Today we have the pleasure to feature another participant of the found! 2019 accelerator program. The project «Job Goals» provides vocational training and coaching to young people, whose families were forced to emigrate to Austria. This initiative is created by a non-profit association «Kicken Ohne Grenzen», which has been engaged in helping children and young people develop soft skills through football training for the fourth year in a row. We talked with one of the founders of this organisation, Karina Lackner.

WHY FOOTBALL? 

Karina Lackner: Together with my college Alois Gstöttner we started this project in 2015 when the refugee crisis happened. We wanted to offer some leisure time activities for young refugees, and we immediately thought about football because we had made some football projects before and we knew that football can have an impact on young people. We started to offer free football training. At that time we all had other jobs, for example, I worked as a software developer, so it was a voluntary project for us – we did not have any funding, any organisation.

Very soon we started to offer football training for women as well. We realised that this kind of training can give much more than just some activity in the afternoon, that it is also a great tool for empowerment, for building self-esteem, especially for young women with a Muslim background. We started to build our project around this.

In the first year, we were looking for donors who could allow us to use football fields for free, and we also used fields owned by the city council. It was a mixture of different solutions. In the beginning, it was quite easy because the goodwill and engagement of people were very high. However, as we started to grow and run the project on a more professional basis, it became more difficult for us. Right now we are renting football fields regularly and paying the rental fee because it gives more stability and you don’t depend on people who give it to you for free. It gives more sustainability.

Founder Spotlight: Karina Lackner, Kicken Ohne Grenzen
Copyright Sebastian Wahlhuetter

 

HOW DOES FOOTBALL TRAINING HELP THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR ASSIMILATION IN AUSTRIA? 

Football game allows delivering soft skills in a very practical way. It is more than just feeling and being healthy. We developed a concept of training, which includes decision making, conflict management, leadership, and also skills young people could use for employability. But still, it was a normal football training – for example, exercising and games with certain rules, based on decision making. And afterwards, people had the possibility to reflect on what they did, to talk about how to develop and use these skills in daily life.

After 3 years], we became more experienced and also, together with a dozen other partners in the same field, we became part of an EU association for football for development. We are networking and creating exercises and collecting tools kits together. In our team, there are 25 people, including employees and volunteers – teachers, social workers and coaches.

HOW DO YOU FINANCE YOUR ACTIVITIES?

We have been lucky because we have got support from FIFA Foundation and also from SOL Foundation, which is specialising in sports for development. Recently we have got a positive response for a grant from UEFA Foundation for Children. These three foundations are founding the base program. Of course, we applied and have gotten some help from the City Council, and we also get private donations.

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR BENEFICIARIES? 

Now we have 120 beneficiaries across four teams, which means four weekly evening sessions. Two male teams, one group of young women and one kids team, with the children between eight and fourteen years old. Most of them have a migrational background. The first big group were young refugees, but now the teams are more open, more mixed, so we have young kids from different kinds of underprivileged communities. The teams are open to everybody, and we also have Austrians, who were interested in involving themselves in the project – it’s a great advantage for the other participants.

Most of the kids who come to us are lost somehow and dropped out of the system. Some of them finished school or have never even been to school, and they are in some parallel culture where they just don’t know what to do. In the beginning, they don’t realise that they get so much more outcome than just running around with a ball by participating in our project.

Founder Spotlight: Karina Lackner, Kicken Ohne Grenzen
Copyright Petra Rautenstrauch

HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE YOUNG PEOPLE TO JOIN YOUR TEAMS? 

Actually, it works on a personal level. People bring friends and relatives – brothers, sisters, daughters, cousins. We also cooperate with charity organisations, for example with Caritas. So we never experienced the need to be active in searching for participants. Our doors are open, and in the beginning young people come to us just to play football, and in the process, we integrate them in our other educational offers, and also in the projects of the City, which sometimes cannot them reach so easily. A lot of women who play in our teams can be with their friends, organize workshops or go for vocational job training – now we have all these additional educational programs.

WHAT IS THE «JOB GOALS» PROJECT? 

As part of the found! accelerator program at Impact Hub, we developed a project called «Job Goals». It is aimed at young people between the ages of 16-24 who were participating in our football trainings for a while and are already empowered to have professional experience and who also have already a good level of German. They get a CV and job coaching: specialists from Deloitte give them pieces of advice on the interests they have and on what would be good for them to do. And then we connect them to companies, which give them vocational job trainings.

All this started last year without any funding, it was a pure experiment. Until now, 15 young people have had a possibility to do it, and at the Impact Hub Vienna, we are developing a project, which would be more sustainable and would have a bigger scale and also funding, of course. We invite partners from companies, which support us or who would like to involve their employees as corporative volunteers. But it is still very connected to football because these are the people who were reached through football and who developed their skills through football. We know them – we have been with them for 3 years, we know their personalities, and the relationships are much deeper than for example, relationships they have built in AMS.

Founder Spotlight: Karina Lackner, Kicken Ohne Grenzen
Copyright Sebastian Wahlhuette

AT WHAT STAGE IS THE «JOB GOALS» PROJECT NOW?

For example, someone has a retail business and tells us: I need a young worker with good communication skills. And we think of who we have with these skills in our group and who would be interested in such work experience. So we connect them and they organize job training days. This is already happening. But the goal we are developing with Impact Hub is that every member of our teams could participate in this project. We want to have it more structured so that every week there are such trainings available. We want to establish a permanent course and the goals which the participants have to reach in order to finish the program with success and to become competitive on a labour market.

WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO INVEST YOUR BUDGET INTO NEXT?

We will need 2-3 permanent employees for this project, and a part of this money would be spent on specific football trainings, because we still want to develop the life skills during this program. And we also want very much to involve some big companies in our project through the found! accelerator program. We have sponsors’ packages developed together with our Deloitte mentors.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DO NOT WIN THE FUNDING THROUGH found! ACCELERATOR?

We have already started this project, it was not something invented specifically for this accelerator programme, so we will keep doing it anyway. Of course, we would like to have more resources. But we will try to find the money somewhere else.

WHAT CHALLENGES DOES YOUR PROJECT FACE RIGHT NOW?

The political situation is very difficult for us. Sports ministry was funding us but with the arrival of the new government, they cut the funding. That’s why we realised that our funding strategy should not be so dependent on the internal political situation and that we should look for international funding opportunities. And another problem is that women’s football in Austria is very underrepresented. Many people think: It’s a nice hobby, but you don’t need any money for it, just play football. But in fact, football is a really powerful tool for development.


Find out more about Kicken Ohne Grenzen on their website, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

 

Maxim Silva Vega
Maxim has lived in Russia, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic. He works as a journalist, music promoter, cultural and heritage curator and publishes the web platform PeopleLoveSpaces.net, which is devoted to local communities, spaces and grassroots initiatives in Europe.