Chester Holme / DER SPIEGEL

Social Design Award 2021 Grandparent Exchange, Bike Park or Yoga for Children? Vote for Your Favorite!

The jury for the 2021 Social Design Award has sorted through the submissions and selected 10 fantastic ideas. You can vote for your favorite between now and Oct. 11.
By Marianne Wellershoff

From home schooling to working from home, financial concerns to cramped living quarters: The burdens of the coronavirus lockdown were particularly heavy for families. But even without the pandemic, the daily requirements of family life are hardly manageable for many parents.

That’s why this year’s Social Design Award, presented for the eighth time by SPIEGEL WISSEN in cooperation with the DIY chain Bauhaus, is looking for good ideas to strengthen families. Associations and public institutions have sent in their projects, as have numerous parents who have developed ideas to make their daily lives easier or to provide more support to their children.

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From the roughly 130 projects submitted from around Germany and from abroad, the jury has chosen 10 for the shortlist. It is now up to you: Choose your favorite for the Audience Prize! The winner will receive 2,500 euros, as will the winner of the Jury Prize.

You can make your choice at the bottom of this article, with voting running through Oct. 11. The winner of the Audience Prize and the Jury Prize will be announced on Nov. 2 in the new issue of SPIEGEL WISSEN and on

Dance together

Foto: Magdalena Maria Stengel

On a field in front of a housing block, mothers and grandmothers dance with their daughter or granddaughter, both always dressed exactly the same. Accompanied by music, they step, twirl, hop, reach for the sky, wrap themselves in scarves and embrace. A film of this performance is the result of the Bremen project "Dance Together," in which four intergenerational pairs rehearsed a choreography together for several months with the help of two dance teachers. The initiators see dancing above all as an interaction: "How can I interact with my partner, be attentive, listen to them, give them space and mirror them? We explored all this through dancing, both improvisational and through exercises. The project thus makes the participants themselves the focus: Their stories and their experiences were the starting point for the piece." Dance together" was initiated and implemented by the Bremen-based cultural enterprise Quartier in cooperation with a daycare center.

Putting Down Roots (Ein Garten zum Wurzelnfassen)

Eight homeless people move into a derelict building in the southwestern German city of Freiburg, having been assigned to the structure by the municipality. The building has a neglected plot attached to it, and one day, one of the new residents, a father of two from Senegal, begins planting vegetables. His initiative gradually turns into a garden project that not only brings the residents of the building together, but is also establishes contact with the neighborhood. And it becomes a place where the father can meet his children and their mother and share the garden with them. The project lends stability to the residential community and gives the initiator a sense of accomplishment: He has changed something with his garden project.

An Audio Book for the Family (Familienhörbuch)

What memories do young children retain when one of their parents dies? What will they still remember of the stories told to them by their mother or father? Will they still recall what their voice sounded like? In 2017, the Cologne-based journalist Judith Grümmer founded Familienhörbuch, or Family Audio Book, which has been an officially registered nonprofit organization since 2019. It finances professionally produced audio books that terminally ill parents can record and leave to their children. They tell stories about their lives and about the family, including anecdotes both beautiful and embarrassing. They describe their experiences and pass on their memories. As the organization’s tagline says: "Whatever has a voice, survives." The audio books are designed to help children cope with the trauma of losing a parent. The finished products are 10 to 12 hours long, each requiring around 100 hours of work and costing between 5,000 and 6,000 euros, which is financed by donations. The University Hospital in Bonn is also taking a closer look at the effects of the project in a pilot study. Ultimately, the organization hopes to be able to offer such audio books nationwide.

A Meal Kit for the Family (Familienkochbox Bärenhunger)

School closures triggered by the coronavirus pandemic didn’t just mean that children no longer got a hot lunch at school, but many financially strapped parents also lost their subsidy from social services. For this reason, the Saarlouis district in Germany’s far west launched the "Bärenhunger" family cooking box, with financial support from sponsors. A total of 250 families were delivered a box containing recipes and the ingredients necessary to cook them, along with explanatory videos. The campaign was intended to both introduce families to healthy eating and, by way of cooking, also encourage them to share an activity. There was also a competition for the most creative cooking video. The project was so well received that it has since been expanded to include exercise and relaxation, and the district council also intends to support it in the long term.

Family Play Box

Family "is a constantly evolving long-term project to which we all contribute. Lightness is not the one goal we strive for, it is the common path we choose again and again. In many small steps, day by day. At times it works, at others, it doesn’t work at all.” This is the concept behind the "Family Playbox,” a tool designed to help find this common path. It was developed as a playful alternative to self-help manuals by a Hamburg designer who is herself a mother of two children and also works as a life coach. Described as a "toolbox for more ease in everyday family life," it contains cards with instructions for solving conflicts, improving communication, making joint decisions, doing the housework together and rediscovering what it means to be family. Thus far, it is only available as a prototype.

Cabin Fever (Lagerkoller)

When daycare centers suddenly closed their doors during the first corona lockdown, two fathers in Hamburg began wondering how they could create interesting, fun-filled days for their children. They came up with the idea of an app where parents could post their best games or handicraft ideas and share them with others. With the help of software developers, the idea ultimately became the free app "Lagerkoller,” the German word for cabin fever. A marble run made of paper-towel rolls, indoor basketball or a map of the city laid out on the floor using tape: These and around 400 other ideas are gathered in the app. In the meantime, it has also been expanded to include stories from vacation. The lockdown, after all, is fortunately over.

A Miniature Bike Park (Mini-Bikepark)

Staying at home all day for online schooling and then just riding around the neighborhood in the afternoon when school is over? Boring! Confronted with that reality, a group of 10- to 15-year-olds in the southwestern German city of Freiburg started building their own miniature bike park on an empty bit of land. They shoveled together ramps, hammered together balance boards and built jumps. The joint project led to new friendships – not just between the children, but also among their parents. One father then leased the property so that the kids could continue using and expanding their bike park.

Poetry Workshop PoeDU (Poesiewerkstatt PoeDU)

PoeDU is a virtual poetry workshop for children that started off during the first lockdown as a project for a single child. Before long, it expanded into a Facebook group in which poets could give children tasks and challenges to complete. In closed groups, the children could then share their verses with each other, upload photos and ultimately publish the finished product on Facebook. Some of the works even found their way into a literature magazine. Since then, the project has resulted in a book of poetry, a poetry card game and a long list of cooperation partners including several publishing houses. The workshop can also be reserved by schools and daycare centers.

The Grandparent Exchange (Wunschgroßeltern-Vermittlung)

Many people over 50 have seen their children move out, but still would like to share their experience and feel needed. Other people still have children at home, but are so mired in work that they don’t always have enough time for their sons or daughters. Fifteen years ago, a multi-generational living project in the city of Braunschweig, called "Mütterzentrum Braunschweig e.V. Mehrgenerationenhaus,” came up with the idea of establishing a grandparent exchange. Since then, the exchange has been matching children from both prosperous and financially disadvantaged households with new "grandparents,” who have plenty of time on their hands, which frequently makes them much more relaxed than the stressed-out parents. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Thus far, 81 grandparent wannabes have found families needing help through the exchange.

Yoga for Elementary School Children (Yoga für Grundschulkinder)

Foto: Klas Neidhardt

The downward dog, the baby cobra or the peaceful warrior: Those who perform these and other yoga poses can stretch their bodies, strengthen their muscles and center themselves through the development of a positive body image. And that’s not just beneficial for adults, but also for elementary school children. The project "Prevention for Elementary School Children” run by the Hamburg association "Yoga für alle” – or "Yoga for everyone” – thus offers children in disadvantaged neighborhoods the possibility to develop self-confidence and a positive relationship with their bodies through movement and meditation. A healthy body image also helps prevent the development of eating disorders. "Prevention for Elementary School Children” is also the focus of a study by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.

You can vote for the entry of your choice in the Social Design Award voting tool below (Social Design Award: Stimmen Sie ab). The voting tool is in German, but we have provided the German name of each project next to the description to make this easier for people using the site in English. All you have to do is select the project you would like to see win and then hit the red "Abstimmung" (vote) button.

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