Newsletter SSW June 2016


Dear followers of SSW!

It has been too long since we gave you an update about the developments at SSW; we apologize for that. There are many things happening and things are changing all the time. Because there are so many open ends the time never seems quite right to wrap up the developments and fill you.

Nevertheless, the time is now!

 

Founding & Formal Developments

We are founding a gemeinnützige Unternehmer Gesellschaft (haftüngsbeschränkt). This sounds complicated because it is. We need to be gemeinnützig (working for the public cause) to be eligible for most of the contracts we would like to get from public institutions. The advantage of being gemeinnützig is that you have to pay less in tax.

The downside is, among others, an incredible bureaucratic jungle. The first and not inconsiderable hurdle is getting a declaration from the Finanzamt that we are indeed working for the public. We have been negotiating about this for two months (we’ve heard horror stories about negotiations taking up more than a year, so relatively this is going very smoothly…) In the process of doing this, we have found ourselves bogged down in disputes about the difference between “Wissenschaft” and “Forschung”;for anyone confused with the two, we suggest you contact the Finanzamt in Potsdam.

Of course, we do not want to work only for public agents. We also want to work for private corporations and institutions; in Germany businesses are not allowed to develop commercial and non-commercial activities at the same time. For this, you have to found two different institutions or corporations. This is not smart, but we cannot reform the German system. Expect more news on our commercial arm in the future!

 

Projects: Migration & Refugees

Much more rewarding were the projects we have been developing with regard to refugees, right-wing populism, integration, democracy and civil society. Some of you already saw some drafts of these projects and were very helpful with comments and suggestions – thanks to everyone who contributed there. If you are interested in the latest versions of the proposals, we’ll be happy to send them, just drop us a line.

We are close to securing funding for two projects.

 

PROJECT ONE: STRENGTHENING INTEGRATION, CIVIL SOCIETY & DEMOCRACY

In this pilot project we organize a row of 8 workshops in which we critically discuss or deliberate with 15 refugees values, ideas, perspectives that many consider defining for the European cultural tradition and identity, and that some feel endangered by refugees from other cultures, especially those refugees with an Islamic background. Topics will be, among others, ethical, cultural and political pluralism, humanism, democracy, tolerance, freedom of religion, organization and expression, gender, sexual equality, (homo)sexuality, the mutual fears of migrants and locals. This is a best practice research project, and will be subject to extensive evaluation following the completion of the workshops.

 

PROJECT TWO: UNDERSTANDING EUROPE:  HELPING REFUGEE MEN SETTLE IN GERMANY

This project is also a series of workshops to help to strengthen integration efforts in Brandenburg and beyond. As such, we propose a small pilot project working exclusively with young, unmarried men (under 21 years old) that arrived in Germany alone. This project mirrors the above, but differs insofar as it targets only men under 21 years of age that entered Germany as an unaccompanied person. The participants in this workshop will work with ‘buddies’ (these are somewhat older German or German-speaking men) for a period of six months to help strength integration. This is also a best practice research project, the plan is to conduct the project in one German state and following evaluation repeat in the rest of Germany.

We have chosen to develop these projects on integration (of migrants and locals) because these kind of projects are in line with our philosophy on social science and relevancy. We believe, that social and political science should be much more problem-driven and less theory and method driven. It goes without saying that migration, integration, radicalization, right-wing populism are pressing problems in European societies. On top of that we believe that social and political science should not shy away from normative issues, as we have been doing too often in the last half century in our quest to become a hard science. In our projects we address normative issues on freedom, autonomy, emancipation, equality, tolerance, relativism, gender, identity. Deliberating these values with newcomers also gives us an excellent opportunity to rethink European cultural identity. We do not want to deliberate these values just with newcomers, but indirectly and directly with locals. Maybe some locals are a much bigger threat to what we often consider our European identity, than the overwhelming majority of the newcomers.

We are now into contact with two Federal Ministries to get funding, as well as to several governmental institutions and private foundations in Brandenburg. We also got into contact with many different established organizations in Brandenburg and Berlin active in the fields of Integration and right-wing radicalization. With two we are about to sign a Kooperationsvereinbarung. To establish ourselves as an institution that is worthwhile talking to, took us an awful lot of emails, letters, calls and meetings, and was an education in German policy-making processes in itself, but we are slowly getting there.

 

Sarah Coughlan

June 2016