Allianz Kulturstiftung´s Summer Academy

Fostering dialogue between academics and civil society actors on Europe’s future

Interview with Lucile Gemähling, European project coordinator.


Since 2004, the  Allianz Summer Academy (ASA) has been bringing students from five renowned international universities at the Allianz Group Management Institute together at Starnberg Lake (Germany). Here, they meet representatives from business, civil society and European institutions. The resulting ASA publication compiles the papers of student groups from five European universities exploring current European challenges through policy-oriented academic research. Citizens For Europe (CFE) has been entrusted with the conception and coordination of ASA´s resulting publication since 2014 and we have collaborated on three issues so far.

What has been the role of CFE within the Allianz Summer Academy?

To foster an exchange of perspectives and expertise between academics, (future) policy-makers and civic society members, CFE and the ASA team have agreed that CFE would select and invite five different actors from European civil society recruited from our network to engage in a critical dialogue with the students on their papers. In 2016 and 2018, the civic society experts even joined the academy itself, so the dialogue was intensified beyond the publication. The CFE team then coordinated the process of publication between the student groups who authored the papers, proofreader Hilary Brown, designer Eva Gonçalves and the ASA team at Allianz. In 2014 and 2016, CFE was responsible for the digital publication of its online journal Open Citizenship.

What is special about this project?

The kind of dialogue we have allowed for at the ASA Academy by confronting very different expertise – young academic expertise and experienced, field-based civic society expertise from throughout Europe – is very unique and inspiring. That was the feedback we received from participants many times! In the current period, civic society organizations everywhere in Europe are experiencing increasing difficulties, in worst cases even harassment by states and government. I am thinking of course of organizations that try to defend fundamental rights in disappearing democracies, but also for instance of organizations defending religious freedom for Muslims, women´s rights defenders… Even longstanding and recognized organizations like Médecins Sans Frontières doing rescue at sea have faced harassment and criminalization by European governments in the past years. Fostering a dialogue between young policy-makers and young academics and civic society organizations is one way to make sure the importance and expertise of independent civic society is recognized.

There are two main aspects. Until 2016, CFE published its own online and print magazine, Open Citizenship. We could rely on the same trusted and well-functioning team of staff and freelancers to produce the publication for ASA, which saved the ASA´s team precious time and coordination efforts. The co-ownership of the publication also allows for its broader dissemination. Thanks to the diversity of our team and projects, we have access to a particularly large and diverse network of civil society actors in Europe, with which we have cultivated relationships based on mutual trust. Our work has allowed organizations as diverse as Attac, Caritas Germany, INER, Finance Watch, Democracy International, la Ligue des Droits de l´Homme France, the International Crisis Group, the European Movement International, BIN Italia, European Alternatives, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Bridging Europe to contribute to the academy and publication.

Here you can download the publications: https://citizensforeurope.org/publications/