PhD Inclusive and just sustainability transitions

PhD Inclusive and just sustainability transitions

Published Deadline Location
31 Oct 4 Dec Rotterdam

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Do you care about inclusive and just sustainability transitions, please apply for this PhD vacancy!

Job description

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:
  1. What informal collective action initiatives currently exist in (neighbourhood(s) of choice)?
  2. What are the obstacles to bridging and linking social capital between these initiatives and with other actors, such as business and government representatives?
  3. What are the (mis)matches between the values underlying these initiatives and those driving government-led sustainability initiatives?
  4. How can existing initiatives be connected to create a common space for reflection and deliberation towards sustainability?
  5. 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
  • 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.


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)


  • Master of Science (MSc) diploma in Public Administration, Sociology, Public Policy, Spatial Planning, or any other related field in the social sciences and humanities;
  • Attitude to function both in an interdisciplinary team and independently;
  • Experience with governance literature and concepts, particularly with civic;
  • Participation and community-based initiative;
  • Interest in complex system theories & participatory action research;
  • Preferably experience with both qualitative and quantitative research methods;
  • Experience with and committed to engaged, impact-driven research;
  • Ability to emphasize with local communities (cross-cultural management skills?);
  • Ability to collaborate with both scientific and societal partners;
  • Motivated to contribute to open science;
  • Excellent problem solving, organizational and communication skills, team player, development-oriented;
  • Excellent proficiency in Dutch and English (both at least at level C1 of the Common European Framework).
    Extras are:
  • Experience in working with multicultural communities;
  • Experience in community initiatives and collective action processes.

Conditions of employment

We offer you an internationally oriented and varied job in an enthusiastic team, with excellent working conditions in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU).

The start date of this position is as soon as possible and you will be based at Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB). This position is for 0.8 fte - 1 fte. The salary starts at € 2.770 to a maximum of € 3.539 gross per month (Scale P) on a fulltime basis (38 hours), in accordance with the CAO-NU. The contract is entered into for the duration of 1 year (with possible extension of 3 years).

Everything else we offer you, you can find below!


Erasmus University Rotterdam

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is an internationally oriented university with a strong social orientation in its education and research, as expressed in our mission ‘Creating positive societal impact’. EUR is home to 3.700 academics and professionals and almost 33.000 students from more than 140 countries. Everything we do, we do under the credo The Erasmian Way – Making Minds Matter. We’re global citizens, connecting, entrepreneurial, open-minded, and socially involved. These Erasmian Values function as our internal compass and create EUR’s distinctive and recognizable profile. From these values, with a broad perspective and with an eye for diversity, different backgrounds and opinions, our employees work closely together to solve societal challenges from the dynamic and cosmopolitan city of Rotterdam. Thanks to the high quality and positive societal impact of our research and education, EUR can compete with the top European universities.

Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB)
The Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences is home to a vast diversity of scientific disciplines: public administration, pedagogical sciences, psychology and sociology. In addition, the Erasmus University College, IHS, and two research institutes RISBO and DRIFT are linked to the faculty. This also reflects in the content of the (international) bachelor's and master's programs and in research. Our activities are always focused on people and society. At the ESSB fundamental, internationally oriented research is of paramount importance. In addition, social research for professionals, policy makers, and the society is part of our research activities. ESSB offers a stimulating research environment where major national and international research grants are received. Appealing guest researchers and ambitious PhD candidates come along to conduct their research. Our education is small-scale and works with innovative forms of education. Both the Dutch and English programs are highly ranked by students and alumni. ESSB is home to over 4000 students and more than 400 staff-members. The different disciplines are supported by the Faculty Office (for more information, please visit


Department of Public Administration and Sociology (DPAS)

DPAS covers the disciplines of Public Administration and Sociology. Two related scientific fields with different profiles. Public Administration studies governance capacity and policy interventions. It focuses on the institutional power to organize and intervene in the relations between different social, political and economic actors. Public Administration in Rotterdam goes well beyond the public realm itself and pays attention to public-private cooperation and networks of organizations. Sociology investigates the social structure of societies and the way it evolves. Sociologists in Rotterdam focus among other things on processes of globalization and individualization and on the effects of these processes on international social relations, the labor market or family relations. Related social problems that are studied are migration, flexibilization and solidarity. The perspectives of Public Administration and Sociology complement each other. Together they guarantee a highly relevant and scientific approach to topical administrative and social issues. The bachelor- and masterprogrammes of DPAS are build on this profile and educate students to become scientifically schooled professionals.

Team Governance & Pluralism (G&P)
The faculty ESSB and DPAS have a team-based structure. DPAS works with four teams, of which Governance and Pluralism (G&P) is one. The team has about 35 members now. The team members assess complex, (inter)national and multilevel governance problems regarding a wide variety of societal challenges (shorthand: governance) and address social divisions and conflicts pitting various social strata, lifestyles and identities (shorthand: pluralism). While their proceedings are already highly valued by (inter)national peers, civil society, policy makers, and governments, these could be taken a step further by – in addition to fruitfully continuing their current research foci – jointly assessing how governance and pluralism interact.


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • 32—40 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 3839


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

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