Below you can find an overview (in chronological order) of the projects that I am currently – or have been – working on. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you are interested in a project and want to learn more about it (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
Research: Mission-oriented innovation in Chile
Together with colleagues from the Universidad de Talca in Chile, and Wageningen University (Profs. Klerkx and Villalobos), we are conducting research into mission-oriented innovation systems and transformative policy mixes in Chilean agri-food systems. In particular, we study if mission-oriented agricultural innovation systems are already emerging and how national policy efforts aim to support these developments. Our first (conceptual) perspective paper that results from this study is published in Agricultural Systems and addresses the politics of mission-oriented innovation systems: link to publication here!
The CLEVERFOOD project (funded through Horizon Europe) supports the European Commission in their efforts at food system transformation. In particular, the project aims to coordinate, connect and scale the many existing projects, initiatives, and multi-stakeholder Labs that engage on this topic. The project is coordinated by the University of Copenhagen. The Athena Institute is involved in workpackages on education, policy & governance, and empowerment of citizens and communities.
The CropMix project is funded by the Dutch NWO through the NWA route. It aims to study and experiment with mixed cropping systems in Dutch agricultural systems. The transdisciplinary consortium (including 25 farmers who experiment with mixed cropping on their farms) integrates insights from natural sciences (agro-ecology, soil sciences, biology) with economics and social sciences (including governance issues and consumer engagement). The project is coordinated by Wageningen University. The Athena Institute is involved in setting up Living Labs to engage a wide range of societal stakeholders and project partners in developing transition pathways and governance interventions.
The SUSFEED project (2021-2025) is supported by the Research Council Norway and aims to develop pathways towards sustainable bio-feed solutions in Norway, by adopting a food systems perspective and by embracing co-production methodologies with societal stakeholders. The project is coordinated by Ruralis. I am involved as an international scientific advisor, supporting the project with expertise on the governance and politics of co-production methodologies in sustainable transformation processes.
PhD Thesis: Governing the Politics of Transitions
My PhD thesis focuses on the politics of complex system transformation. My thesis has three parts that in turn consist of a number of academic publications each. In the first part, I theoretically explore the ‘politics of transitions’ by unraveling the role of agency, power, powering, democracy and justice in transition governance. The second part conceptualizes the role of R&I systems in setting in motion food system transformation, and highlights in which way R&I systems can ‘govern’ transitional dynamics in agri-food systems. The final part includes a number of empirical studies on the politics of transdisciplinary efforts aimed at fostering agri-food transitions. This part builds on work we conducted during the FIT4FOOD2030 project. LINK TO THE THESIS
Research: Evaluating Policy Evaluation
We are working on exploring the role of learning networks in policy evaluation processes. This project, a collaboration between the Athena Institute and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL, “Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving“) seeks to explore the (changing) roles of the PBL in conducting “learning policy evaluations” that ex-durante evaluate policy programs aimed at setting in motion transitional dynamics around a variety of grand societal challenges while supporting learning and reflexivity among participating policy actors. We explore how learning policy evaluations take shape in practice, and what that entails for how evaluations can be best conducted and supported in research organizations.
Learning Policy Evaluation: Duinboeren case
Farmers working on high sandy soils in the Dutch province of Brabant have organized themselves in a regional network as Duinboeren (“Dune Farmers”). This network supports sustainable projects and novel business models for farmers. It is considered a promising intermediary organization by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture (LNV). The Athena Institute and the organization Biodiversity in Business together explore this case to derive lessons for the Dutch government on how they can best support regionally rooted sustainability initiatives in light of urgently needed transitions of agri-food systems.
FIT4FOOD2030 (2017-2020, €4.0M) supported the European Commission in future-proofing food systems through research and innovation (R&I). In particular, it aimed to transform Europe’s R&I systems so that they would be better able to support food system transformation through the supporting transformative, transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral R&I approaches. To that end the project supported 25 transformative multi-stakeholder Labs across Europe that worked on co-creating R&I policy innovations (Policy Labs) and educational modules (City and Food Labs).
I was involved in project management, methodology development and training of the coordinators of the project’s Labs. Check out the project website and the Knowledge Hub containing many tools for transformation!
MSc Thesis: Politics of Transitions
As part of my MSc Political Sciences, I wrote a thesis on the politics of sustainability transitions. In particular I sought to clarify the role of power and its causal influence in transitional dynamics in an effort to help conceptualize the complex nature and the relation between agency and power. This could help understand the role of technology and non-humans in driving systemic dynamics. Empirically my thesis zoomed in on the contested case of biomass co-firing in coal plants in the Netherlands. My thesis (“Power Dynamics in Transition: Exploring the Governance of Complex Socio-eco-technical Systems”, graded 9.3) was supervised by Dr. Anne Loeber.
MSc Thesis: Transitions in Physical Systems
The thesis for my MSc Physics degree focused on understanding the transitional dynamics of complex soft matter. In particular it aimed to shed light on the nature of the glass transition. Our findings show correlation between the dynamical an structural properties of glasses, suggesting more complex phase transitions in glassy liquids, which was theoretically predicted but not yet empirically reported. As part of this project I worked at the Soft Matter Group (Prof. Schall) of the University of Amsterdam and the School of Engineering of Applied Sciences of Harvard University (Prof. Spaepen). My thesis (graded 9.0) was titled “Correlated Heterogeneous Structural and Dynamical Properties of Hard-Sphere Colloidal Glasses”.