Nina Lykke and Berit Starkman:

AOIFE annual report 2004 (incl. final report from Linkoeping Secretariat, Jan-May 2005).



1. Introduction

 

2004 has been characterized by a number of events, which has led to a transfer of the AOIFE Secretariat from Linköping University to Utrecht University for the interim period between May 2005 and the next General Assembly of AOIFE (to be held together with the 6th European Research Conference in Lodz, Poland, in Aug. 2006). The transfer was finally decided on a Council meeting in Feb 2005 and finalized by May 2005. This report will, therefore, include the Feb 2005 Council meeting and the activities of the Secretariat Jan-May 2005.

 

The AOIFE Council met twice during the period thus covered by this report. One Council meeting was held May 26-27, 2004, in Helsinki (together with the annual Athena meeting), and one was, as mentioned, held Feb 18-20, 2005 in Lodz.

 

In addition, there was a meeting for an AOIFE-Athena task force consisting of three members, appointed by the AOIFE Council at the Helsinki Council meeting in May 2004, Elzbieta Oleksy, Nicky Le Feuvre and Nina Lykke, and three members, appointed by the governing body of Athena, the Athena task force, Rosi Braidotti, Gabriele Griffin and Andrea Petö. This meeting was held in Utrecht, December 12, 2004.

 

2. Transfer of AOIFE Secretariat from Linkoeping to Utrecht.

 

Two main reasons have led to the transfer:

 

A) The wish of AOIFE’s Linkoeping staff to be relieved of the commitment to carrying the Secretariat.

 

One reason for moving the AOIFE Secretariat is that the Department of Gender Studies, Linköping University, which has hosted the Secretariat since 2001, in 2004 became host for yet another big international operation: a Nordic Research School in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies with 37 partners in 9 countries. For various (internal university political) reasons, the secretarial staff could not be expanded, and, therefore, it became difficult for the Dept of Gender Studies at Linköping University simultaneously to carry two large scale international operations with different target groups and aims. This was, in particular, the case, because the running of the AOIFE Secretariat must rely on subsidies from the hosting university, which among others consist of a “time” contribution: the Managing Director and, to a certain extent, also the Administrative Coordinator put in administrative work for "free", i.e. taken out of their ordinary work time at the host university. To continue doing this became difficult, when the Research School started. In Spring 2004, the Linkoeping staff of the AOIFE Secretariat (Managing Director Nina Lykke and Administrative Coordinator Berit Starkman), therefore, started to explore the possibilities for finding new solutions for the Secretariat.

 

The problems of the Linkoeping Secretariat were intensified, when AOIFE’s Administrative Coordinator Berit Starkman by Sept. 2004 had to go on long-term sick leave. This meant that the question of transfer of the AOIFE Secretariat became pressing.




B) New developments of ATHENA.

 

Accidentally, the start of the Nordic Research School and Berit Starkman’s long-term sick leave coincided with certain developments within the EU Commission, which have major consequences for ATHENA - and by implication for AOIFE, since the two organizations are so closely related.

 

Another reason for moving the AOIFE Secretariat is to be found in these developments of ATHENA:

 

Started in 1998, Athena is now in its second cycle of funding from EU’s SOCRATES programme. When this cycle ends in 2006, the network will have had continuously funding from EU (DG Education) since 1998, including the dissemination year 2002.

 

During this period, the Athena network has grown into a large-scale operation with now well over 100 participating universities from all over Europe. Athena has managed to produce a lot of joint feminist curriculum development and mutual support in the institutionalization of Women's/Gender/Feminist Studies. Seen from the point of view of the EU Commission, another word for this, is 'European added value'. Via Athena, the Women's/Gender/Feminist Studies community in Europe has initiated an important integration process on the level of education - a process which has had a significant impact also for research, since some of the Athena activities have been “translated” into research projects, which have obtained funding from EU’s Framework Programmes for research (Griffin 2003).

 

For these reasons, Athena is now by the EU Commission considered to belong to the group of "old" , well established and well estimated thematic networks, which have fostered important new European level synergies. Athena has in this capacity become a leading member of the so-called Humanistic Archipelago. This is an initiative to construct a transversal platform for well established SOCRATES thematic networks so that they might live beyond the cycles of Community funding.

 

However, even though the networks in the Archipelago, including Athena, have been successfully initiating a transnational integration process, which the EU Commission sees as very positive, it is rather unlikely that funding will continue beyond 2006 (with the exception of a potential dissemination year ending Athena 2 in 2007). This is due to the general principle for EU funding that it shall be a contribution to the establishment of activities, which are strong enough to carry themselves beyond the cycles of Community funding.

 

As far as the successful thematic networks are concerned, the EU Commission’s advice is that they should transform themselves into professional organizations and start charging fees from their members. In this way, they should be able to continue their work beyond the period of Community funding, while the members at the same time get a high profiled platform for applying for EU funding for new kinds of activities.

 

For Athena such a transformation is both easy and complicated. It is easy, because Athena is so well established and has a large and committed membership. However, it is also difficult , as long as AOIFE exists as a closely related, but anyhow independent organization that already charges fees from a membership, which, in principle, is made up of a constituency of universities and Women’s/Gender/Feminist Studies units, which is more or less identical with that of Athena. So the rather paradoxical situation that has occurred is this: the very close relationships between AOIFE and Athena have, in the present situation, become a problem rather than a potential.

 

In order to suggest solutions to this problem, a task force consisting of three members, appointed by the AOIFE Council at the Helsinki Council meeting in May 2004, Elzbieta Oleksy, Nicky Le Feuvre and Nina Lykke, and three members, appointed by the governing body of Athena, the Athena task force, Rosi Braidotti, Gabriele Griffin and Andrea Petö, met in Utrecht, December 12, 2004. The task force agreed that something had to be done and decided to recommend the setting up of a new professional organization rather than focusing on just a "merger" of AOIFE and ATHENA.The institutional and political context of Women's/Gender/Feminist Studies and the EU have significantly changed since both ATHENA and AOIFE were set-up, so the task force reasoned, it would prove more advisable to elaborate a list of objectives for a brand new professional European Women's/Gender/Feminist Studies association that could meet the new challenges. Such an association - tentatively named the Association of European Feminist and Gender/Women's Studies (AEGIS) - could be modeled on the structure of existing European or broader international academic societies or professional associations as, for example, the International Society for Literature and Science.

 

A new organization should, among others,

* significantly increase (paid) membership,

* be able to organize academic conferences with a broad thematic spread every second year,

* establish a big enough economic basis to ensure that a Secretariat can be set up with a fully paid, professional staff (minimum Managing Director and secretary).

 

To set up such an organization requires a lot of preparatory work. Among others, it should be discussed on a broad, democratic basis in both Athena and AOIFE, whether or not it is a good idea to build a professional organization like this, and how it should look more concretely. How do the potential core members, i.e. the Women’s/Gender/Feminist Studies community in Europe, look upon the building of such an organization? Do they see it as useful and potentially beneficial? How would they use such an organization? Which kinds of benefits would they expect from it? Which problems could arise? Etc.

 

As part of the preparatory work, it should also be ensured that the setting up of such a new organization does not ruin the democratic structures, built up when AOIFE was started as a back-up organization for Athena in the 1990s. Athena is a project, regulated by a temporary contract with the EU, which stipulates the relationship between the coordinating institution (Utrecht University) and the over 100 partner universities, committed via signatures and letters of intent from rectors etc. When the Athena contract ends, the partners will have no more obligations towards each other. This was the reason why AOIFE, in the first place, was created. The aim was that AOIFE should make up a more permanent, democratically organized platform for continued, committing collaboration between the many Women’s/Gender/Feminist Studies units, programmes, groups in Europe, which have started to collaborate so successfully thanks to Athena. Against this background, the AOIFE-Athena task force, which met in Dec. 2004, recommended that the right place for deciding whether or not to set up a new professional organization is the next General Assembly of AOIFE to be held in August 2006 in Lodz, Poland, together with the 6th European Feminist Research Conference.

 

At the Council meeting of AOIFE February 18-20 2005, the AOIFE Council approved of the recommendation of the AOIFE-Athena task force and decided to make preparations so that it will be possible for the AOIFE General Assembly in 2006 to decide about the setting up of a new professional Women’s/Gender/Feminist Studies organization. It was also decided that AOIFE and Athena together should be responsible for the preparations for the potential, new organization.

 

In addition, it was recognized that the prepatory work could be carried out more efficiently, if the (scarce) administrative resources of the two organizations were pooled, and the Secretariats geographically merged in the interim period between now and the General Assembly in 2006.

 

According to Article 2.2. of the AOIFE Statutes, which states that: "The Council determines the location of the AOIFE Secretariat in accordance with the objectives of the Association", it is up to the AOIFE Council to decide on the location of the Secretariat. So, since Linköping wanted another host to take over, and since a joint Secretariat would, significantly, strengthen the preparatory work to be done in the interim phase between now and the General Assembly in 2006, and since a Secretariat located in Utrecht would benefit from the European expertise of the Utrecht team, it was decided to move the AOIFE Secretariat from Linköping to Utrecht in Spring 2005.

 

To make it possible to follow up on a General Assembly decision about a new organization, which implies a conference every second year, Utrecht, moreover, generously offered to organize the 7th European Feminist Research conference, which according to such a new scheme should be held in 2008.

 

3. Transfer of Secretariat & new Managing Director.

 

On part-time return from her sick leave, Administrative Coordinator Berit Starkman has spent a couple of months in spring 2005 to update AOIFE’s archive and web membership profile, and, moreover, to get in overdue membership fees. In addition, she has helped produce the annual report 2004, including final report on the budget result 2004, prepared the budget for 2005, along the lines decided at the Council meeting in Lodz Feb 2005 as well as prepared the physical, virtual and economic transfer of the Secretariat.

 

The AOIFE Secretariat is sent to Utrecht by ultimo May 2005.

 

The contract between AOIFE and Linkoeping University about the hosting of the Secretariat stops being in force, when the Secretariat is handed over to Utrecht. A new contract with Utrecht University about the hosting will be set up.

 

The responsibility for the functions as Administrative Coordinator and Managing Director is handed over to the Utrecht team by the same date, who, according to the decisions of the AOIFE Council meeting in Lodz, Feb 18-20 , 2005, will appoint a new Administrative Coordinator and a new Managing Director and immediately report to AOIFE president Elzbieta Oleksy about the appointments.

 

Following the decisions at the Lodz Council meeting, it is, moreover, the responsibility of the new Secretariat in Utrecht to take in AOIFE membership fees for 2005.

 

Berit Starkman will take in the remaining overdue membership fees from 2004, for which she sent out reminders, and send the money to Utrecht.



4. Preparations for 6th European Feminist Research Conference, Lodz, Poland, 2006.

 

Preparations for the 6th European Feminist Research Conference, Lodz, Poland, 2006, is a major priority of AOIFE, and was discussed at both Council meetings. In particular, the Council meeting in Lodz Feb 18-20, 2005 put much focus on the conference preparations. The meeting included a sightseeing on the excellent premises at the University of Lodz, where the conference will take place. The proposed title of the conference is: “Citizen K. Gender and Citizenship in a Multicultural Context”. The dates have been fixed to Aug. 31-Sept. 3, 2006. The General Assembly of AOIFE will take place on the day of the opening of the conference, ie. Aug. 31. Athena will meet Aug. 29-30. An AOIFE subsidized conference secretariat is being set up in Lodz. The AOIFE Council will act as scientific programme committee.

 

5. Application for Network of Excellence to EU’s 6th Framework Programme.

 

A follow-up of AOIFE’s earlier Network of Excellence application, whose failure in 2003 was much discussed, since it was interpreted as carried by strong biases against feminism and considered to be unfair and against the alleged politics of the EU to promote women in science, was prepared and submitted to the 6th Framework Programme by April 2005 with Utrecht as coordinating institution. The application addressed the call for applications of FP6’s priority 7 (Citizens and governance in a knowledge based society), and more specifically the “gender”-topic, “Gender and citizenship in a multicultural context”, which marked a new phase in the history of the Framework Programmes; “gender” has never been included as a separate topic before. The title of the proposed network of excellence is “Gender and Citizenship in Europe”.

 

6. AOIFE economy

(Budgets and results in appendix )

 

Generally, AOIFE’s economy is sound - with a substantial surplus and buffer, see budget result 2004 and budget 2005 in appendix.

 

The actual income for 2004 was significantly smaller than estimated due to the fact that a large number of the membership fees for 2004 were not paid by December 2004. Since her part-time return, Berit Starkman has, however, sent out reminders and the many overdue payments are, as in recent years, expected to come in by 2005.

 

(Addendum after finalizing of budgets: By May 30, 10 members had responded to the reminders and paid their overdue membership fees.)

 

As the estimated subsidy from Linköping university is based on the actual income, this is therefore also smaller than estimated. However, this does not affect the economy as the equivalent expenses are in fact not paid by the Secretariat.

 

Due to the circumstances, which led to the move of the Secretariat, AOIFE spent much less money in 2004 than expected. Berit Starkman’s sick leave meant that less money than expected was spent on wages. Berit took out wages (20% time) from AOIFE for only a half year (Jan-July 2004). Moreover, only one AOIFE newsletter was published. The publication of the planned autumn 04 newsletter was cancelled due to lack of secretarial resources at the Linkoeping Secretariat. This also meant that fewer hours for the doctoral student who edited the newsletter were paid and less printing costs etc.

 

To wrap up and prepare the hand-over of the Secretariat on her part-time return in Winter 2005, Berit Starkman was paid 6431 Euro, equal to 1,5 months full time work.

 

As only one Council meeting was held during 2004 in connection with the ATHENA-meeting in Helsinki the travelling costs were also smaller than estimated. The meeting in Utrecht, December 2004 was jointly paid by AOIFE and Athena (AOIFE paid for AOIFE representatives and Athena for Athena representatives). Participation of Athena representatives at the meeting in Lodz Feb 18-20 was also paid by Athena.

 

An application from the Athena Central Coordination for 6300 Euro to complement the scarce administrative resources of Athena (which have decreased even more after the Athena II budget was cut by the EU Commission, while the number of Athena members increased) was unanimously granted by the AOIFE Council. Moreover, it was decided to give a subsidy to set up a conference secretariat in Lodz to prepare the 6th European feminist research conference.

 

The currency change altered during the year, and the result is calculated at a median rate during the year, i.e. 1 EURO = SEK 9:12, compared with the rate used in the estimated budget (SEK 9:00).

 

7. Memberships

 

Membership figures for 2003 and 2004

 

During 2004 there were five new memberships, including one previously cancelled but activated during the year. No cancellations during 2004. To be noted is that a number of possible exemptions are still pending, as members have not sent in a renewed application for consideration.

 


Pr. 31.12

2003

2004

Members in AOIFE

77

82

ATHENA partners

69

69

Institutional members

70

76

Associate members

7

7

Exemptions

8

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pr. country distribution of member institutions (including institutional members, associate members as well as exemptions):

 

 

2003

 

 

2004

Austria

2

2

Belgium

3

3

 

Croatia

1

1

Denmark

3

4

Finland

6

7

France

3

3

Germany

2

2

Greece

1

1

Hungary

1

1

Iceland

1

1

Ireland

2

2

Italy

10

11

Latvia

1

1

Lithuania

1

1

Macedonia

1

1

Netherlands

6

6

Norway

5

5

Poland

1

1

Portugal

1

1

Serbia & Montenegro

3

3

Slovakia

1

1

Slovenia

1

1

Spain

4

5

Sweden

8

9

Switzerland

2

2

United Kingdom

7

7