PhD Researcher Collective governance, innovation and creativity in the face of climate change (1,0 fte)

Job description

This PhD is part of the JPI/ NWO SELFCITY project that explores the processes of self-organisation that underpin community-led, project-based initiatives to address climate change in three countries across Europe.

Self-organising is one of the three inter-linked processes (along with market-led and state-led mechanisms) that will underpin any pragmatic and innovative transition to an adapted urban environment that is closer to being carbon neutral and that may be resilient in the face of changing (climate-induced) weather patterns. Whereas there has been work on market-led and on state-led initiatives, we understand less well the ways in which civil society constructs sometimes alternative and sometimes complementary ways of addressing climate change. Building on existing research on adapting the built environment, urban neighbourhoods and facilitating energy transition, the project combines social researcher-led work with participant action research to explore, record and enhance the ways community leaders are organizing innovative, creative and pragmatic climate change initiatives in their communities.

The project sets out how the problems of climate change are conceptualized both by these activists/ practitioners and by the community members they work with. The project creates space for activists to identify capacity-building needs and for the research team to work with activists to fill these needs. Through these reflexive activities both academic and practitioners team will tease out the tensions and potentials of the inter-relation of everyday societal knowledge and technical knowledge on climate challenge responses. Not only does this project analyse the tensions in these forms of knowledge creation within a given national context. It uses the device of cross-national comparison to help participants and other urban stakeholders create awareness of both their distinct cultural, technical and institutional routines within which they operate regarding climate change policies and how to break free from them.

The successful candidate will investigate politics of urban sustainability transitions with reference to newly forming coalitions of actors that are challenging the hitherto dominant technological and economic paradigm of energy governance in The Netherlands. A crucial element will be critical engagement with processes of self-organisation that underpin these transitions, as well as social and spatial justice dimensions of the changes and comparative work in the UK and Germany.

The individually written PhD thesis will consist of several international scientific journal articles, and will be written in English. Presentations at (inter)national conferences and assistance in organizing workshops with the (inter)national collaborators and stakeholders are part of the requirement as well. Some teaching will be involved.


  • a research masters (or equivalent qualification or expertise) in a field of study relevant to this research project (e.g. human geography, urban planning, social sciences) or cognate area or discipline
  • transcript of grades from research masters (or equivalent) level education
  • knowledge and clear interest in the fields of urban governance and planning, climate change, sustainability, self organisation and participatory research
  • Enthusiasm for research at the interface of science and activism/ practitioner networks, alongside experience with qualitative and participatory research methods
  • good academic writing skills and fluency in English (and preferably some competence in Dutch)
  • willingness to travel and to conduct research in The Netherlands, the UK and Germany
  • keen interest in teaching.


  • conceptual capacity and abstract reasoning
  • strategic thinking, communicative (presenting) and organizational skills and the capacity for working independently
  • strong social skills to work in interdisciplinary teams and comfortable to engage with networks outside the academy
  • affinity with multidisciplinary cooperation and being able to work in an international team of young researchers
  • planning and organising
  • drive, enthusiasm and creativity.

Conditions of employment

The University of Groningen offers a salary of € 2,427 gross per month (salary scales Dutch Universities) in the first year of the appointment, rising to € 2,664 gross per month in the third year of a full-time position. The conditions of employment comply with the Collective Labour Agreement for the Dutch Universities. This full-time appointment as a PhD researcher (AIO) is temporary for three years, for students who have completed their research masters (or equivalent). You will first be appointed for a period of 12 months. After a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining part of the project. The appointment of the PhD researcher is with the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the University of Groningen. As such, the PhD researcher will be admitted to the Graduate School of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences.

We expect the successful candidate to start January 2015 or as soon as possible thereafter.

The closing date for applications is Friday 17 October, 2014, 17:00 Dutch local time. You should submit applications by means of the application form (click on “Apply” on the advertisement on the university’s website below).

We kindly invite applications for this exciting new position and request the following:

  • a curriculum vitae, including the research you have carried out for obtaining your research masters (or equivalent) and a list of 3 persons as academic references
  • motivation letter: why you think you are the best match for this position and explaining why you want to do research with us in this particular field
  • proof of English proficiency
  • scientific text you have written within the last year.

Interviews will take place in October 2014. Unsolicited marketing will not be permitted.


Please contact Dr. Justin Beaumont ( for further information or to address any questions you may have. DO NOT SEND APPLICATIONS TO THIS ADDRESS.


Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has enjoyed an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative centre of higher education offering high-quality teaching and research. Balanced study and career paths in a wide variety of disciplines encourage the 28,000 students and researchers to develop their own individual talents. Belonging to the best research universities in Europe and joining forces with prestigious partner universities and networks, the University of Groningen is truly an international place of knowledge.

The PhD researchers will be based in the Department of Spatial Planning & Environment in the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. The research will be part of the JPI SELFCITY project (incl. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, NWO) on Collective governance, innovation and creativity in the face of climate change.

The project lasts for 3 years and starts in January 2015 and will be supervised by Prof. dr. Johan Woltjer (promotor), Dr. Justin Beaumont (co-promoter) and Dr. Chris Zuidema (co-promoter) from the Faculty of Spatial Sciences. The PhD researcher will be embedded in a team of young researchers and will collaborate closely with fellow PhD researchers and post-doc researchers in the UK and Germany.

The Faculty of Spatial Sciences: information regarding the Faculty Research Mission and the various research clusters and departments within the Faculty of Spatial Sciences is available at:

Justin Beaumont | Spatial Planning & Environment | University of Groningen | The Netherlands | Website/ Blog

“But wise is the man who disdains no character, but with searching glance explores him to the root and cause of all.” ― Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls


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