Heinrich Böll Foundation, founded in 1997, is a legally independent political foundation based in Germany and is named after prominent writer Heinrich Böll (1917–1985). The organisation is affiliated with the German Green Party that supports independent programmes and also hold seminars, conferences and readings with their cooperation partners that may or may not fall in the domain of their academic programmes. Heinrich Böll Foundation also publishes studies and reports on academic and development issues. The organisation has been actively working in the capacity of a think tank, focusing on political reforms through the promotion of green initiatives across the globe .
In 2018, despite being a tough year for political engagements in Germany, Heinrich Böll Foundation worked on key issues that stirred political debates around Europe and also in the neighboring countries. Last year, the foundation played a vital role in the introduction of policy reforms for migrant issues and their integration in the German society, leading to an influx of migrants to European countries. Heinrich Böll Foundation also collaborated with Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands or Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and Die Linke (the left party) to introduce policy reforms through the medium of social and political engagements.
This year, the organization aims to launch a second chapter to the initiative introduced last year and to extend social and financial support to immigrants. Last year, the organization conducted a city-based exhibition in Erfurt to raise awareness among the local people in relation to the deaths of 20,000 people, who were attempting to flee from conflict zones to Europe. The exhibition titled ‘Med Faces’ brought 300 artists from all over the Europe to showcase their paintings and commemorate the death of these victims.
Heinrich Böll Foundation also administers an initiative that endorses the admission of more international students in leading German education institutes for the promotion of diversity in academia. The idea behind this initiative that launched the previous year was to integrate children with special needs with the setting of mainstream education institutes, along with stronger representation in Christian institutes.
Heinrich Böll Foundation Education Officer Solveig Negelen, in an exclusive interview to the Academia magazine highlighted the idea behind this innovative education initiative. “We wanted to help students with special needs so that they don’t’ feel left out. We promoted our initiative by talking to ministers and academic heads and asked them to accept such students in education institutes across Germany. We believe accessibility of mainstream institutes to children with special needs will make them more integrated and productive members of the German society”, he added.
Negelen said they were getting into special schools and brought this pertinent issue in the knowledge Helmut Holter, the minister of education, in order to get his support for the proposed cause. “This initiative was applauded by the decision makers in the German government and was made a part of the new school law that is applicable to all academic institutes in Germany. It allowed children with special needs to be a part of the mainstream institutes and is indeed a big success of the democratic values,” he said.
Although the reforms have passed, it will take some time for their full implementation. This year we will emphasise on development issues and will demand the government to introduce progressive changes in German villages, Negelen added. She said German villages face a lot of issues in terms of academics and infrastructural development and are also under-represented in the political arena.
“Many villages in Germany have just one school in their surrounding areas. We are planning to take up the issues faced by these schools to the governmental authorities, in order to propose new political reforms involving the introduction of best practices at these schools and drawn from the findings of our research; starting this June. We did not have a lot of projects on environmental issues the previous year either, so now we are planning to work together collectively, with the aim of promoting development in rural Germany,” Negelen said
The Heinrich Böll Foundation gives critical feedback for the resolution of socio-political issues. The organization carries an extensive range of research initiatives and works closely with public policy institutes. “Last year we had a collaborative event with Willy Brandt School of Public Policy to launch a book titled ‘Bullshit Jobs’ by author David Graeber moderated by the head of the institute Dr. Professor Heike Grim; the event wanted to highlight facts on nature of jobs and opportunities in Germany,” Negelen said.
Heinrich Böll Foundation also sponsors scholarship and exchange programs, not limited to Germany and offer financial prospects to students hailing from developing countries including Pakistan. Students can access information and eligibility criteria’s of these programmes from their website: https://www.boell.de/