Markus H. Seidel

Off Road Kids Foundation
Year founded: 

The Off Road Kids Foundation is a countrywide system in Germany benefiting street children, providing emergency hotlines for young people and parents, including two children’s homes and a university programme.

Focus: Children, Youth, Education
Geographic Area of Impact: Germany
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 2,000 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 2 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 25%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Germany, 2005

About 2,000 children run away from home each year in Germany, with +300 becoming street children. Unlike in developing countries, the phenomenon of German street children is not a symptom of poverty but the result of social dysfunction. Most runaways are fleeing mistreatment, abandonment and abuse, and many come from rural areas seeking new lives in larger towns and cities.

Innovation and Activities
Working to ensure that runaways never become street kids, the Off Road Kids Foundation’s Countrywide Street Social Work programme has branches in Germany’s largest cities (Berlin, Dortmund, Hamburg and Cologne) where many children end up. Due to its extensive network within Germany, young people can more easily be reunited with their families, reach a youth welfare office or therapy centre regardless of the distance. This is a fundamental difference between Off Road Kids and local assistance organizations.

Off Road Kids finances its Countrywide Street Social Work mainly through sponsorship; its main supporters include Vodafone Foundation Germany, Deutsche Bahn, Bausparkasse Schwaebisch Hall, Alcatel Lucent and Permira. Other supporters are the Franz Beckenbauer Foundation, Red Nose Day (ProSieben TV-channel), and numerous Lions and Leo Clubs. Recently, Off Road Kids Foundation began dealing in art as an additional financial resource.

Off Road Kids offers a free 24-hour emergency hotline for young people in need of help, and a hotline for parents with children threatening to run away or who have already. The foundation’s social workers investigate the best possible prospects for each child, and young people who cannot get help from their families or in their hometown can find accommodation in one of two children’s homes. Since 1994, Off Road Kids has helped +2,000 young people improve their future prospects.

The key to integrating young, underprivileged people into the workforce and society is through help from qualified educational professionals. To this end the Off Road Kids Foundation established the Institute for Pedagogic Management, an undergraduate programme offering students a BA in Business Administration.

The Entrepreneur
Markus Seidel was a journalist before starting Off Road Kids. In 1992, a documentary on street children led him to write the book Street Children in Germany: Destinies that Should Not Exist. The contacts Seidel established with street children while doing research for the book developed into the Countrywide Street Social Work system and the establishment of the children’s homes. At the same time, he expanded his knowledge and experience with Off Road Kids and implemented management knowledge into social work. Off Road Kids now plans additional pedagogic management institutes throughout Germany.