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Providing peer social counselling to refugees in Germany


July 24, 2017

A story about the partnership of IPSO and Ashoka Germany 

Helping to care

When people feel segregated and powerless, they can lose confidence and feel victimised and stuck. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) psychosocial stresses are expected to rank as the number two cause for diseases globally in the next five years.

In these kind of situations, psycho-medical help is not always necessary but, very often, psychosocial approaches can empower people and help them develop their problem-solving skills

After her children grew up, Inge Missmahl, a former dancer, decided she could not live in prosperity without doing anything to improve the lives of people who were not as lucky as she was. She founded the organisation IPSO with the view of caring for, empowering and re-mobilising people who suffer psychosocial stress or had traumatic experiences, such as family conflicts, migration, loss of beloved ones, and poverty. Her work first started in Afghanistan.

She finds, trains and enables psychosocial counsellors with various cultural backgrounds and mother tongues to work with people in order to shift their view from being a victim of circumstances to being active shapers of their situation.

Ipso Care

Additionally, with the support of the German Foreign Office, she created in Afghanistan a psychosocial video online counselling portal in order to reach as many Afghans in need as possible.

Care to help

Every year, Ashoka Germany selects the most outstanding social entrepreneurs from around 300 nominations through a multi-staged, intensive election process. Ashoka chooses people who take an entrepreneurial approach to tackle the root of a problem with an innovative solution. Out of around 200-300 nominations in Germany each year, 5 to 6 social entrepreneurs are selected and become "Ashoka Fellows".

In May 2016, Inge Missmahl was selected because of the high impact she had in Afghanistan (also recognised by the WHO) where she had been working for a couple of years. She had already helped 110,000 people with her social counselling services. Looking at the refugee crisis in Germany, she understood that these people would need support and decided to replicate the model in Germany as well. Ashoka thus provided her with a stipend to help her establish her business in Germany.

She introduced the idea and practice of peer counsellors as intermediaries between social workers and psychologists. They are very easy to approach, to talk to, and if they see a need for further medical or psychological support, they will tell the counsellee. These peer counsellors have a migration background and most of them were refugees at some point but have already lived in Germany for a couple of years. Before starting to work as counsellors for IPSO, they are trained by professional psychologists. They receive a 3-month intensive training followed by 9-month practical work with close supervision. They then work in refugee camps and through the online tool.  

This one-year training for one person costs €4,500. So far, IPSO has trained 39 peer counsellors in Berlin and 44 immigrants/refugees are currently being trained

For a healthy future

As for the 2018 onwards, IPSO is planning to:

  • Have two new groups of counsellors;
  • Increase the sustainability of their services through long-term funding for counsellors;
  • Consolidate the counselling centre in Berlin and establish a new counselling centre in Hamburg;
  • Start projects where counsellors from Germany give support to people in their home countries through the online platform;
  • Scale the model to other European countries.


Inge Missmahl Portrait

Inge Missmahl, Founder, IPSO

"For me and our project, being part of the Ashoka Fellowship is a stroke of luck. The Ashoka team is a great support and directly helps us through access to pro bono consultancy and the network. Being part of the group of Ashoka Fellows – creative, like-minded and committed Social Entrepreneurs – is motivating and empowering. Thanks to Ashoka’s support, IPSO has developed well in Germany. We are extremely grateful to the Ashoka team."

Katharina Hinze Ashoka Germany Small

Katharina Hinze, Ashoka Germany

"In a world where psychosocial stresses are a leading cause for disease globally, Inge Missmahl introduces a system to sufficiently care for, empower and re-mobilise people who suffer. Her idea is highly scalable and has proven to be very impactful in Afghanistan. We are delighted that her organisation IPSO is now transferring their model to Germany and are happy to support it."



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