Summer at the Cologne Institute for Economic Research

This summer I worked as a graduate research analyst for the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln) in Cologne, Germany. As part of the Migration, Education and Innovation research unit, I spearheaded an in-depth policy paper exploring a comparative analysis of refugee resettlement and labor market integration policies in Germany, Canada, and the United States. I interviewed relevant policy experts, economists, non-profit organizations, and private sector players in each country as part of the research process. As an intern, I also traveled to the Institute’s Berlin and Brussels offices to speak with relevant EU and federal-level policymakers and stakeholders about the future of refugee integration policy in the region and nation respectively. The final paper compared each country’s relevant legal frameworks, integration initiatives, and multi-level governance delegation, and provided policy recommendations for each country. I presented my findings to the Institute at the end of my internship and am now in the process of publishing the final version of my work.

In addition to the internship at the Institute, I received generous research grants from Stanford PACS (Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society) as well as Stanford Global Studies to study non-governmental and civil society-based refugee integration initiatives at the local level in Berlin, Germany and Toronto, Canada. My fieldwork consisted of in-depth ethnographic interviews, site visits with various organizations, and participant observation at public events and forums. I also attended the annual IMISCOE (International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion of Europe) conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to present my initial research on this topic and work with prominent scholars in Europe and the United States, receiving valuable guidance and mentorship along the way. Living in Berlin and Toronto helped me gain a better understanding of the city-level initiatives and public perceptions about refugee integration, as well as the challenges and opportunities felt by non-governmental and civil society organization staff who actively work to integrate refugees in their communities.

Working in Germany at the heart of refugee integration discussions in the European Union was a great experience. My only regret was not studying German more in-depth prior to the internship, which would have perhaps heightened the level of communication and interaction with my colleagues at the Institute and in the field. Nevertheless, I gained valuable perspective on how German scholars, economists, and policy advisors think about the future of the intersection of refugee resettlement, economic growth, and social cohesion. My colleagues were very interested in the Canadian and American systems, and curious about how German policy could perhaps incorporate best practices from nations of immigration abroad. Subsequently, I significantly furthered my subject matter expertise in refugee resettlement and integration policy in the three nations I studied at the Institute and through research fieldwork. This type of international dialogue and knowledge exchange, especially since the Institute often advises several different German federal ministries, demonstrated the unique role of the research institute in influencing policymaking and implementation. Since my previous work experience in refugee resettlement was at the NGO level at the International Rescue Committee, working at the policy advising level this summer was a new and deeply fascinating experience.

Photos:

Sunset in Cologne, Germany
In Rotterdam, the Netherlands for the IMISCOE conference
At the Brandenburg Gate with my fellow Stanford interns in Berlin, Germany

Written by Jennifer Fei, IPS 2nd year MA Candidate, Concentration in Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law, Stanford University.