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Practitioners in talk #Part8

Veröffentlicht am 20. Juli 2020, 14:06 Uhr

:: Non-academic careers ::

Practitioners in talk #Part 8

Many roads lead out of the BGHS. But where do paths lead to after the doctorate? In the summer semester we talk to historians and sociologists who have taken up their profession outside the university. Götz Frommholz talked with us about his work at the "Open Society Foundations".


Götz Frommholz (second from left) at the "Internet Governance Forum" of the United Nations.

Götz, when you think about the start of your career: How did you find your way in?

Götz Frommholz: I found my entry during my doctorate. After my diploma in Bielefeld I went to Edinburgh and did a PhD in sociology. I have to say that I was already politically active before I started my career, I retired from active politics, but I was still interested in politics. And at that time in Edinburgh, I was thinking along with other doctoral students: Where is there a niche in Germany for people who are interested in politics and want to give evidence-based advice on politics? We saw that at that time there was a great lack of organizations that were engaged in political participation at the interface between science and society outside the university. So in 2012 we founded a think tank: dpart. During my doctorate it became increasingly clear to me: I'm going back to Germany. But if I go to Germany, I'm definitely not going to science, because a scientific career in Germany simply cannot be planned. I then decided to set up our think tank in Germany, coordinate a European network of doctoral students and carry out research projects within this framework. For example, together with the University of Edinburgh, we conducted research on the Scottish referendum on independence, and a briefing that we prepared was actually also the basis for the Scottish Parliament to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16. So, we've done cool things already, and dpart is still there. But in 2016 I got fed up with cleaning doorknobs and getting grants and then I went to Humboldt University. There I did the monitoring of young researchers at the Humboldt Graduate School. That encouraged me once again when I saw the numbers: How unlikely it is to apply for a professorship and then actually succeed. I did that for two and a half years. During that time we started another research project with dpart, in cooperation with the Open Society Foundations (OSF). The foundation fled from Hungary in the summer of 2018, because of Orban and the anti-Soros laws, and moved to Germany. And then people from the foundation asked me if I would like to apply for a position as policy analyst here in Berlin, for the new office. I had just signed my third one-year contract at HU and thought to myself: Okay, the shop is not really grateful either, I try it. And I got the job. That's how I got into it.

You work for the "Open Society Foundations". What exactly are your tasks?

Götz Frommholz: Officially, I work for the Brussels office of our foundation network: the Open Society European Policy Institute. But for OSF I am here in Berlin and I am the analyst especially for EU policy in Germany. The Open Society Foundations: These are many independent foundations and programmes founded by the American philanthropist and billionaire George Soros. We are the largest private foundation worldwide that promotes democracy and human rights. There are over 120 countries in which we are active and are committed to civil society, human rights and democracy promotion.


A webinar moderated by Götz Frommholz with Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, and Selmin Caliskan, OSF Director for Institutional Relations OSF Berlin.

What tips do you have for colleagues from sociology and history who are interested in entering your field of activity?

Götz Frommholz: So, I think: If I had not had the will to work in this field, I would not have ended up there. Because it has been a long dry spell, especially when we built up our own think tank. That meant cleaning up many, many handles. I was actually on the road seven days a week and danced at all the weddings to meet people. On the other hand, political communication is a huge field: you can work for NGOs, for trade unions or for the Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce. And that's why it's important to think carefully and make a conscious decision as to who you want to work for.

Götz, thank you for the conversation.

The interview was conducted by Ulf Ortmann.


The complete conversation is available here (only in German):

Komplettversion als PDF

Further information about the project "Non-university careers" is available (here), previous interviews in the series (here).

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