Illustration: two microscopes examining each other

A Collaboration Based on Trust Needs Time

What will successful international collaborations between universities look like in the future? In a study of ifa's Research Programme 'Culture and Foreign Policy' Annika Hampel discusses this question: successful cooperation requires dialogue at eye level.

Interview by Juliane Pfordte

ifa: Between 2011 and 2014, while in the Department of Cultural Policy at the University of Hildesheim, you wrote your dissertation on the topic of fair cooperation, for which you earned the ifa Research Award on Foreign Cultural Policy in 2015. In it you examined how successful fair cooperation in foreign cultural policy can be. Why did you choose this topic?

Annika Hampel: I have been interested in this topic since my studies. During various internships, including at the Goethe Institutes in Bolivia and Ghana, I could observe how cooperation between the Global South and the Global North was working at a practical level. When I decided to do my doctorate in 2010, I took up this topic. There was very little literature about it, and already after my first conversations with artists, cultural actors and researchers, it was clear: At that point the question of fair cooperation hadn't yet been openly addressed, and the people involved were interested in more dialogue about it.

ifa: What would fair cooperation look like in practice?

Hampel: A German-Indian collaboration team described it as a 'guiding light', as an ideal worth aspiring to. Cooperation at eye level requires trust – and a collaboration based on trust needs time. The ideal would be achieved when both sides equally invest in the cooperation. At the moment, this is hardly possible considering the insufficient financial resources of our partner countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. For this reason, responsibilities have to be distributed differently and the financial models also have to be reconsidered. It makes sense if, for example, seed capital would enable the testing and experimentation of a cooperation idea. This way the focus would be on the cooperation process rather than the 'end product' of a partnership.

ifa: As part of ifa's Research Programme, you have also dealt with cooperation in your recent research entitled 'Internationale Hochschulkooperationen der Zukunft' (The Future of International Collaborations between Universities). Specifically, it's about transnational educational programmes, particularly binational universities, graduate schools and research centres abroad that have been initiated by Germany. What main conclusion did you come to?

Hampel: On the one hand, this kind of university partnership is risky because it's connected with high investments. On the other hand, it's beneficial for all project partners involved because it generates a lot of visibility and has the potential to establish a stable, long-term international university partnership – for a sustainable German foreign cultural and educational policy. But of course, it also comes with certain pitfalls.

ifa: For example?

Hampel: As of yet, German transnational educational programmes have mainly been limited to bachelor programmes. That's why many students do their masters and doctorates in Germany or in another country of the Global North. If we also want to talk about 'dialogue at eye level' within the scope of international university collaborations, then we have to invest more strongly in the development of post graduate programmes in countries of the Global South – including in the research infrastructure on site, meaning in libraries, laboratories and academic publishers.

ifa: How do you implement the results of your research into your own work? From 2018 to 2020 you were academic coordinator at the Maria Sibylla Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) based in Ghana. At the same time, you helped establish the Africa Centre for Transregional Research (ACT) in Freiburg, of which you are now managing director.

Hampel: I have internalised a sentence from an expert from India whom I interviewed for my dissertation: 'Do your homework!'. Compared to our partners, we often know far too little about the contexts in which we are working, about the leading actors in the arts and sciences, the central networks on site and the history of the country or region. When I started working for MIASA, I therefore learned intensely about the African continent and German-African colonial history. As an international research college based in Accra, MIASA is also a good example for how asymmetries in the generation and dissemination of knowledge can be minimised. Nevertheless, the financing from the German side results in a disparity, which requires us to repeatedly enter into dialogue with our partners and sponsors. This is tedious, but a continuous discussion about equality is important. There is still a long way to go before cooperation can happen at eye level, but with each small step, we are getting closer.

About the author
Annika Hampel
Cultural scientist

Dr Annika Hampel is International Recruitment Officer at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law & Max Planck Law. Her focus is on international cultural policy, science policy with a special focus on African-European relations and practical global cultural and scientific cooperation. Annika Hampel studied cultural studies at the universities of Lüneburg and Passau. In 2015, her doctoral thesis 'Fair Cooperation. Partnerschaftliche Zusammenarbeit in der Auswärtigen Kulturpolitik' (Fair Cooperation. Collaboration as partners in Foreign Cultural Policy) was awarded the ifa Research Award on Foreign Cultural Policy.

Research Programmes

In the research programme "Culture and Foreign Policy" and the programme line "Research" of the Martin Roth Initiative, experts investigate current issues of foreign cultural and educational policy. The research programmes set topics and develop recommendations to strengthen and further develop international cultural relations. The research assignments are accompanied by conferences and workshops. The research results are published in the ifa edition Culture and Foreign Policy, as ifa Input or as Policy Brief.
Find out more on the ifa website.