Working out the development agenda ‘Rooting Development’
CDS and DDS will draw up a development agenda for the Palestinian context. This will be done together with our partners and colleagues from Al-Azhar University, CDC, Mousawat and various departments at BZU (sociology, women’s studies, economics), as well as Palestinian popular movements, social initiatives, community leaders and activists. We understand this as a process of establishing a community of critical knowledge production that will move beyond academic realms. In this project component we will therefore follow a bottom-up approach, including academic as well as social actors and mass-based organisations in order to evaluate their experiences, draw on lessons learned, and formulate an alternative development paradigm that can promote resilience and play an important component in rooting development.
In order to achieve this aim, a total of 18 community-based discussions will be held. These discussion rounds will work on two levels: first, on the grassroots level described above and, second, at a later stage of the project after having already consolidated a community of critical knowledge production, on the level of a broader development community involving PNA institutions, international organisations and donor representatives. CDS and DDS will systematically prepare all the discussion rounds by creating a conceptual framework and proposing focal points for each of them. Essential elements of this project component are as follows:
- We will draw on the consequences of already wide-spread criticisms levelled by (Palestinian) scholars and activists at the Oslo process and its dominant development model, and build on the substantial work that CDS and further scholars have done in critiquing this model and promoting an alternative praxis of development.
- We will incorporate popular movements, community leaders and activists in a form of dual transdisciplinarity by, on the one hand, tackling the meaning of development in the Palestinian context from the perspectives of a range of academic disciplines and, on the other hand, bringing these academic debates into a communicative relationship with the analyses of the social actors mentioned above.
- Given that establishing a knowledge community and systematising alternative knowledge on development will require a focus on women’s as well as men’s development concerns and strategies, gender relations and feminist perspectives on development will be systematically included.
- Through links with our new partners we will be able to include both the Palestinian Diaspora and the Gaza Strip in our project. While the former has been disconnected from development following the Oslo process, the Gaza Strip has been practically cut off and excluded from plans, visions and discourses concerning development as articulated in the West Bank for some years. We consider this reintegration a precondition for devising a genuine Palestinian development agenda that reflects the diversity of Palestinian society within and outside of Palestine.
- In order to consolidate the discussions and integrate experimental community-based knowledge into academic and activist research, we will publish the proceedings as well as central findings of these discussions. This will enable the relevant departments at BZU and concerned social actors to draw upon and utilise this knowledge in future research and in the development of course curricula.
Training of new fieldworkers in Jordan and Lebanon
CDS and DDS will implement a research methods training programme for 50 new Palestinian fieldworkers (at least half of them female) and five trainers (three female) who already have experience in fieldwork coordination. This training programme will be carried out in Jordan and Lebanon, meaning that CDS and DDS will be able to extend their research capacities to Palestinian communities in these countries. Essential elements of this project component are as follows:
- A problem evident in Western research projects on Palestinian communities in Jordan and Lebanon with which CDC and Mousawat were previously involved is that the two organisations were primarily needed to generate data. This subordinate position prevented them from taking a formative and participatory role in various projects, despite their being deeply rooted in their local communities. In contrast, this project will invest local fieldworkers with the knowledge and skills to better leverage and negotiate their local relations through collaboration with a Palestinian academic partner. From the perspective of CDC and Mousawat, this collaboration should provide well-educated (most have already gained at least a degree diploma) young people from local communities with additional professionalqualifications. That is precisely the main objective of this component: CDS and DDS can guarantee professional training in participatory research methods and, by doing so, extend our research capacities for future research projects beyond the funding period too.
- In order to ensure continuous supervision and support for the new fieldworkers, CDS and DDS will also organise workshops on participatory research methods for five trainers who already have experience in fieldwork coordination and who are also members of the scientific advisory council of CDC and Mousawat respectively. As a result, the trainers living in Jordan and Lebanon will be able to give extensive local support to the new fieldworkers.
Advanced training programme at CDS
CDS will establish a training programme in development research that is designed for MA graduates from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In order to be able to include participants from the Gaza Strip as well, the programme will be established in cooperation with Al-Azhar University. A total of 25 graduates (at least 13 of them female) will attend a set of courses at the two universities during the project period, beyond which this component will be further developed in order to guarantee its sustainability. The following elements are essential:
- The programme will bridge the gap between theoretical approaches to development and the practical applications the current education system in Palestine cannot afford. By focusing on learned experiences, CDS can effectively use its expertise in empirical social research and fieldwork.
- Furthermore, by incorporating analyses from our first component (‘Rooting Development’), CDS will be able to combine in the courses both academic and popular grounded knowledge on development.
- The programme’s target group comprises MA graduates from the humanities and social sciences who are either unemployed or work in the public or civil society sector. By its scientific grounding, the programme will enrich occupational fields related to development in Palestine, such as development politics and development research.
Academic network for a young generation of researchers and fieldworkers
The research cluster at DDS, established during our previous project and mainly consisting of PhD students, will extend its academic network to the young generation of researchers and fieldworkers from Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan who will participate in components 2 and 3 of our project. By establishing two summer schools, an online platform, and regular discussion rounds for PhD students at DDS, a space of critical knowledge production will be created. The strategic significance of this project component can be defined on two levels: First, the network will create sustainable personal and professional relationships that can be utilised by the participants for further projects in the field of development politics and research and, second, we will systematically prepare a young generation of researchers and fieldworkers for, and integrate them into, our future research projects beyond the funding period. The following aspects are essential for this project component:
- The knowledge accumulated in the first component (‘Rooting Development’) will serve as the theoretical interface of the network. By presenting our results at the summer schools and discussing related working papers, the conceptual, epistemological and practical dimensions of development involved will be systematically introduced to a young generation of researchers and fieldworkers.
- On a methodological level, we will highlight the challenges and contradictions of Western research methods in conflict and war zones. Based on this, alternative methodologies (e.g. feminist and decolonial) will be introduced and developed in practical training sessions during our summer schools. We will in turn link this project component to the training programme for new fieldworkers (component 2) by theorising the issue of research methods in the Palestinian context. The PhD students from Austrian universities will learn from fieldworkers’ experiences and thereby critically reflect on the methods they use in their own research. Fieldworkers in turn will be able to classify and evaluate their work on a methodological and theoretical level. By establishing a network we will thus be able to create a two-way learning process.