DC café: Solidarity beyond finances to strengthen cooperation among member organisations

published 6 February 2024 updated 8 February 2024

There is much more to development cooperation than financing projects, is one of the main conclusions of a recent online gathering of Education International’s Capacity Building and Solidarity (CBS) Unit with member organisations from Germany, the United States, and the Nordic countries.

The meeting, which is part of a series of "DC cafés” held between CBS and member organisations around relevant issues, highligted experiences from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the German Education and Sciences Union (Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, GEW) and the Nordic Teachers’ Council.

John Lindenau, of the AFT International Affairs Department kicked off the session with a comprehensive presentation on the union’s cooperation project with GEW on studying the German vocational education and training programmes for a possible application in the United States. An AFT delegation visited Hamburg and Berlin to learn about the German education and vocational system. Describing the joint preparatory work of the two unions and the benefits from this cooperation, Lindenau highlighted that “DC missions consist of and are focused on financial solidarity and aid and that is important, but we wanted to focus on solidarity beyond finances.”

AFT Vice-President Melissa Cropper Added that she herself gained insights from a study mission that AFT conducted in Germany in 2022. Cropper identified several takeaways from the study visit, among others a resolution that the AFT passed, underlining the importance of internships for students, externships for teachers, and the need to strengthen the connection between labour market needs and the opportunities the education system can offer.

“You can read all you want about these types of programmes, but actually being there in person and talking to the people is what makes it real and what helps us see all the ins and outs and what works,” she explained.

On her part, GEW’s International Secretary, Carmen Ludwig completed the picture of a successful cooperative partnership by including GEW’s assessment of its experiences during the different work phases of the delegation visit and the long-term impact of the project. “Cooperation can enable a process of transnational learning from each other”, she said, “which is particularly important when it comes to future issues that we all need to deal with such as climate change or digitalisation. Issues that we all have questions about, but no answers yet.”

Cooperating on issues of common interest

Christer Holmlund, General Secretary of the Nordic Teachers’ Council, presented the objectives and tasks of the council, which represents 16 national member organisations from seven Nordic countries. According to Holmlund the Nordic organisation serves as a platform where education unions can cooperate on issues of common interest.

“I think the exchange of information and experience are the core issue in all the work we do with our member organisations”, Holmlund said, “and by doing so we try to create conditions for them to develop their own work.”

The participating DC partners showed high interest in these two different cooperation models, exchanged opinions, and asked various questions, particularly on the possible mutual benefits from learning processes involving countries of very different sizes and from different continents.

They were also interested in learning how the idea for those unusual projects originated and developing further ideas for increased cooperation between member organisations.

They agreed that this meeting, held on 7 December 2023, demonstrated the need to enhance solidarity and support among member organisations, with the objective of strengthening the unions through joint learning processes and mutual support.

In 2024, the DC Café will open its doors again for a new series of discussions on possible new initiatives and other relevant subjects in the context of DC work.