© Ökumenische Kinder- und Jugendförderung e.V.

Supporting Children with Heart and Soul – and a Sustainable Organization

Steinbeis expert provides support with the development of a new organizational structure

Sixty employees, plenty of passion and dedication, and a mission that is as rewarding as it is challenging. These are the ingredients that define the ÖKJ, an ecumenical organization that promotes the interests of children and young people in the county of Rottweil. A charitable association founded fifty years ago, the ÖKJ sees itself as a pioneer in offering the best possible inclusion. Its task is to support children as early as possible in life, especially those experiencing sometimes very different developmental problems, delays in development, or disabilities. The challenge faced by the association in organizing its work is to offer support to as many children as possible, despite staff shortages, tight budgets, and extremely high demand – no mean task, but one that was mastered by the team at the ÖKJ thanks to the support of Steinbeis expert Ute Villing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So how did it all begin? Staff at the early intervention center operated by the ÖKJ work on an interdisciplinary level. The team comprises remedial teachers, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists. All specialize in preschoolers. In addition to offering home visits, they also look after children at a number of daycare centers and kindergartens in the county. The team currently supports around 230 children, as well as offering advice to parents and teaching staff. The ÖKJ also runs an inclusive kindergarten, it organizes inclusive remedial kindergarten groups, and it offers children individual and group therapy at its headquarters in Rottweil.

Improving services thanks to new organizational structures

Despite their enthusiasm and commitment, the board of directors, managers, and other employees began to realize that the structures of the association were no longer ideal for fulfilling the tasks of the organization. Given the current setup, it would also not be possible for the organization to meet future challenges, such as changes on the horizon made necessary by the Federal Participation Act. This situation gave rise to the idea of realigning the structures of the organization. To this end, the ÖKJ brought on board the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Business Coaching, which offers access to a pool of qualified and experienced experts. This resulted in Steinbeis expert Ute Villing from the Steinbeis Transfer Institute for Leadership Psychology, HR, and Organizational Development being invited to accompany the process, from initial planning to final implementation.

Partly financed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Tourism under the REACT-EU funding program (which, among other things, supports coaching on the realignment of business models), and partly financed by the European Union, the aim of the project was to ensure the ÖKJ will also be prepared for the challenges of early intervention under future framework requirements. The first step involved an assessment of the situation as-is to understand the existing structures of the organization and management. This analysis was followed by the development of a suitable organizational structure, which also involved planning the setup of a new and innovative workplace environment. The key ideas when it came to necessary changes came from the managers themselves, and the process was moderated by Ute Villing.

So, what changes were implemented? The first touched on responsibility, which until now lay in the hands of a single person. Responsibility was reallocated to several people by setting up specialist departments. Then processes were revised to ensure experts in educational and therapeutic areas can be relieved of as many administrative and management tasks as possible. The overall organization is now headed by a managing director, who – as a Steinbeis University MBA – already possesses the required business and socio-economic expertise. Each new department – Early Intervention, Kindergartens, and Administration – is managed by an experienced specialist. This allows people to focus more on their key areas. Each department is linked to others through the management team.

Staff at the ÖKJ are extremely satisfied with the re-organization and say they are able to identify with it, partly because they were also involved in planning the new structures. “When all kinds of people are allowed to be part of something, it’s normal to have your differences” – a mission the ÖKJ is also guided by, one that helps open doors, enables children with disabilities to be part of society, and allows them to be as self-sufficient as possible. The new setup enables everyone to gain focus and dedicate themselves to the task at hand of providing early intervention support to children.

The story of Paul – getting off to a good start thanks to the ÖKJ

Like many other children in Germany, Paul went to kindergarten when he was five. Due to a developmental disorder, however, he had a severe speech impediment. This made it almost impossible for him to communicate with the other children, not only undermining his self-confidence, but also resulting in the small boy becoming more and more withdrawn. He made no friends at kindergarten, he would not join circle time, and he didn’t dare ask for things or express his wishes.

Support came for Paul in the form of an interdisciplinary team of experts at the ÖKJ. They provided access to a speech therapist, who focused on his language development. He was also helped by an occupational therapist, who gave him special exercises to do. And there was a remedial teacher, who came to visit Paul in kindergarten. Working in a small group alongside two boys of the same age, Paul learned how wonderful it is to play with other children. As time went by, he gradually became less shy in communicating with others – despite his speech impediment. Thanks to advice provided by the ÖKJ specialist, the kindergarten teachers and Paul’s parents also became more sensitive while engaging with Paul and helping in the areas that matter most. As a result, he is now ready to attend grade school. Although his speech problems have not yet completely disappeared, Paul, his relatives, and those around him manage well with the situation – without making judgments. Thanks to the help provided by the ÖKJ, Paul is now able to grow up happily alongside other children.



Ute Villing (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Transfer Institute: Leadership Psychology, HR and Organizational Development (Gosheim)