He united pietistic piety with progressive education, and selected the educational initiative that had been begun by Luther, the promotion of the Bible, as well as the reformation of social services as important goals of his work.
The core of what was later to become the Francke Foundations was an orphanage he had founded. The first Protestant mission, the Diakonie (Protestant social welfare institution), the secondary school in Germany, millions of German "People's Bibles" and a large number of popular Protestant hymns have their origin there.
Stuffed animals and school gardens
Francke's educational concept was wide-ranged. The introduction of the secondary school revolutionised the school system. Pupils from all social classes, from the orphan to the child of aristocrats, received an education that was true to life – not in theory, but with the use of "real things" like models, stuffed animals, scientific tools, objects of natural history, and with the inclusion of practical, manual skills that were taught in workshops and school gardens. The school system was permeable. Children were individually monitored during their studies and were able to transfer to the higher school type, according to their talents.
At an early stage, August Hermann Francke had recognised the necessity to professionalise teaching. In consequence, he systematically trained a number of his theology students as teachers. With the foundation of the first teacher's training academy in 1696, he institutionalised this task and therefore played a vital role in the development of teaching as a profession.
A place of teaching, learning and living for more than 4000 people
Until the 19th century, the Foundations established themselves as a school city. Until 1946, they existed as a Christian and humanistic institution. Between 1946 and 1991 they lost their independence.
Since 1991, the Francke Foundations have been re-established as a public trust and are re-developed with much dedication as a centre of cultural, scientific, educational, social and Christian institutions. Today, schools and kindergartens, a creativity centre for children, a "house of the generations", a workshop for young people, a Bible centre, traditional shops, archives, libraries, museums, as well as research facilities of both the university and other institutions are housed on the premises. More than 4000 people learn, teach, work and live in the Francke Foundations today.