Course of the Summer School

From kick-off to eight stations in Germany (Berlin, Bochum, Wuppertal)

The summer school kicked-off online on the 6th of September with an introduction round.

The 26th of September marked the arrival of the MENA DSS students. The MENA DSS curriculum included eight days of in-person learning divided into three phases. Starting with three days of different input lectures at the Einstein Center Digital Future, followed by a field trip to the Centre of Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) in Bochum as well as one day at the Circular Valley institute and start-up hub in Wuppertal. The week ended with another two days teaching module at the Berlin branch of the FernUniversität Hagen, Germany's largest university for hybrid and remote learning. 

Introduction and Online Teachings

Sessions were held by 

Prof. Dr. Thomas Wrona with a presentation on business strategies,

Rafaella Canvandoli about digital entrepreneurship and protection of innovative ideas, introducing Intellectual property in the MENA region with a global perspective

and Christin Schäfer, who led a session with the title 'Management of Data Driven Digital Systems- Art and Challenge'

Berlin: Three days at the Einstein Center Digital Future

Strategies for Arab Digital Economy: 

Prof. Dr. Dr. Ayad Al-Ani delivered the course titled ‘Strategies for Arab Digital Economy’. 

Design Thinking Workshop – Einstein Center:

The second- and third days’ workshop focused on Design thinking and how to turn problems into solutions, led by Lina Yassin and Lisa Günther. 

Bochum: What is a Smart City?

After a warm welcome by Prof. Dr. Michael Baurmann, the students undertook a tour d'horizon around Germany, the Middle East and African countries, discussing the influence of digitalization on political decision-making and social participation in the region. One of the main focus was placed on Civic Tech, a term signifying democratic innovation between state and civil society. As an example, the Civic Tech city Bochum was presented to the students – a city with various initiatives making use of digitization for its democratic institutions, such as urban climate monitoring or traffic sensors for traffic control.

Wuppertal: Circular Valley

What a "Circular Valley" is the students were about to find out on their visit to Wuppertal the 29th of September. The visit started with an inspiring meeting with the Lord Mayor of Wuppertal, Uwe Schneidewind, who shared his personal experience as a scientist and researcher in sustainable development who assumend a high-ranking political office a few years ago. How to implement the vision of a scientist in political life where compromise and stakeholder management are key to success? A visit to Circular Valley Institute in 1 Wuppertal complemented the learning curve. Director Carsten Gerhardt gave an introduction to the vision, fellowships, and funding opportunities for international start-ups in circular economy

Berlin: Electives at the University of Hagen courses

Course: Arab digital space and law

The course by Dr. Naseef Naeem provided an overview of regulatory models and policies of Arab countries for the digital space from the perspective of constitutional and public law. 

Course: Women in Technology

The Power of Networks – Opportunities for Female Tech Entrepreneurs, led by Bassant Helmi. 

Course: Hands-on Data Driven Systems

The seminar chaired by Christin Schäfer (who had also given an online course to kick-off MENA DSS) inspired a lively discussion about the problems students face within the course of their projects with regard to digital system, data, and algorithms.


"I’ve come back to my country and now I have a changed strategy for my project, new different ways as I learned in the MENA DSS through using the design thinking methods. Now I am also preparing to make a training session for my colleagues in the framework of knowledge transferring.’’

Networking Events

To ensure dialogue and connect people was at core of the side events of MENA DSS. To realize this goal we set up several networking events. With Berlin standing for intercultural encounter, a place of dialogue as well as peace efforts to resolve conflicts, we started with an open event at the renowned Barenboim-Said Akademie


Dr. Carsten Siebert, the chancellor of the Barenboim-Said Akademie introduced eloquently its founders, Edward Said, the late Palestinian intellectual, and Daniel Barenboim, one of the most prominent living conductors of classical music, emphasising their friendship and conversations around music, culture and humanity defying the walls of separation between Palestinians and Israelis. Guests of various institutions and government bodies attended the event, including from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Enpact (an organisation empowering entrepreneurship), Deutsche Welle, and representatives of the Foreign Office's department for cultural relations and various MENA country desks who had the chance to network with the MENA DSS students. 

German "Mittelstand"- Der Divan

At the cultural house Der Divan in Berlin, the MENA DSS students were received by representatives of Germany's leading association of owner-managed enterprises. With Nizar Maarouf, special MENA advisor of the association "Der Mittelstand BVMW", they discussed investment and funding opportunities and learned about the significance of small and medium sized enterprises as the driving force behind Germany's economic success. The Divan is a centre of cultural exchange under the patronage of the Qatari Embassy which promotes dialogue between artists and intellectuals from Germany and the Arab world. As a surprise host, Qatari Ambassador Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, attended the meeting and spent several hours with the students around Arabic music and food. Himself a former sovereign wealth fund manager and start-up investor, the ambassador encouraged the students to pursue their projects and not be easily frustrated

Meeting Political Berlin #1
Evening with Think Tankers and Politicians

Digital progress has far-reaching consequences: ‘’What could the digital societies of the 21st century look like? What does digitization mean for the future of cross-border cooperation? And what can we learn from each other as neighbors?’’ These questions were discussed at the start of the first MENA Digital Summer School with a group of selected experts and decision-makers from the Foreign Office and other governmental insitutions followed by a dinner buffet at "Landesvertretung Hessen" (State of Hesse) in Berlin.

Meeting Political Berlin #2
Hot Chair with MENA Ambassador Tobias Tunkel

What you always wanted to know about German/European policies on the MENA region, but never dared to ask? 

Tobias Tunkel, recently appointed special ambassador for the MENA region at the Foreign Office, took the hot chair and was questioned by the students of MENA DSS. Shortly, an intensive discussion started around the question of Germany’s visibility in the region when it comes to the support of youth on the ground in countries like Egypt, Iraq. It clearly showed the need for further dialogue platforms and opportunities for direct exchange between the Arab civil society and European officials and the need to sometimes hear from the source (and not rely only on the news spread on social media).