11.6 Million Euros for Research: Funding of Projects on Social Inequality

Together with partners throughout Europe, the Volkswagen Foundation is supporting eight international teams of researchers seeking solutions to social inequality – which a total of 11.6 million euros. From Germany, researchers from Berlin, Braunschweig, Freiburg, Göttingen, Kiel, Cologne and Munich are involved.

Slum in front of modern skyscrapers of the Makati financial and business district in Manila, Philippines. (Fotography:
In the Philippine capital of Manila, social inequality is evident in a slum that lies directly in front of the skyline of the Makati City banking district. (Photo: Friedrich Stark - Alamy Stock Photo)

The call "Global Issues – Integrating Different Perspectives on Social Inequality" was the first of four calls under the umbrella of the funding initiative "Global Challenges – Integrating Different Perspectives". A condition for funding is that each research group must include at least two partners from low and middle-income countries, in addition to a project partner in a European high-income country. In this way, the foundations aim at stimulating closer cooperation between scientists from different regions of the world, open up new perspectives and enable new cooperations and networks. Around 250 pre-proposals were submitted as of the deadline on October 30, 2018, and eight of the subsequent full proposals have now been selected for funding.

In one of the projects now being funded, the researchers are using the example of the Congo Basin to investigate the question of what inequalities are caused by the dynamics of commercial forest use, and what role institutions, international initiatives and agreements play in this. Another project looks at different forms of labor exploitation in the ‘global south’ from a historical and contemporary perspective: What significance do they have for the emergence and manifestation of permanent inequalities? The funding is being made available by a consortium of foundations comprising the Volkswagen Foundation, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (Sweden), Compagnia di San Paolo (Italy) and Novo Nordisk Fonden (Denmark).

The calls for proposals are part of the international funding scheme "Global Issues – Integrating different Perspectives" initiated by the Volkswagen Foundation and implemented in close cooperation with various European partner foundations. The initiative aims to generate new insights into challenges of global relevance that have so far been little researched. The calls are based on some of the challenges addressed by the United Nations' "Sustainable Development Goals". With the "Global Issues" program, the participating foundations also want to contribute to strengthening research cooperation between the "Global South" and the "Global North".

The following four projects are funded by the Volkswagen Foundation:

"Water Security for Whom? – Social and Material Perspectives on Inequality around Multipurpose Reservoirs in Colombia"
Humboldt-Universität Berlin, Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (Prof. Dr. Tobias Krüger), together with Pontificia Xavierian University, Faculty of Environmental and Rural Studies, Bogotá, Columbia, and the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Department of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources, Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Grant: 1.45 million euros)

"Reconfiguring Sustainable Energy Transitions: Can Social Equality and Investments in Renewable Energy be Aligned?"
Utrecht University, Faculty of Geosciences (Prof. Dr. Maarten Hajer), together with University Freiburg, Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources (PD Dr. Philipp Späth) and Stellenbosch University, Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, South Africa, and Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru, India. (Grant: 1.47 million euros)

"The Forestry Sector as an Inequality Machine? Agents, Agreements and Global Politics of Trade and Investment in the Congo Basin"
University of Helsinki, Department of Forest Sciences (Prof. Dr. Maria Brockhaus), together with University of Göttingen, Department Forest and Nature Conservation Policy (Dr. Symphorien Ongolo) and University of Yaounde II, Political Science, Cameroon, and University of Kinshasa, Faculty of Law, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Chinese Academy of Forestry, Peking, China. (Grant: 1.47 million euros)

"The Production and Reproduction of Social Inequalities: Global Contexts and Concepts of Labor Exploitation"
University of Cologne, Institute of Ethnology (Prof. Dr. Michaela Pelican), together with Jinan University, Academy of Overseas Chinese Studies, Guangzhou, China, and Addis Ababa University, Center for Human Rights, Ethiopia, and University of Cologne, Historical Institute. (Grant: 1.25 Mio. million euros)

Another four projects are funded by the partner foundations:

"Reconfigurations of Educational In/Equality in a Digital World"

"Special Economic Zones: A Force for Good to Reduce Inequality"

"Inequalitrees – A Novel Look at Socio-Economic Inequalities Using Machine Learning Techniques and Integrated Data Sources"

"The Impact of Inequality on Growth, Human Development, and Governance: @EQUAL"

Further calls

Under the umbrella of "Global Issues – Integrating different Perspectives", two topics are currently open for proposals. A funding offer on the topic of "Human-Environmental Interactions" is also planned for 2020.

Menschen vor traditionellem Holzhaus
The research project "Shared Knowledge", which deals with the "decolonization" of ethnological museums, accompanies the construction phases of a traditional community house of the Kotiria in Macucu (Colombia). (Photo: Mikko Gaestel)

Call "Cultural Heritage and Change" (Deadline for Applications: March 25, 2020)

Since our cultural heritage – characterized as the ideal possession of all mankind – is subject to diverse processes of change due to current political developments, ecological changes and technical innovations, innovative research projects that deal with these processes of change are taken into account in the call for proposals. It is primarily aimed at scientists from the humanities, cultural and social sciences who include the perspectives of different actors at national, regional and local level, since cultural heritage has an identity-creating character that goes beyond national borders. In addition, our cultural heritage is exposed to similar threats in many parts of the world, which often require transnational solutions. Further information can be found on the website for the call "Global Challenges – Integrating Different Perspectives on Cultural Heritage and Change".

The call is aimed at research groups that deal with global human medicine and health research. (Photo: Novo Nordisk Fonden)

Call "Mobility – Global Medicine and Health Research" (Deadline for Applications: April 17, 2020)

What responsibility do international, national and local actors have to respond to global health threats? How have health systems responded to migration movements so far – and how can these reaction processes be optimized? What are the effects of the transmission of diseases by animals and their cross-border transport and how can dangers be contained? And what is the significance of climate change for global health – which illnesses can it demonstrably trigger? Research projects on these and other questions are in demand in the new call "Global Challenges: Mobility – Global Medicine and Health Research". It takes a look at growing mobility, for example through migration, flight, tourism or cross-border employment relationships and their effects on global medical and health systems.