Bonn: Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research
At the start of 2020 a global pandemic hit our realities. The Covid-19 virus changed our everyday lives in a profound way. Our new lives consisted of lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, wearing of masks, home office and home schooling, rising infection numbers and overfull hospitals. Since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020 almost all countries across the world put travel to a hold. According to a report by the UNWTO, at the start of the crisis „96% of all worldwide destinations introduced travel restrictions in response to the pandemic.“ This came as a tremendous blow to the travel and tourism industry, especially for countries where tourism has accounted for two-thirds of the country´s GDP. Because of our interconnected globalized existences, the impact reached beyond. Research and education are among the sectors that are increasingly internationalized and therefore the implications of travel bans on academia are manifold. Scientific and educational activities that ordinarily take place in the physical space, i.e. meetings with international research partners, student exchanges, scientific conferences, teaching and international student excursions, had to be rethought and where possible adjusted to the digital. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, many higher education institutions were skeptic about reducing and substituting academic air travel with virtual conferencing, due to concerns regarding missed career opportunities and the extent to which digital tools could cultivate and maintain international collaborations. With the corona travel and immigration restrictions higher education institutions were left with little choice than to explore the digital options.
In the past year, the partner organizations of the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research equally went through the process of adjusting formats to the digital. To explore such a learning and transition process, the digital Managing Global Governance (MGG) Academy 2020 at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) is taken as a case study. As a former participant of the digital training and dialogue program, I will be sharing my learnings from these four months with the Bonn Alliance network. As such, this document will highlight the opportunities and challenges that the MGG team faced when changing from a full-time Bonn-based program to the first part-time digital academy. This exploration of lessons learned serves as the basis for a guidelines on shifting to digital formats to give impulse to a mutual learning process.