Global Networks

Research Cluster

Competition and cooperation in transnational networks are central drivers of global governance. Global networks initiate innovation processes in business, politics and law, which increasingly influence the creation, implementation and development of international rules, norms and standards. With the growing influence of global networks, questions of their regulation, legitimacy and integration into democratic processes arise. The Research Cluster "Global Networks" investigates the functioning, influence and normative configuration of such networks based on four guiding questions:


Image: Andy Lamb (CC BY 2.0)

  • How do the working methods and influence of different types of transnational networks (epistemic networks, professional networks, advocacy networks, etc.) vary in global politics?

  • Under which conditions can transnational networks influence policy change in their interaction with intergovernmental organisations?

  • How exclusive/inclusive are transnational networks?

  • What role do transnational networks play in a globalised economy as drivers of innovation?

  • How do transnational networks create and develop formal and informal legal instruments?

The research cluster pursues an interdisciplinary approach combining economics, (organisational) sociology and political science (International Relations). Currently, three chairs of Zeppelin University are involved in the research cluster: The Chair of Institutional Economics, the Chair of International Relations and the Chair of Global Governance with a focus on development cooperation. In addition, the research cluster aims to bundle expertise on transnational networks in global cooperation in the region.


20 April 2022, 6.30 – 8.00 pm

In this Global Networks Talk in Spring 2022, Ayşe Zarakol, Professor of International Relations at the University of Cambridge, will present her new book: “Before the West: The Rise and Fall of Eastern World Orders."

Link to the Event

Research Areas

Protest, Policy Change and Networks in and between International Organisations

Under what conditions do transnational networks shape policy change in international organisations? In this project, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the project team at the Chair of International Relations investigates under which conditions civil society protest is translated into policy change by professional networks in international organizations. The project compares the reactions of ILO, UNICEF, UNODC and WHO to the contestation of their policies by affected groups in the areas of drug control, child labour, human smuggling and female genital mutilation. It assumes that where the professional networks working on these issues cut cross organisational boundaries, change is more likely to occur as organisations become more open to outside ideas through these far-reaching network relationships.


Zimmermann, Lisbeth Prof Dr

Chair of International Relations

Kortendiek, Nele

Research Fellow

Young, Lily

Research Fellow


Image: Sally T. Buck (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If, on the other hand, network boundaries tend to run within the organisation and are characterised by strong organisation-specific cultures and ways of thinking, criticism from outside tends to be rejected.

The central thesis that this project examines by comparing the four organizations in the four policy fields is thus that the degree of openness of an international organisation (or its network character) determines to a large extent whether civil society protest results in policy change.

Cooperation Partners

The cooperation partners in this project include:

  • Prof Nicole Deitelhoff (Peace Research Institute Frankfurt PRIF/Goethe University Frankfurt)
  • Dr Tine Hanrieder (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin, WZB)
  • Prof Anna Holzscheiter (TU Dresden)
  • Prof John Karlsrud (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, NUPI)
  • Prof Andrea Liese (University of Potsdam)
  • Prof Leonard Seabrooke (Copenhagen Business School)
  • Prof Ole Jacob Sending (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, NUPI)
  • Prof Antje Vetterlein (University of Münster)

Further Information

Recent Publications

How exclusive/inclusive are transnational networks?

Transnational networks tackling global policy challenges can either be very inclusive, in which case they are open to a large range of actors being affected by the respective challenge or problem. But then transnational networks can also be exclusive, only taking into account a small number of powerful actors and their preferences. At the Chair of Global Governance we are interested in knowing how inclusive or exclusive transnational networks are, which actors and ideas/preferences are represented therein and which are absent. In order to tackle this question, we investigate transnational networks in different policy fields and regarding different policy challenges. The inclusive or exclusive character of transnational networks does not only affect the way in which problems are treated, but also the democratic legitimacy of Global Governance


Schneiker, Andrea Prof Dr
Chair of Global Governance

Governance in Global Value Chains

The bulk of international trade takes place in global value chains, which are networked by the close inter- and intra-firm transactions of different actors. On the one hand, formal governance mechanisms often reach their limits if they cannot be fully enforced in different legal frameworks. On the other hand, formal governance is often not optimal in terms of transaction costs. The Chair of Institutional Economics investigates how transnational networks influence standard setting, learning processes and implementation in global value chains. Particularly in the case of intersectoral cooperation, which is often indispensable in global value chains, different decision-making logics of different actors must be taken into account. A relational approach is central here. The relationship between business, politics and society needs to be rethought and appropriate management systems applied.

In the context of this project, Prof. Joseph Wieland is the co-leader of the working group "Sustainability in Global Value Chains" in the Think20 process, which accompanies international cooperation in the G20 format at think tank level.

Further Information

Recent Publications


Wieland, Josef Prof Dr
Chair of Instituational Economics

Fischer, Dominik Dr
Research Fellow

Processes of Global Lawmaking

Next to formal legislation by states, international courts, arbitration bodies, monitoring institutions and fact-finding missions play an increasingly important role in international law. In areas such as world trade, business and human rights, a multitude of different, often non-state actors shape the interpretation and development of international norms.


Lesch, Max Dr
Research Fellow


Image: UN Geneva (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On the one hand, this project focuses on the normative and epistemic agency of international organisations in the application and implementation of human rights norms using the example of fact-finding missions. How do global networks contribute to these processes and what role does fact-finding play in the development of law beyond the concrete cases?

On the other hand, using the example of the so-called "General Comments" of the UN human rights treaty bodies, the project examines how the development of norms is promoted by transnational networks and under which conditions General Comments gain authority over states.

These research questions constitute the core of the postdoc project by Max Lesch. The subproject on General Comments is carried out in cooperation with Dr Nina Reiners at the University of Potsdam.

Recent Publications


Cluster-Team Zeppelin University

Zimmermann, Lisbeth | Prof Dr

Zimmermann Lisbeth Zeppelin Universität

Speaker of the Research Cluster

Professor |  Chair of International Relations
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Professor Dr Lisbeth Zimmermann holds the Chair of International Relations at Zeppelin University. Her research focuses on the current challenges to a multilateral order, international organizations, norms in international relations, promotion of democracy and the rule of law, and peacebuilding.

Lisbeth Zimmermann studied political science at Free University Berlin (2002-2007) with a stipend from the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes). She held PhD stipends from the Cluster of Excellence "Formation of Normative Orders” and the Peace Research Institute.

She defended her dissertation, "Global Norms with a Local Face? The Interaction of Rule of Law Promotion and Norm Translation in Guatemala" in 2012. Afterwards, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Cluster of Excellence "Formation of Normative Orders". From 2015 to 2018, she was a senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt.

Lisbeth Zimmermann was a visiting fellow at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington D.C. (2011) and at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute in Florence (2015). She was also a fellow of the program "Fast Track: excellence and leadership skills for outstanding women in science " (Bosch foundation, 2015-2017). Between 2012 and 2014, Lisbeth Zimmermann was Co-speaker of the junior staff of the International Politics Section of the German Association for Political Science (Deutsche Vereinigung für Politische Wissenschaft, DVPW). She is currently co-speaker of the thematic group "IR Norms Research" (2017-).

Lisbeth Zimmermann directed the DFG-funded project "International Standards in Conflict. Contestation and Norm Robustness" („Internationale Normen im Streit. Kontestation und Normrobustheit“, 2015-2018). She currently heads the DFG-funded project "Open or Closed International Organisations: Conditions for Policy Change through Contestation" („Offene oder geschlossene internationale Organisationen: Bedingungen für Politikwandel durch Kontestation“). She is speaker of the research cluster "Global Networks" („Governance globaler Kooperationsnetzwerke“) at ZU.

Lesch, Max | Dr

Max Lesch Zeppelin Universität

Coordinator of the Cluster

Research Fellow | Chair of International Relations

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Since September 2019, Max Lesch is a Research Fellow at the Chair of International Relations and coordinator of the research cluster “Global Networks” at Zeppelin University. He studied political science (with a focus on international relations) and sociology in Bonn, Frankfurt, and Aberystwyth and submitted his Ph.D. at Goethe-University Frankfurt in August 2019.

From 2014 to 2018, he was a Research Associate at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, where he worked in the DFG project “International Norm Disputes: Contestation and Norm Robustness”. In September and October 2018, he was a Visiting Researcher with the International Relations Group at the University of Copenhagen. Before joining Zeppelin University, he worked at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in the research group “Shades of Illegality in International Peace and Security Law”.

In his dissertation “Dynamics of Deviance. Torture and Its Prohibition in World Politics”, he examined the relationship between international law, breaches of norms and norm development. The theoretical framework combines approaches in the sociology of deviance with a practice-based understanding of norms and norm-applying international organisations.

In his postdoc project, Max Lesch researches the development, functioning, and effects of international fact-finding missions in the field of human rights. Moreover, his research interests include the normativity of international practices, the international anti-corruption regime, and law-making in global networks.

Fischer, Dominik | Dr

Kortendiek, Nele | MA

Kortendiek, Nele Zeppelin Universität

Nele Kortendiek is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Chair of International Relations. She studied Political Science at the Universities of Bremen and Geneva (B.A., awarded with distinction) and holds an M.Sc. in International Relations Theory from the London School of Economics and Political Science (awarded with distinction).

From 2014 to 2018 she has been a PhD candidate at TU Darmstadt and the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” with a full PhD scholarship. During her doctoral research on the role of international organisations in mixed migration governance at the European external border she has conducted field research in Greece, Brussels, Geneva, Valletta and Warsaw. In Fall 2016 she was a visiting researcher at the Centre on Migration, Policy, and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford and worked as a guest researcher at the Berlin Social Science Centre (WZB Berlin).

Together with Lisbeth Zimmermann, Nele currently leads the DFG-funded research project “Open or closed international organizations? Reactions to civil society contestation” which analyses the interplay between those affected by international policies and professional networks of decision-makers within international organizations.

Her main research interests include knowledge, authority and legitimacy in global governance, international organisations and non-state actors in world politics, international migration politics as well as normative questions of borders and democracy.

Schneiker, Andrea | Prof Dr

Schneiker, Andrea Zeppelin Universität

Since September 2020 Andrea Schneiker is professor at the Chair of Global Governance. Before, she was a juniorprofessor for International Relations at the University of Siegen. She has been visiting scholar at New York University, Radboud University Nijmegen and the Graduate Insitute, Geneva. Her research focuses on transnational Governance, Peace and Conflict Studies and Political Communication.

Frank, Marieluna MA

picture of Dominik Fischer sitting at his desk

Since April 2021 Marieluna Frank is working as doctoral researcher at the Chair of Global Governance. She studied International Law and Human Rights in Venice and Luxembourg and holds a Master in Politics and Administration. Before joining the ZU, she worked as a trainee and assistant in the human rights section at the Permanent EU Delegation to the United Nations in Geneva. Her main areas of interest are networks and governance structures with regard to human rights and the distribution of global goods. In her research, she investigates networks of non-state actors in the global commons space, the high seas and Antarctica.

Wieland, Josef | Prof Dr

Josef Wieland Zeppelin Universität

Josef Wieland is professor of institutional economics, organizational governance, integrity management and transcultural leadership at the Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen and director of the Leadership Excellence Institute Zeppelin (LEIZ). He is the initiator and president of the German Forum Compliance & Integrity (FCI). He served as the former chairman of the German Network of Business Ethics (DNWE) and currently as the chairman of DNWE’s advisory board. He is a member of the National CSR Forum of the BMAS (German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs) and serves on the jury board for the “CSR Prize” of the German government.

Young, Lily | MA

Young Lily Zeppelin Universität

Since October 2019 Lily Young is a doctoral researcher in the DFG project “Open or closed international organizations – conditions for policy shift through contestation”. She has gained a Master’s degree in International Relations from Technical University of Dresden and has graduated from Zeppelin University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Politics and Economics.

She has spent a semester abroad in Japan and worked as Blue Book Trainee at the European External Action Service in Brussels. Previously, she was a research associate at the Chair of European and Global Governance at Technical University of Munich.

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