NEWAVE Early Stage Researcher / (PhD) position: Emerging re-commoning water governance practices as a response to austerity crises

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • NEWAVE Early Stage Researcher / (PhD) position: Emerging re-commoning water governance practices as a response to austerity crises
  • University Graduate
Would you like to be at the forefront of the global water governance debate, and planting the seeds for future actionable alternatives or improvements to the prevailing water governance paradigms? Are you enthusiastic about moving between science, policy and practice in order to qualify for successful careers in research, consulting, industry or governance? Apply for NEWAVE PhD position at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

FTE: 1

Job description

The recent austerity crisis in Europe has given rise to stronger and more populous movements demanding re-municipalisation or re-commoning of water resources. These movements differ from past attempts to re-commoning and re-municipalising water in two important ways:
  • The geographical scope of these grassroots movements fighting for re-commoning water and against privatisation ranges from intra-Europan (e.g. the European Citizens’ initiative for the right to water), to regional (the recent campaign at Lazio, Italy, for declaring water a service of public interest) to local initiatives (e.g. the SOSte to nero, and 136 movement against the privatisation of the water company of Thessaloniki, Greece).
  • The Actors involved in these movements under austerity conditions consist of social groups and organizations who were previously considered to be neither ‘revolutionary’ nor ‘militant’, and certainly not ‘radical’ or ‘innovative’ in their outlook philosophy and praxis. These emerging actors who start thinking ‘outside the box’ and acting ‘out of their traditional role and character’ include trade union members, home  carers (particularly women), adolescents, and pensioners.
The project will pay particular attention to these actors who were ignored in previous research, but take up central roles under conditions of austerity in initiating fresh ways of thinking about managing ‘the commons’. The project will assess the role they play in building alliances across segments of the society, and internationally, for reclaiming the commons through a new process of subjectivisation at different geographical scales and social contexts.

This position is part of the EU funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) ‘NEWAVE - Next Water Governance’. NEWAVE will train a total of 15 highly skilled Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), starting in the same period. The project aims at equipping the ESRs with fundamental knowledge, advanced skills, and adequate tools to address current and future water governance challenges. The selected candidates will have the opportunity to complete a PhD degree at one of its 10 prestigious host institutions, in collaboration with 19 partner organizations. The various positions are moving between science, policy and practice in order to qualify for successful careers in research, consulting, industry or governance. 

This position is hosted at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
The selected candidate will be supervised by a team of two academic supervisors (Prof. Maria Kaika, Universiteit van Amsterdam, and Prof. Jampel Dell’Angelo, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and one non-academic co-supervisor.

(S)he will have the opportunity to conduct relevant field research, and will receive a solid and innovative combination of training and practical experience to become highly attractive to potential employers in all sectors concerned. 

Your duties
  • investigate to what extent the need to both protect the environment and secure jobs under economic crisis and austerity frameworks, can mobilize new sets of actors and can ignite new paradigms for water governance
  • examine ways in which the pressure of the international paradigm to privatize water combined with the inability to find investors under an economic crisis can lead to innovative ways of thinking and acting ‘outside the box’ around water governance and to re-thinking practices for re-commoning water resources
Expected results:
  • document and assess new innovative paradigms for managing water as the commons
  • assess the extent to which these new practices can be upscaled to an EU and international level
  • compare and contrast the outcomes of such re-commoning practices, to existing paradigms of either municipal or privately-run water sectors
  • understand and explain where such paradigms succeed and where they fail. Why do they fail (or succeed) locally in changing water management practices? Why they fail (or succeed) in scaling-up, and in altering global water management practices? Why and how they succeed or fail in inspiring further movements and practices?


  • a degree at BA and at Masters level at the time of appointment in one of the following fields: geography, urban studies, planning, sociology, political ecology, environmental policy and governance, political sciences, law, anthropology or any other related cognate discipline in the humanities and social sciences.
  • a commitment to academic excellence
  • proven skills in executing empirical research in challenging contexts. Participant experience or research experience with social movements is particularly desirable
  • proven Capacity to work independently and as part of a team
  • examples of high-quality written work, such as a journal paper or equivalent
  • outstanding interpersonal skills to work with multiple stakeholders
  • some acquaintance (in theory or in praxis) with a range of research methods in the social sciences (notably qualitative and ethnographic research methods)
  • very good command of English. Knowledge of other European languages is a strong asset
  • live and work full-time in Amsterdam and be prepared to conduct brief fieldwork periods  in other European countries
  • capacity and commitment to Co-organize and participate fully in all the international research activities of the ITN network (including summer schools, conferences, etc.)
Eligibility criteria*
  • you must – at the date of recruitment – have obtained the MSc degree entitling you to embark on a doctorate
  • you must – at the date of recruitment – be within the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career and not have a doctoral degree
  • mobility rule: you must not have resided or carried out your main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the host organisation you are applying for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the recruitment date. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.
*Please make sure you comply with the eligibility criteria before applying. You need to be able to provide documentation proving your eligibility for recruitment. You can read the full description of eligibility criteria in the Information Note for ITN Fellows.

What are we offering?

The selected candidate will receive a salary in accordance with the European Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) regulations for Early Stage Researchers (ESR). The basic gross salary (living allowance) is €3,270 per month (€39,240/year). A correction factor will be applied for positions based in the Netherlands, according to the H2020 Work Programme (pg. 94, Table 2); therefore, the exact gross salary will be confirmed upon appointment. Please consider that the net salary will be lower than the amount mentioned due to taxes, social benefit premiums etc. The salary (Living allowance, mobility allowance, family allowance) is defined by the EU. In addition to the living allowance, selected candidates will benefit from a mobility allowance of €600 per month, and a family allowance of €500. All details of financial aspects can be found in the H2020 Programme – Guide for Applicants (pg. 27-29).

The selected candidate will have a fulltime employment contract for the duration of 36 months. The expected start date is 15 October or before.

Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment,
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus,
  • solid pension scheme (ABP),
  • a wide range of sports facilities which staff may use at a modest charge

About Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The ambition of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is clear: to contribute to a better world through outstanding education and ground-breaking research. We strive to be a university where personal development and commitment to society play a leading role. A university where people from different disciplines and backgrounds collaborate to achieve innovations and to generate new knowledge. Our teaching and research encompass the entire spectrum of academic endeavour – from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences through to the life sciences and the medical sciences.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is home to more than 26,000 students. We employ over 4,600 individuals. The VU campus is easily accessible and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, a truly inspiring environment for teaching and research.

We are an inclusive university community. Diversity is one of our most important values. We believe that engaging in international activities and welcoming students and staff from a wide variety of backgrounds enhances the quality of our education and research. We are always looking for people who can enrich our world with their own unique perspectives and experiences.

The Faculty of Science
The Faculty of Science inspires researchers and students to find sustainable solutions for complex societal issues. From forest fires to big data, from obesity to medicines and from molecules to the moon: our teaching and research programmes cover the full spectrum of the natural sciences. We share knowledge and experience with leading research institutes and industries, both here in the Netherlands and abroad.

Working at the Faculty of Science means working with students, PhD candidates and researchers, all with a clear focus on their field and a broad view of the world. We employ more than 1,250 staff members, and we are home to around 6,000 students.

About the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM)
Established in 1971, IVM is the Netherlands’ oldest environmental research institute, internationally recognized for its high quality research output and its interdisciplinary work. The mission of the institute is to contribute to sustainable development through scientific research and teaching. IVM aims to reach excellence in problem-oriented research that is useful to a wide range of stakeholders in the Netherlands and internationally. IVM’s research community works within and across four departments: Environmental Policy Analysis; Environmental Economics, Environmental Geography, and Water and Climate Risk.

About the department of Environmental Policy Analysis
The department of Environmental Policy Analysis is a vibrant international and world-renowned team of about 25 faculty members, postdocs and Ph.D. students within the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM). The group explores the theory and practice of environmental governance at various levels, with a special interest in institutional change, governance evaluation and complexity research across various thematic areas, such as climate change, water, and energy. Our aim is to develop path breaking research that guides the transition to a sustainable future.


Are you interested in this position? Please apply via the application button and upload your curriculum vitae and cover letter until 24.05.2020. The job interviews are planned for the period from 11 June to 1 July 2020, when possible please take them into account when applying for the position. Please note that you can indicate up to three preferences to be considered for other available positions at NEWAVE. 

Applications received by e-mail will not be processed.

Vacancy questions
If you have any questions regarding this vacancy, you may contact:

Name: Caterina Marinetti
Position: NEWAVE Scientific Project Manager
Telephone: +31 (0)6 17280404

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