NEWAVE PhD 9: Consultancy firms and the circulation of policy paradigms: roles, responsibilities and impacts


, , NL

Host institution: ARCADIS, The Netherlands
Principal supervisor: Prof. dr. Dave Huitema
Co-supervisor: Dr. Nicolas Jager
Non-academic co-supervisor: Ms Iris Bijlsma
Application deadline: 24 May 2020
Expected starting date: before 15 October 2020​​​​​​​
Duration: 3 years


Increasingly attention is paid to the global circulation of ideas on water governance. The role of environmental consultancy firms in that process deserves more attention, something that this ESR project will accomplish. Building on existing frameworks on policy intervention, diffusion and adoption, boundary work, policy entrepreneurship, policy evaluation, etc. the project will seek to develop a conceptual model of the role of consultancy firms, containing several potential hypothesis on how and when consultancy firms influence water governance debates. The subsequent empirical reserach will focus on the real life impact of consultancy firms on a number of critical processes in the circulation of ideas on water governance, notably the translation of academic ideas into actionable proposals for new governance technologies, the role of consultancy firms in uploading them to international institutions, and downloading them to local and regional jurisdictions, and their role in the evaluation of novel approaches and communicating about their performance. The project is explicitly aimed to create reflexive insights for consultancy firms, and to co-develop normative guidance on how the industry could further improve their role in the global circulation of ideas.

This PhD position will:

  1. Conceptualize the role of consultancy firms in the development, diffusion and evaluation of water policy paradigms
  2. Describe and analyse empirically how consultancy firms develop ideas for novel paradigms, for instance by making academic ideas actionable
  3. Describe and analyse the role of consultancy firms in the uploading and downloading of policy ideas between various jurisdictional levels, for instance by certifying the credibility (proof of principle) of certain ideas
  4. Study how consultancy firms pick up the task of evaluating the performance of policy ideas in practice, for instance by looking at the evaluation methods they use, and the way communication about findings takes place
  5. Stimulate a reflexive discussion on the principles that should underpin future paradigm circulation, including but not limited to context sensitivity
  6. Produce actionable, evidence based and normatively sound suggestions for approaches that consultancy could follow in fulfilling their role in the global circulation of policy ideas

Expected results:

  1. A conceptual framework highlighting the role of consultancy in the circulation of policy ideas globally
  2. Empirical evidence on the way consultancy firms pick up their role, understand their normative responsibilities, and affect water governance practices globally
  3. A discussion on the normative principles that could guide consultancy firms in their future approach
  4. Actionable recommendations on how to improve current practices (best practice recommendations).

Arcadis is a Dutch consultancy and engineering company (international headquarters in Amsterdam / Dutch headquarters in Arnhem) that is active throughout the world on the subjects of infrastructure, buildings, environment and water. Arcadis develops, designs, implements, maintains and operates projects for companies and governments. Arcadis has 27.300 employees working in 40 different offices worldwide and is active in more than 70 countries. The gross revenue of 2017 was 3,219 million euros.

We seek
  • A master’s degree in Environmental Policy, Environmental Science and Policy, Development Studies, Science and Technology Studies, or related, completed with excellent grades
  • A demonstrated interest in water governance or environmental governance more broadly
  • Proven skills in conceptual thinking and in doing empirical research in challenging context
  • 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 colleagues at ARCADIS, and with multiple stakeholders
  • Candidates must meet the ESR eligibility criteria (see elsewhere on the NEWAVE website)
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.


Prof. dr. Dave Huitema
Professor of Environmental Policy, Institute for Environmental Studies,
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Dr. Nicolas Jager
Postdoctoral researcher at the research group on Ecological Economics at Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany

Ms Iris Bijlsma
Senior Project Manager
ARCADIS, The Netherlands





IHE Delft Institute for Water Education - MSc in Water and Sustainable Development