQ (Bildung, Wirtschaft, Arbeit im Quartier – Education, Economy and Work in the Neighbourhood) programme. In its second round, launched in December 2010, BIWAQ introduced a new priority for neighbourhood services (Quartiersbezogene Dienstleistungen). This innovation aims to upskill people in disadvantaged urban areas, get them into work and test out new approaches. BIWAQ has a budget of €184m for the 2008-2015 period, of which €124 comes from the ESF and €60m from the Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Bau und Stadtentwicklung (BMVBS). It has been used to support 87 projects, which run until 2014.


Neighbourhood co-operative

This initiative caught the eye of InWest eG, which was founded as a neighbourhood co-operative (Stadtteilgenossenschaft) to act as an umbrella for organisations providing services to the owners of business premises – particularly those supporting young businesses – in the western part of Dortmund, which has a population of 60,000. Among these are Union Gewerbehof, a well-established value-led workspace for environmental and socially responsible enterprises, and Heimatdesign, which promotes the work of innovative designers. The town’s migrants’ centre, which brings together some 30 different migrant’s groups, also offers start-up support.

InWest is structured as cooperative as this is the appropriate legal form for an organisation that trades and is economically self-supporting It has six member organisations, which comprise two associations – Rheinische Straße e.V. and Neue Kolonie West e.V., which is made up of creative artists – along with four enterprises: the Union Gewerbehof workspace, EWEDO GmbH (employment project leader), GiD mbH (intercultural services) and Planungsgruppe Stadtbüro (contractor for the local Neighbourhood Management project).

The co-operative’s plans include the setting up of a Kreativinkubator to stimulate the creation and growth of creative industries, and within this it plans to start a course in creative industries, within Nordrhein-Westfalen’s ERDF-supported Fachkräfte (‘Skilled Workers’) initiative (such a course does not yet exist). It hopes to start this project in the spring of 2014 and to see it continued in the forthcoming programming period.

The original plan for economic sustainability included offering services to disadvantaged and disabled people, such as cleaning and housekeeping, which householders can receive additional grant help to pay for. In the long run InWest also intends to offer services such as caretaking, property management and facility management.

A neighbourhood is only as lively as its people

Local residents are involved through the Rheinische Straße association, which was founded in March 2008 to represent the interests of citizens, enterprises, landlords, church parishes, schools and other organisations. Its objective is to work together for the neighbourhood and to satisfy the demands of the people who live in it. Its watchword is that a neighbourhood can only be as lively as the people who live and work in it. It therefore initiates, supports, plans and carries out projects and individual measures on a varied range of issues: social, economic, cultural, educational, environmental and integration. It has been allocated a subsidy for four years.

Local businesses were also active at the start, and although they have since adopted a more passive stance, remain a resource that can be tapped when the need arises. It is also a pity that the urban regeneration project has not made major investments in infrastructure or physical improvements, other than small grants to renovate building facades.

The association has three working groups on making the history of the neighbourhood more visible, finding temporary uses for derelict buildings, and improving the Westpark. It also publishes the quarterly Rheinische Straßenzeitung newspaper, which in July 2013 celebrated its 20th issue, bringing news of local issues and events. Among the local happenings are:

  • A Neighbourhood Day was celebrated in the nearby Westpark, including attractions such as tango, children’s theatre, table football and cookery and produce such as local organic apple juice. An exhibition of art on Urban Life was mounted in the ‘U’ – a centre in the iconic ex-Dortmunder Union brewery building;
  • A mobile library – more of a bookshelf – for second-hand children’s books has been started;
  • A workshop has built insect hotels;
  • The neighbourhood is building up its ‘brand’ by encouraging local businesses to stamp their mail with an ink stamp bearing the Unionviertel logo.

Neighbourhood workers

To improve the quality of life in the neighbourhood, since 2011 InWest has been running a project within the Aktiv für mein Quartier ('Active for My Neighbourhood') programme, funded under BIWAQ. Within this project, Dortmund has launched five projects in different areas of the city to provide neighbourhood services, cultural activities and assistance in the reconstruction of listed monuments. The public authority is not a member of the neighbourhood co-operative, and negotiations concerning these arrangements, are mainly handled through an umbrella body called the Interessengemeinschaft Sozialgewerbliche Beschäftigungsinitiativen (ISB – Syndicate of Socio-economic Employment Initiatives), which has the strong point that it includes all the independent organisations active in work integration.

InWest’s €470,000 project employs six neighbourhood workers (Quartiersarbeiter), who work alongside the two Hingucker (community wardens) already employed by the city. Their job is to support the commitment of inhabitants and interchange between generations and cultures through community work, to support art and culture and to guarantee a social infra¬structure. For instance they help disabled people to get to doctor’s appointments and go shopping for them, a service that is especially appreciated in winter’s icy conditions. They also grow plants on empty plots, distribute flyers advertising community events, help organise celebrations, and carry out cleaning and minor repairs in facilities such as nurseries.

The six workers, one of whom is a woman, were all previously long-term unemployed. They will be employed until 2014, and during this period hope to acquire skills that can lead to continued employment, although in the current climate that will not be easy to find. One possibility under investigation is to set up a neighbourhood services agency to bring together clients with self-employed service providers, perhaps in partnership with the large welfare organisations (Wohlfahrtsverbände). The project employs a coach who trains the workers for ten hours per week in subjects such as communications technology and writing job applications. External organisations are brought in to educate them in ways of working effectively with elderly and disabled people. In addition there is a person who instructs them while their doing their daily work. The workers earn €900 a month, fully socially insured. The course ends with the award of a finishing certificate (Arbeitszeugnis). The project’s co-ordinator, Silvia Rutzen, has the job of finding clients, either by negotiating with various social and cultural organisations or simply by talking to visitors to the project’s office.


BIWAQ - Aktiv im Quartier:
Stadt Dortmund - Aktiv für mein Quartier:
Rheinische Straße e.G.:


Silvia Rutzen
Koordinatorin Quartiersbezogene Dienstleistungen
Heinrichstraße 1
D – 44137 Dortmund
+49 231 533 7616