Do you have a passion for sustainability and citizen participation? Eager to study complex societal challenges in the Netherlands? Come work with us in a multidisciplinary, international setting in the vibrant and dynamic environment of the city of Rotterdam!
We are looking for a PhD candidate who will do research on encouraging citizen engagement in tackling sustainability challenges. The project ‘Rethinking citizen participation in sustainability transitions in the Rotterdam South region
’ sets out to provide the insights needed to foster sustainability at the urban and regional levels. The research is also part of the Resilient Delta Convergence, and the team is made of international and multidisciplinary scholars from ESSB and EMC.
In this project, you will be highly engaged with communities in Rotterdam South, working with them to empower citizens to deliver sustainability initiatives that benefit the environment, the society, and the economy. Job description
PhD Citizen participation in sustainability transitions in Rotterdam South. Be part of an international research project exploring citizen engagement in tackling sustainability challenges.
The Department of Public Administration and Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam is seeking a highly motivated and talented candidate for an interdisciplinary PhD position bridging the fields of interactive governance and sustainability transitions. The starting date for this position is January 1st, 2024. This position is funded by the ESSB Starter Grant and Resilient Delta Convergence and will work in close collaboration with societal and academic partners, namely: Erasmus Medical Centre, TU Delft, policymakers and practitioners from the municipality of Rotterdam and the ‘Nationaal Programma Rotterdam-Zuid’, among others. Project description
Public authorities in the Netherlands have made commendable strides in encouraging citizen engagement in tackling sustainability challenges. For example, citizen participation in energy transitions is a key element of the Regional Energy Strategies, which strive towards 50% local ownership of sustainable energy sources. Citizen engagement is also a key element in strategies to make neighbourhoods in the Netherlands gas-free (e.g., Bospolder-Tussendijken in Rotterdam).
While the efforts to empower participation by citizens and citizen initiatives are laudable, in practice they activate only a limited demographic, often the ‘usual suspects’ such as educated middle-class citizens that are environmentally conscious. This self-selection of a ‘participation elite’ can then further exclude other citizens when they see who is participating and decide it is not for ‘people like me.’ In addition, the scope of participation opportunities varies during the various stages of policymaking (decision making to implementation). Finally, some sections of the local population show high levels of distrust in local governments, are unaware of participation opportunities, do not have the resources to participate, or lack motivation due to a lack of understanding of what is at stake.
The aim of this research project is to provide a space for reflection and deliberation that empowers stakeholders from civil society, business, not-for-profit and government organisations to come together to collaborate, define and deliver the transformation towards sustainability of their local communities and/or regions.
The research project is motivated by the following research questions:
- What informal collective action initiatives currently exist in (neighbourhood(s) of choice)?
- What are the obstacles to bridging and linking social capital between these initiatives and with other actors, such as business and government representatives?
- What are the (mis)matches between the values underlying these initiatives and those driving government-led sustainability initiatives?
- How can existing initiatives be connected to create a common space for reflection and deliberation towards sustainability?
- What framework(s) for collective action towards sustainable transformation can be built on this?
To answer these questions, this research project combines action research and social design thinking. The project will 1) map out existing policy and community (civil society) initiatives and their interactions, 2) identify where interactions occur with harder to reach groups with a view to 3) arrange collective deliberation on sustainable transformation, 4) using design-led methodologies provide a framework for collective action.
Your key responsibilities will be:
- Conduct a review of the state-of-the-art concerning methodologies, models, tools and practices concerning collective action towards sustainability at the neighborhood level; and make this knowledge operational by synthesizing into a resource kit for societal partners.
- Conduct research using action research and social design thinking methodologies.
- Map existing initiatives and their interactions with government and other stakeholders.
- Contribute to the publication of research findings in reputable peer-reviewed journals and present results at international conferences and workshops.
- Substantially contribute to the daily management of the parts of the project under responsibility of the PhD supervisors at the Department of Public Administration and Sociology (DPAS), Erasmus University, and to the coordination of activities with partners, including Resilient Delta (see https://convergence.nl/resilient-delta/).
- You will be part of DPAS. DPAS follows a multidisciplinary approach in research and design, with a focus on sustainability transitions. You will also be part of the Team Governance and Pluralism.