PhD Polycentric Governance

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“The role of a shared system of rules for inclusive and effective polycentric SDG governance arrangements in East Africa”

The PhD candidate will work on the question how a shared system of rules can be leveraged to enable inclusive and effective polycentric SDG governance arrangements in East Africa. The candidate will study internationally endorsed principles for aid effectiveness as a shared system of rules for polycentric governance of SDG interactions. Data collection methods will include in-depth interviews with development actors, policy documents, and multi-sited ethnography. The resulting data will be analysed from a multi-level perspective, using various qualitative methods.

The research problem for the overall project is how a fragmented governance context could develop into a polycentric governance system. What distinguishes polycentric from fragmented governance regimes are mechanisms of coordination or alignment between the different decision-making centres, based on the presence of a shared system of rules. Such a shared system of rules serves to identify the boundaries of a specific polycentric system in which normative values for the system’s functioning and aims are set out, as well as its key processes. This PhD project will focus on how internationally endorsed principles for aid effectiveness can function as a shared system of rules for polycentric governance of SDG interactions.

We ask

  • A higher education degree equivalent to a European MSc degree
  • Academic background in policy, law and governance studies; development studies, environmental studies or relevant social science
  • Proficiency in the English language
  • Strong academic writing skills
  • Proven track record of academic achievement in courses and thesis work
  • Experience with social scientific research methods such as interviews and document analysis
  • Affinity with the international development context in East-Africa

We offer

  • A four year fully funded PhD position at ACTS Kenya
  • Enrollment in the PhD programme of the Wageningen School of Social Sciences at Wageningen University, including PhD courses, library access and ICT services
  • Supervision by experts in the field at the Wageningen Center of Sustainability Governance
  • Three research stays of 6 months at Wageningen University, including a living allowance on top of the ACTS remuneration
  • The opportunity to develop and graduate as a researcher, supported by a vibrant international community of researchers and stakeholders linked to the “Governing SDG interactions” project

The selected PhD candidate will be appointed for a 4-year PhD position at the African Centre for Technology Studies (Nairobi, Kenya) and registered for the PhD Programme at Wageningen University (The Netherlands). Supervision will be provided by Prof. Josephine van Zeben and Dr. Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen from Wageningen University, and Dr. Joanes Atela from the African Centre for Technology Studies.

How to apply

Applications should consist of the following: (1) A cover letter addressed to the PhD supervisors, explaining your capability and motivation for undertaking the PhD research project (maximum 2 pages); (2) A resume, including full higher education and occupational trajectory (maximum 3 pages); (3) A concept note on how you would design the research project (maximum 1 page); and (4) Certified academic certificates and transcripts.

If you apply for more than one of the PhD positions, please indicate this clearly in your cover letter.

Applications should be sent to Wageningen University at and to ACTS at

Applications need to be in by Friday 28 January 2022. Interviews are planned for Wednesday Thursday 23 February 2022. The intended starting date for the PhD position is 1 June 2022.

More information

For questions on the larger “Governing SDG interactions“ project, contact Art Dewulf ( For questions on this PhD position, contact Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (, Joanes Atela ( or Josephine van Zeben (

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