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Reiner Duvenage

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Reiner Duvenage


Reiner is a South African student in the Erasmus Mundus Euroculture M.A. programme. His research focuses on European political, cultural and societal issues in a global context. He intern at Democracy International for four months in 2020. 

My time at Democracy International

From 1 July-7 November 2020, I completed a professional placement for my M.A. Euroculture degree at Democracy International. Since I was particularly interested in politics and democracy during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies, I was overjoyed when I received the opportunity to work at a leading NGO within my field of interest. My placement was originally planned to start in September, but due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic I was unable to travel back to my home country (South Africa) for the summer. Faced with this unexpected turn of events, I decided to take a shot in the dark and ask my future placement provider if I could start my internship earlier. I was immensely grateful when I received a reply a couple of days later that my request could indeed be accommodated. And so, my time in Cologne began much earlier than I had anticipated!

The moment I walked through the door, I was made to feel welcome by my supervisor Caroline Vernaillen and the Managing Director of Democracy International, Andreas Müller.  Thereafter, I received training on how to manage my day-to-day tasks, as well as a few guidelines I could refer to at a later stage. I was also given a clear outline of what was expected of me and how I would be involved in upcoming projects. Since part of my responsibility was running the social media accounts at Democracy International, Caroline monitored and edited my first posts until she was confident that I knew how to continue independently. The other permanent members of Democracy International Klaus Hofmann, Daniela Vancic and Anne Hardt were similarly welcoming and helpful during my first days. This introduction made it easy for me to find my feet and make myself useful to the team. Aside from general supervision, daily team meetings were held, where I was asked to provide updates on finished tasks and ongoing work. This open communication greatly helped me to plan ahead and integrate with other members of the team.

During my time at Democracy International I worked on numerous projects, but the first Online Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy was by far the most challenging and rewarding of all. While helping to plan the Forum, I soon came to realise how much effort and organisation went into making such a large-scale event possible. Together with the entire Democracy International team, we worked day and night to ensure that the event would be a success. Our hard work paid off, with around 500 people from all over the world attending the online sessions from 21-29 September. I was also thankful to be given the responsibility of organising my own panel discussion on the “American Election during Covid-19” in the Democracy in Crisis track. For this I corresponded with renowned direct democracy activists in the USA and acted as the technical moderator during the session.

One of the highlights of my placement was spending a week in Hamburg representing Democracy international during the handing-out of voting papers for the Abstimmung 21 trial vote. The Abstimmmung 21 campaign is aimed at organising the first nationwide self-organised vote in conjunction with the German Federal election in 2021. I was tasked with handing out voting papers and speaking to citizens about the campaign in the Wedel district. It was great working with other like-minded people and sharing in the spirit of democracy. However, it was not all work and no play, since we also got to explore Hamburg in the evenings.

The European Public Sphere “conversational dome” project also stood out during my time at Democracy International. The project is aimed at engaging young people in stimulating dialogues under the “conversational dome” and developing ideas for the future of Europe. Even though Covid-19 made Europe-wide travel impossible, I was a part of two great events in Mülheim, Cologne.  Together with Anne and my fellow intern Max, we assembled the dome in the sweltering heat of Cologne’s summer. After this we listened to young people’s ideas for their future and I was truly astounded by their brilliant suggestions. After arriving home around 11p.m. on both days, I went to bed exhausted but extremely proud of what we had achieved.

In terms of personal development, I can say with confidence that my placement at Democracy was one of the most enriching experiences of my professional career. The supervision I received and the highly professional work environment I was exposed to, will be of inestimable value in my professional career. I would like to thank everyone at Democracy International from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the team!




Website Info

Democracy International is a registered association in Germany
(eingetragener Verein e.V.).

Gürzenichstraße 21 a-c
50667 Cologne
Phone: +49 (0) 221 669 66 50
Fax: +49 (0) 221 669 665 99

Amtsgericht Köln
VR-Nr. 17139

Full website information here

Data protection - Datenschutz


Democracy International e.V.
IBAN: DE 58370205000001515101

Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
Konto: 1515101
BLZ: 37020500


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