Building Social Labs for Integration!

Created by Hans Sauer Stiftung


Increasing numbers of immigrant and refugees arriving in Europe pose severe challenges on our societies. In Germany, around 1 mio. asylum applications have been submitted in the last two years (cf. bpb, 2017). Even though hopeless political circumstances and persecution are often the reasons forcing people to leave their homes, the challenge of integrating asylum seekers into our society will not be solved with politics alone. We can only master that task if we combine resources, share knowledge and experiences and if we create platforms for a collaborative development of innovative, bold and unconventional ideas. It is only if we manage to create spaces for such constructive exchange, that we can turn this crisis into a chance for social, economic and cultural growth

The Hans Sauer Foundation wants to encourage such collaborative processes by prototyping a social lab for integration in Munich, where solutions for challenges like the integration of refugees can be explored and developed. Over the past years, labs and lab-like structures, which tackle various social and societal issues have developed in many European countries.

  • Labs are regarded as a promising way to address challenges and questions of the future which cannot (or can no longer) be solved within conventional structures and organisations.
  • Labs make use of a plethora of tools and methods to stimulate creativity, enable dialogue, cooperation and participation.
  • Labs dissolve disciplinary and sectoral boundaries and are replaced by participatory, interdisciplinary and experimental forms of working and creating.
  • Various players have discovered labs for the development of new solutions: companies, universities, state institutions, and, increasingly, social and non-profit initiatives and organisations.


  1. The integration of immigrants and refugees is a challenge faced not only by Munich, but by vast number of countries and cities all around the globe. The people affected by this challenge are not only the fugitives themselves and their families but also everybody living in the community they are fleeing to.
  2. Hence, the challenge is addressing refugees and immigrants as well as local (urban or rural) communities that are in one way or the other affected by it.
  3. The Hans Sauer Foundation conducted a research study of integration projects in Germany and Austria in 2017. One of the results was that in many cases the lack of stakeholder and refugee integration in the development of projects and processes was a critical factor for success or failure. This stimulated the idea to systematically implement modes of co-designing, co-developing, participation and also prototyping and iteration in the field of integration.


  1. The Hans Sauer Foundation fosters lab-like styles of working on pressing societal issues. It has etablished such structures in the field of education and integration and is about to found a “Social Lab” in Munich in 2018 together with another German Foundation, universities, welfare organisations, and social initiatives.
  2. Both in the field of “Social Labs” and the issue of integration of immigrants and refugees, the Hans Sauer Stiftung has launched a European competition on “Social Labs” in 2017 (“Designing Futures. Social Labs in Europe”). It further established an international initiative on refugee housing/affordable living for immigrants (“Home not Shelter!”) that produced new concepts and realized a co-housing project for refugees and students in Vienna (“HAWI/Traudi”), co-developed a mobile container for integrative dinners that travelled all over Europe (“Kitchen on the run”), developed a program of co-working in refugee accomodations (“werkraum”) and much more.  


The Hans Sauer Foundation is looking for solution providers which can propose approaches that bring together different stakeholders to collaboratively develop innovative ideas for accomplishing the integration of refugees in Munich and the rest of Europe. This call for solution in inspired by the idea of “Social Labs for Integration” which could work as an innovation agency for stakeholder-based and participatory project development in the field. Its outcomes can be new services, new programs, new places/spaces, and new ways of implementation.


  1. The Hans Sauer Foundation has brought information and expertise to immigration and lab projects in the past, both on the methodological level and the issue itself. It has contributed to projects like “Home not Shelter! with pro-bono consultancy and facilitation and made connections to viable public and civic stakeholders in the field. Additional foundation funding of the solution provider is possible.
  2. A social lab for immigration issues is of long-lasting interest to the foundation. A strong connection to the Social Design Lab in Munich desirable. We see a social lab as a string part of a better infrastructure in the field of immigration.


The challenge complies with the ethical standards of the project. 

The Challenge Owner

Hans Sauer Stiftung