The event was characterized by a vivid discussion about the intercultural theory-practice-exchange with Daniel Querol, team coordinator of the project DEPARTIR - Changing Minds and Structures: the Nicaraguan Agricultural University's growing Involvement with Rural Communities and Eva Klawatsch-Treitl, team coordinator of the project TECS – Improvement of social work education to foster social development and poverty reduction.
The second event of the series APPEAR in practice took place on 29 May 2013 in the Europasaal of the LAI. About 35 participants listened to the presentations of Daniel Querol and Eva Klawatsch-Treitl and asked them questions with regard to their personal experience in the daily project business. The speakers based their comments not only on the current project partnerships but on their long-term experience in international cooperation and development aid. There was a long discussion about the question on how the cooperation between the project partners and the dialogue within the partnerships are working out for all stakeholders. Especially the analogies in the partnerships became explicit despite the different orientation and content of the two projects. Both projects create enough space in order to allow discussion on an institutional level and for an analysis. Finding joint solutions for practical and technical problems is easy compared to the difficult discussion with regard to models and concepts, which also depend on diverse experiences and philosophies of the Austrian and the South partners. Even though the partnership is based on a common interest, there is always a need to debate. The partners have to discuss until a common perspective is achieved. The communication itself has to be questioned on different levels: within the collaboration, between the Austrian and the Central American partners but also within the partner institutions themselves, between the students and professors as well as between students/professors and the communities. Each dialogue contains different forms of power relations. This is even more difficult, if there are only a few face-to-face meetings during the project period. It is a challenge to have a conversation via the internet, but still better than no communication at all. Nevertheless, in this case experience-based knowledge cannot be generated. Daniel Querol emphasizes that the initiative for a joint project has to come from the Southern partner. It is not possible to get an idea of the reality from outside. If this was the case, a project would not be successful.
Another question referred to the role of women in the projects. In this regard, the two projects are different. At the UNA (Universidad Nacional Agraria) in Nicaragua there are mainly male students doing research and giving classes. Gender equity is not easy to establish. The DEPARTIR project tries to foster this development with small actions (e.g. the professors cook in the communities, the student teams are lead by female students). Additionally, a gender study was realized at the UNA which gave recommendations to the university’s rector. Gender is an important topic, in the projects but also in the social work as such. Social work is a women’s profession. Also in research and teaching there are mainly women and the students are mostly female. On the one hand the discussion on social work and gender is a question of fairly paid work and appreciation of these jobs. On the other hand the content of the work has to be treated (e.g. the topic of domestic violence). The next event of appear in practice will deal with gender in the appear project partnerships.
The discussion pointed out that international dialogue offers the opportunity to think about social justice and politics, and about the exchange in theory-practice. Real changes need much more time than a project period. Projects only bear fruits if there is enough time foreseen.