Fellow Q&A with Rima-Maria Rahal, Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Please introduce yourself.

I’m Rima-Maria Rahal, 30, and I work as a Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn, Germany. I’m a psychologist by training, and I work on understanding the thoughts and emotions people experience while they make decisions about being generous or selfish, and about what they think is morally right.

What three adjectives would people use to describe you?

Open, warm-hearted, and honest. 

What is your favorite book and why?

I can rarely resist a good story, but I have to admit my memory for them tends to be quite bad. One of the books that left the strongest impression on me is Faserland, a novel on the dark sides of hedonism by the German author Christian Kracht. The book has unfortunately not been translated to English, but I could recommend taking a look at Ellis’s Less than Zero. I heard Kracht lecture in Frankfurt, giving a deeply personal and emotional account of his relation to literature and his own writing. I’ve enjoyed reading his work even more since. 

What is the challenge your venture sought to address? 

My venture, ShareHealth! worked on improving the dental health of primary school children in Ukraine via educational materials put together by their peers in a German primary school. We produced a video about how to keep one’s teeth healthy, which is accompanied by some additional study materials.

You have now transitioned from a Fellow to a Guide. What inspired you to do so? 

I was very grateful for the support of the Resolution community. I’m happy I can reciprocate and provide some support for Resolution Fellows myself now. When I was a Fellow, I always found the advice of my Guides very helpful when I needed to figure out the next steps for the venture, or even for my personal and professional development. Being able to extend such advice to a new generation of Fellows now feels great!

Which ventures have you supported?

The first venture I worked with was the Komaale Initiative, a project in Ghana led by Gervase Adams that dug wells to enable farmers in the local community to farm year-round, instead of only during the short rainy season. Currently, I work with the Youth Empowerment Initiative YEI, where the Fellows David Gai and Akot Arkanjelo want to build a youth mentoring community in Uganda that improves primary school children’s access to education.   

Do these ventures have anything in common? 

I think the most striking commonality of the three projects I’ve worked during my time at Resolution is that they all revolve around the idea of access. I think access to opportunities can change and improve people’s lives dramatically, whether it’s access to education, health information, or job and food security. 

Tell us more about YEI’s response to COVID-19

The work of YEI had to halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic: youth mentors could no longer be sent to interact with the students in person, and access to distance learning is near impossible. David and Akot are working on redirecting the venture to provide educational materials without requiring in-person interactions—a difficult endeavor, but I’m sure they will find a way!

Does being a Resolution Guide have anything to do with your job?

Maybe not at the first glance, but I do see a connection if I look a bit deeper. I care about understanding how people decide to dedicate (parts of) their resources to helping others from a research perspective, and the Resolution community consists of people who have dedicated their energy to building projects that can foster positive change. We share a common interest in prosocial behavior.

What are your goals for the future?

I hope to continue my work in research, and I’m excited about being able to set my own path for new research projects in the coming years.