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Clara Fontdevila
Clara Fontdevila
Clara Fontdevila from the Autonomous University of Barcelona is currently staying at CRC 1342 as a guest researcher. In her PhD thesis she is investigating how UN’s global education agenda has been shaped.

Clara, you are sociologist and currently working on your PhD. What is your thesis about?

My thesis is about the post-2015 global education agenda integrated within the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This agenda is also known as Education 2030 and is regarded as a landmark in the history of global targeting in education. I try to understand the community of practice that is linked to development of targets and the indicators. I address this from a political-sociology perspective. I am looking at who was and is involved in the process? What was the varying influence of these collective and individual actors? Which networks emerged? And which are the key mechanisms of consensus-building, or to what extend is there a conflict of interests?

Which actors are you looking at especially?
I am looking at collective actors like International Organisations, NGOs and national bureaucracies. But I am also interested in the role of individual actors within these collective actors. In order to understand possible brokers or policy entrepreneurs and where they are located within these networks.

At what stage of your PhD are you?

I am in my third year now.

Have you collected most of your data by now?

Not yet. The data collection has proved the most challenging aspect. I am conduction semi-structured interviews, and making appointments with the actors is very time-consuming. And I have also tried to conduct ethnographic-oriented observations of key meetings, in order to understand what is going on, what are the conventions and patterns of communication, and which are their effects in terms of distribution of power.

And when do you plan to finish?

I would like to finish by the end of next year. The whole process took longer than I expected. And I am not working full-time on my PhD thesis, I am involved in other research projects as well and I also do some teaching.

What brought you to Bremen?

I read a lot of Kerstin Martens’ work and of Dennis Niemann. I have been following their work for a long time. Also, the recently approved collaborative research centre got approved Bremen seemed to be a really interesting place to go to.

Are you involved in Kerstin’s CRC project?

No, I enjoy the exchange with Kerstin and her colleagues, but I am not involved in any of her work. I am purely a guest researcher here and I try to make the most of the chance to focus on my thesis.


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Meeting at the Jacobs University Bremen
Meeting at the Jacobs University Bremen
Four scientists from the Centre for International Social Security Studies met with CRC 1342 members to exchange their views on pension reforms in China and Germany.

At the beginning of July a delegation from the Centre for International Social Security Studies (CISS) at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) came to visit the China Global Center at Jacobs University Bremen, and was warmly welcomed by the Dean of Jacobs University Bremen, Prof. Arvid Kappas. It was the first time Director Prof. Bingwen Zheng, General Secretary Prof. Lianquan Fang, associate Professor Chuanjun Qi and associate Professor Peng Guo visited Bremen.

During the meeting, Professor Tobias ten Brink delivered a presentation about the CRC 1342 project B05 "Dynamics of Chinese social policy. Interplay of national and international influences", which he and Professor Tao Liu at Duisburg-Essen University are directing. Tao Liu afterwards explained to the guests Germany’s Riester pension reform in detail. Peng Guo presented an update on the dynamics and reforms of Chinese old-age insurance. Dr. Armin Müller, Dr. Fei Wang, research fellow Tong Tian and Yuxin Li of Duisburg-Essen University also attended the meeting.

Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382

Sigrid Lupieri
Sigrid Lupieri
Lupieri is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge and will stay in Bremen for three months, collaborating with project A04.

Thanks to the generous support of an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation grant, we are delighted to be hosting Sigrid Lupieri at the CRC and SOCIUM as a guest researcher for the period of 01 September to 30 November 2018. As a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, her research analyses the factors influencing the allocation of health care resources to older Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Ms. Lupieri's previous experience includes working at UNESCO and UNDP in New Delhi and New York, as well as several years as a journalist in Armenia, Georgia, Germany and the U.S. She holds master’s degrees in journalism (Northwestern University) and modern European history (University of Cambridge), and a BA in foreign languages and literatures from the University of Udine, Italy. During her stay at our center, Ms. Lupieri will be working in close collaboration with the A04 project.

Dr. Lorraine Frisina Doetter
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58561

Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
In an interview Johanna Kuhlmann, who moved from TU Braunschweig to the CRC 1342, explains why social policy combines the small things with the big picture and why it appeals to her to discover something new in the familiar.

You're a political scientist. When did you know this was the right job for you?

At least not when I started studying. I studied political science and German language and literature and at the beginning I had no concrete idea of what I wanted to become. Journalism was an idea, but that was very vague. I then did several internships related to political science and German literature.

What exactly?

I have worked in a ministry and with a member of the Bundestag, but also in a literature research institute. I knew I wanted to work in political science when I had my first job as a student assistant at university.

That was still in Münster, right?

Yes, I really liked that, because my professor at the time directly involved the student assistants in his research. I was involved in many discussions and could participate in research. I quickly got a comprehensive insight. So I thought: This mitght be it.

What are you interested in social policy?

When I started studying social policy, I was particularly interested in strategic aspects, specifically: Why do political actors cut social benefits that are essential for many people voting fir them? That was a few years after the Agenda 2010 reforms. My dissertation then focused more on the content dimension of social policy, i.e. how exactly does the provision of social policy services actually change? And how can this be explained - beyond strategic aspects? Even if social policy is incredibly small-scale and one can deal for a long time with paragraphs of individual social laws: Changes in social policy always make statements about the basic principles of social coexistence and about the question of what role the state is prepared to take in providing welfare for citizens.

Why did you swap your post-doc position in Braunschweig for your new position in the CRC?

Because I was very interested in the conceptual design of the CRC as a whole and the project in which I am now working. The project aims to bundle the results of the other case study centred projects and to explain the causal mechanisms that lead to the dissemination of social policy. In this way, an independent theoretical contribution is to be made. That's what attracted me. I am not a pure theorist and have also worked empirically during my doctoral thesis. But I do have a "weakness" for theoretical questions. I have also focused on European welfare states so far. One starting point of the CRC is: We know a great deal about OECD welfare systems, but far less about other welfare systems. That's a lot like me.

And you didn't find that discouraging, but appealing?

Absolutely. That's what scientific work is all about, namely uncovering blind spots. I am familiar with the fundamental debates and theoretical points of reference of the CRC, which will initially be the focus of my work in the project. But the social policies of many non-OECD countries, especially in detail, are new territory for me. Because in our project, which has no empirical element of its own, we will look a lot into the other projects, I expect a lot from it.

Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58574

Dr. Dennis Niemann
Dr. Dennis Niemann
As a young boy Dennis Niemann wanted to become a paleontologist. Today, as a political scientist, he prefers to look for social mechanisms and patterns rather than petrified bones.

What was your first career aspiration as a child or teenager?

Probably the mandatory astronaut, firefighter, or policeman. A profession in which you "really do something". I fully embraced the role models of that time. When I grew up in the 1980s, there was also a great dinosaur phase. So my plan was to dig up dinosaurs later.

And why aren't you doing it today?

Because it's probably quite boring to dig in the ground and find such a petrified bone every couple of years. My first realistic career aspiration at the beginning of my studies was becoming a journalist. Like so many in social sciences. I thought that woould suit me because I've always liked to write. But I had neither connections nor special talent in the field of journalism.

Why did you start studying social sciences?

This was actually recommended to me during my school years at a student advisory service. I then studied politics and law. And right at the beginning of my studies it turned out that this was a good choice, also as a professional field.

In which sense?

This was primarily due to my work as a student assistant. In the third semester, the professor asked me if I wanted to work as an assistant. I was somewhat flattered. However, I really enjoyed my work.

You had to do more than just make photocopies.

Unlike some of my fellow students, I wasn't used as a copy slave. I was lucky enough to work for Michael Zürn, who does research in international relations. Zürn had a project on international environmental policy at the time.

When was that?

That was in 2003/2004, when there was a huge database on environmental regimes and I had the task of evaluating it. That was completely new and very interesting for me as a student, because it resulted in things that nobody knew.

Do you have an example?

That it makes more sense, for example, to use quasi-legal arbitration bodies to assess compliance with the rules rather than immediately threatening to impose any sanctions. And that's when I got infected with this virus that is driving us to create knowledge.

Your thesis was based on your work as an assistant.

Exactly, the topic was "Compliance in international environmental regimes". Since I had the position as a student assistant, I have worked continuously to get a foot in the door. And that went relatively smoothly thanks to the Collaborative Research Centre "Staatlichkeit im Wandel". So I started in the middle of the second project phase. At that time I was also an assistant to the co-project manager Ansgar Weymann. One of his colleagues found out that I wanted to do a PhD and said: "Come by, we talk about it." I think I said something like: "I would like to do research on international organisations, I don't care about the policy field". And that is how I turned to education. And that's really exciting.

Imagine you have everything you need: sufficient financial resources, good colleagues, the necessary knowledge, the best technical equipment and also enough time - which research question would you try to solve?

Phew! This is a question you don't deal with in normal life at all! Because that is completely unrealistic! However, with a colleague I had once applied for funding for a project about school autonomy in a European comparison. That's a really exciting topic.

Can you explain briefly what you mean by that?

School autonomy means that schools are less strongly regulated by the state, but can develop their own profile and teach and train people within the broadest possible framework. I would like to investigate this in a European comparison. If we had unlimited resources available for this, I would trace these development paths for each European country and subsequently have a data collection with all possible explanatory factors as to why states have opted for or against more school autonomy. To recognize what were the decisive explanatory factors for the development. That is something I am particularly interested in in general: Why did it come to something? To discover what is not obvious, but rather contradicts expectations.

Basically, the CRC 1342 is also designed in this way: You look at the past development of social policy and search for patterns.

That's is why I like the CRC research programme so much. Sometimes you have to look backwards and retrace what has happened. This enables you to identify mechanisms and patterns.

You're a postdoc now. What's your plan for the next ten, twenty years?

In the first funding phase, my goal is to seriously tackle the habilitation. And then of course I would also like to apply for professorships.

Do you already have a topic in mind for your habilitation?

Roughly, yes. It is based on our CRC education project. We look at the ideas that international organisations have on the subject of education. We also examine organisations that previously had nothing to do with education, e.g. the World Bank or the OECD, which previously had a clear economic focus. I am interested to know why the OECD, for example, is now regarding education as extremely important. What was the incentive to get so involved in this field? When you hear OECD, you immediately think of the PISA survey. And there are other international organisations that also are very much in favour of social policy. What makes organizations expand suddenly? And how do organisations that have been working on that field before, react and adapt to the new competition? Are they being ousted, are they looking for other niches? This project will be driven forward in the next six months.

Dr. Dennis Niemann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67473

Dr. Camilla Addey
Dr. Camilla Addey
Camilla Addey from Columbia University raises this question in her research project "ILSA Inc.", which she recently presented at CRC 1342.

The results of international large-scale assessments (ILSA) such as PISA, IGLU or TIMMS have a significant influence on the education policies of the participating countries. According to the OECD, for example, a large majority of participating countries have indicated that PISA has influenced the design of curricula and that their policy-making is influenced by the strategies of high-performing countries.

"The data from these International Large Scale Assessments are generally considered accurate and reliable," said Camilla Addey, lecturer at Columbia University, New York. During a presentation of her research project "ILSA Inc." to members of the SFB 1342 at the University of Bremen last week, Addey said that most steps of ILSAs (including development, implementation and evaluation) had been outsourced to private companies. "We do not know what impact this significant involvement of the private sector has on large-scale assessments and ultimately on education policy," said Adey. "So far there has been no empirical research on this topic."

Addey wants to close this gap with her project. Addey collects qualitative and quantitative data through network ethnography, a mixture of network analysis, qualitative interviews, observations and much more. Addey's goal is to map the network of global ILSA actors and make the nature of their relationships transparent.

Addey is still in the early stages of data collection. However, she said that the network of companies and individuals involved in international large-scale assessments was relatively small and closed. During the presentation Addey did not want to reveal details from the first interviews she had conducted with employees of relevant international organisations. It would be too early for that. However, those interested could contact her directly.

Camilla Addey at a glance:
Camilla Addey is lecturer at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York. She is also co-directing the Laboratory of International Assessment Studies, an interdisciplinary network for experts in international large-scale assessments.

Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier and Dr. Dieter Wolf
Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier and Dr. Dieter Wolf
Sven Beckert's work on the history of the global cotton trade inspires Frank Nullmeier to reflect on future social policy research.

As part of the lecture series "Global Cotton. One University - one Book - one City" Frank Nullmeier and Dieter Wolf presented their thoughts on what social policy research can learn from Sven Beckert's book "Empire of Cotton".

Based on years of research, historian Beckert tells the story of global capitalism using one product as an example: cotton. Through production, processing and trade, the natural fibre has linked the most diverse regions of the world.

After Dieter Wolf had discussed two of Beckert's key points (1, "The triangular trade between Europe, Africa and Latin America was based on violence and a manifestation of war capitalism" and 2, "The British banned slavery when industrial production based on wage labour became more profitable than the old model"), Frank Nullmeier raised the question of what modern social policy research can learn from Sven Beckert's approach and methodology. Nullmeier named three main points:

1) Transnationality. National historiography is no longer sufficient to explain the dynamics of social policy decisions. Due to the integration into the global economic and financial system, the effects of migration and global communication systems, decisions on social policy no longer result solely from national factors. Social policy research must therefore be expanded into a history of transnational links across continents, similar to Beckert's history of cotton cultivation and trade and its effects.

2) Political economy. Beckert did not see global cotton trade purely as a result of the interplay between supply and demand. It results (to this day) to a considerable extent from the balance of power and violence between the participating countries and empires. The same applies to social policy: the economy as a central influencing factor cannot be adequately explained without the political sphere, including the balance of law, regulations, power and violence.

3) Analysis of causal chains: In his book, Beckert uses many examples to show how an entire cascade of events and reactions to them had many different effects in different places around the world. Social policy research should also pursue such long causal chains and reconstruct complex causal networks in order to understand the emergence and change of social policies.

The lecture series "Global Cotton. One university - one book - one city" runs until the end of the year.

Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58576

The Russian government has recently decided to raise the retirement age and VAT. CRC member Martin Brand analyses whether these decisions were necessary and what social disruptive force they could unfold.

Value-added tax in Russia is to rise from 18 to 20 percent. But it is above all the pension reform that moves people in Russia, writes Brand: The regular retirement age is to rise from 55 to 63 for women and from 60 to 65 for men. If you look at life expectancy, especially of Russian men (67.5 years), it is obvious that this reform is extremely unpopular: according to a survey, 92 percent of the population are against it. Protests are already taking place on online platforms and in the streets.

On the other hand, the reform seems inevitable: the pension fund is chronically in deficit, in 2018 the equivalent of 17.7 billion euros will be missing, 40 percent of revenues will come from the state budget. "This tension between economic and social factors," writes Brand, "builds the background of the debate about Russia's pension system reform - at the latest after the World Cup". 

Further information:
The detailed article for the Federal Agency for Civic Education

Martin Brand
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research Centre for East European Studies
Klagenfurter Straße 8
28359 Bremen

Keonhi Son
Keonhi Son
Keonhi Son is especially interested in social policies of emerging countries. In an interview she explains why the shortcomings of the South Korean social system are a major motivating factor for her.

You studied in South Korea and made a bachelor’s degree, but then you gave your career a complete turn-around. Please tell me about it.

I did my bachelor's degree in South Korea and then I started a totally new subject in a different country.

What was your first subject?

My first subject was English literature and I specialised in English theatre. I was quite into it at that time. But at one point I made another decision.

Why? Did you work in that field and did not like it?

I worked a bit for a theatre company and then I went to London to learn a bit more. Then I moved to Germany to study more. But I really didn't like theatre studies in Germany. That was when I realised that literature and theatre may not be the right thing for me. So I started to figure out what my second favourite subject was: public administrative studies or political science - in South Korea both are very mixed.

And that was what you made your master's degree in Heidelberg in.

Yes, in Public Policy.

Political or administrative science is very different to literature and theatre – what is it that you like about the subject so much?

First of all, studying political science was great fun. But secondly South Korea really needs to develop its social policy right now. Because we achieved economic development but the other factors didn't follow up yet. So I wanted to contribute to that. My parents and my relatives for example suffer from the absence of a well-established pension system. Somehow I was thinking: Maybe I can do something about it. Germany was a perfect place for me to study. Because it has quite a long history of social security systems.

I read that South Korea recently made some progress in terms of social policy: They reduced the weekly working hours - from 68 to 52!

Still very much!

Do South Koreans really work that much?

Yes, they do. It's a totally different mindset from European people. People back then had a very high level of job security and at the same time they thought they belonged to the company - they dedicated their life to their company. Even if the company exploited the people. But for a long time the people were okay with that and thought: This is the place I belong to. But now job security in South Korea is very low. Young people do not want to do long hours anymore: "Your are not going to hire me forever, so why should I work for you forever?" The reduction of the working hours is a good sign but at the same time it is sad. Because now job security is very low. Like anywhere else.

What would you like to achieve in your career in the next 30 to 40 years?

That is a very long time. I think in our generation we will have to change our jobs our jobs often. But I really want to be a researcher. I want to study social policy of less developed countries. So the CRC is the perfect project for me because I always wanted to study this subject especially in my region. I am not so sure if I want to BE or BECOME something in terms of career, but I am sure that I want to DO something.

Does that mean that you want to change the South Korean society?

I would like to help a bit. Change is too big a word. I am not that ambitious. I would like at least to provide a good model of social policy that might work. When Europe developed its welfare state, the constellation was completely different to the one we encounter in Soth Korea right now. It is a very different game now. We need to produce a new model of social policy. We can't just copy the European system. Working on the development of such a new system, that is what I want to do.

If you had anything you needed: enough research money, bright colleagues and all the necessary knowledge - which research question would you like to solve?

That is a very big question. I think it's quite similar to what I already told you. The less developed countries are in a situation that they have suffered from financial crisis, rapid globalisation, de-industrialisation, post-industrialisation and so on - with all of these things happening we should know how to develop our social policies, because we developed the social security systems way slower than our economy. And before the private insurance system will dominate the entire system, we should somehow find a way to provide a public social system.

Keonhi Son
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 9
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58541

Senator Eva Quante-Brandt
Senator Eva Quante-Brandt
The Collaborative Research Centre "Global Dynamics of Social Policy" presented its research programme to an expert audience in Bremen. Senator Quante-Brandt emphasised the importance of the CRC for the federal state and its science enviroment.

The Collaborative Research Centre "Global Development Dynamics of Social Policy" (CRC 1342) has presented its research programme to an expert audience on 1 June. About 100 invited guests from universities, politics, administration and civil society came to the Bremen House of Science to follow the presentation and to talk to the team of the CRC 1342.

To kick off the event, Bremen's Senator of Science Eva Quante-Brandt congratulated the team of the CRC 1342 on the success of the proposal and the funding by the German Research Foundation. She emphasised the importance of the social sciences for Bremen as a research location and described the CRC 1342 as a "social science lighthouse project that shines beyond the borders of Europe". Excellent research and teaching, high international visibility and immediate social benefit of research - the CRC will set a milestone in these fields, Quante-Brandt said.

CRC spokesperson Herbert Obinger then gave an overview of the structure and research programme of the CRC. In a worldwide comparison Obinger showed that the introduction of social policy programmes varied greatly in time and space. "Why are there these major differences in social policy? This is what we are interested in, this is what we want to explain," said Obinger. To this end, the researchers involved in the CRC investigate not only factors of influence within nation states, but also international interdependencies such as economic relations, migration, the exchange of ideas, the influence of international organisations and relations of violence between states.

Frank Nullmeier pointed out that societies are faced with the fundamental decision as to whether they react to social challenges in an exclusive or solidarity-based manner, i.e. through social policy measures. In many parts of the world, forms of social protection existed very early, including in Europe, South America and South-East Asia.

In its analysis, the CRC 1342 focuses on the period 1880 to 2020 and takes 1) a macro-quantitative approach in order to identify and analyse the various areas of social policy on a global scale. A central element of this project area is the development of a web-based, interactive database on social policy: the Global Welfare Information System (WeSIS). On the other hand, 2) detailed case studies are conducted at country level in order to investigate in depth the effects that a wide variety of influencing factors have on the design of social policy. The aim of this project area is to develop a theory of social policy dynamics that overcomes purely national narratives by capturing the causal mechanisms leading to the emergence of public social policy due to the interaction between national factors with inter- and transnational interdependencies.

Philipp Jarke
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58573

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