Funding for seven interdisciplinary research projects on vital cities

Cycling through the centre of Rotterdam.
Jonathan van Rijn

Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens (VCC) launched an Open Door Call to distribute 1.4M euros for research purposes. Recently, seven projects were rewarded. The topics range from “30km/h speed limits for Healthy Populations and Vital Cities” to “Doing Diversity: Comparing diversity practices in education, cultural and sports across Rotterdam.” The Open Door Call aimed at collecting interdisciplinary research projects on cities with positive societal impact. VCC received applications from nearly all faculties of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Professor Jurian Edelenbos, academic lead of VCC: “We received 21 research proposals on various topics. A pool of external reviewers carried out a peer-review of each of the proposals. The selection process was at times rather challenging because of the high quality of the research ideas and the solid expertise of the co-applicants and research teams. We see great potential in further strengthening and embedding VCC within the various faculties. In thanking all the participants to the Open Door Call for sending very good research ideas, our best congratulations to the co-applicants of the funded proposals!”

The seven proposals selected align with at least two of the four core themes of VCC: resiliency, inclusivity, smartness and just sustainability. The winners have the opportunity to start a two-year post-doc research project, starting in September 2022, with a maximum project timeline until 31 December 2024. The postdocs will contribute to the research and impact mission of VCC to advance our understanding of the ways in which social, cultural and economic transformations affect the quality of life in cities and help city stakeholders to thrive as inclusive, resilient, smart and sustainable places to live, grow up and work in.  

The seven grant-winning projects are:

Rethinking inclusive sustainability: a mixed-methods study to tailor sustainability policies to the perspectives of less-educated citizens in Dutch municipalities

Applicants: Prof.dr. Jeroen van der Waal, dr. Joost Oude Groeniger, Kjell Noordzij, MSc, prof.dr. Willem de Koster

Faculties: Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences and Erasmus Medical Centre.

Sustainability policies require intrinsic commitment among the population. Current initiatives are hampered by lower support among less-educated citizens. This limits their involvement in many sustainable interventions and potentially causes societal polarization. Together with municipalities in the province of South Holland, our project aims to make sustainability policies more inclusive for less-educated citizens. To do so, our two-year project will start with exploring perceptions of sustainability among less-educated citizens via in-depth interviews. Subsequently, we will develop novel interventions tailored to less-educated citizens’ lifeworld and test their potential impact via survey experiments.

Bottom-up practices and resilience strategies in the informal settlements. New paths for (re) vitalizing cities

Applicants: Dr. Georgina Gomez, Dr. Lasse Gerrits and Dr. Andrea Floridi

Institutes/faculties: International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) and Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS)

The project explains in what ways residents of informal settlements transform and (re)vitalize the spatial, social, economic, and institutional environment surrounding them. We will compare case studies in Cameroon, Indonesia, and El Salvador to explore under what conditions collaboration between multiple actors (local governments, businesses and citizen’ associations in the field) achieves success in revitalizing their environment. From a theoretical point of view, it aims at theorizing the concept of the borderlands, a field of interaction between formal and informal institutions. The project concludes with a meta-analysis of mechanisms to improve policy effectiveness.

One size doesn’t fit all: a tailored and interdisciplinary approach to strengthen citizen participation in neighbourhood governance

Applicants: Prof. dr. Arwin van Buuren & dr. Lieke Oldenhof

Faculties: Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences and Erasmus School of Health, Policy and Management

It is important that public professionals tailor their citizen participation approach by considering differences between citizens in terms of social, economic, and cultural capital. By using design-oriented, action research methods, this project not only crucially advances the scientific state-of-the-art, but also develops a participation toolkit that enables public professionals to tailor more effective and inclusive participation processes. In this way, social inequalities are reduced. The focus will be on two contrasting neighbourhoods in Rotterdam that experiment with innovation in public participation and governance: Kralingen-Crooswijk and Carnisse. The results will feed back into various Kenniswerkplaatsen (Leefbare wijken, CARE Lab, GOVLab010), creating a city-wide impact.

30km/h speed limits for Healthy Populations and Vital Cities

Applicants: Prof.dr. Pilar Garcia-Gomez, Prof.dr. Alex Burdorf, Dr. Famke Mölenberg, Dr. Anna Bornioli en Dr. Nicole den Braver

Faculties: Erasmus School of Economics and Erasmus Medical Centre

Car-free or car-light environments are an important characteristic of urban vitality. This project will provide evidence on the wider impact of 30 km/h zones. First, we will build a data infrastructure and evaluate the impact of previous changes in speed limits in Dutch cities. Second, in collaboration with Rotterdam municipality, we will assess how the introduction of 30km/h speed limits will influence the city’s vitality. We will use a holistic approach by combining outcomes on mobility, health, and environmental science and focusing on the differential impact on population subgroups.

Doing Diversity: Comparing diversity practices in education, culture and sports across Rotterdam (DoDive)

Applicants: prof.dr. Susanne Janssen & dr. Mark van Ostaijen

Faculties: Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication and Erasmas School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

One of the most complex and interesting social challenges of today is diversity. Therefore, improving our understanding of how diversity is being done is highly significant. Particularly in superdiverse cities, like Rotterdam, professional organizations, public professionals and urban practitioners are facing diversity challenges. This project Doing Diversity proposes a state-of-the-art and cutting-edge approach by questioning how diversity is being done by organizations that face diversity issues in their everyday professional practices. By a comparative and cross-sectoral case study design, it studies educational, cultural and sports organizations in Rotterdam North and South.

Growing up in poverty: Resilience factors for Opportunity Inequalities in health and education (Project ROI)

Applicants: Prof.dr. Pauline W. Jansen, Prof.dr. Nicole Lucassen

Faculties: Erasmus Medical Centre and Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

With 17.5% of children living in low-income households, Rotterdam has the highest poverty rate of the Netherlands. Growing up in poverty is associated with poorer educational and (mental) health outcomes across life. Part of these negative outcomes is due to opportunity inequalities. In Project ROI, we aim to identify resilience factors in the family, school, and neighbourhood that may buffer against poverty-related opportunity inequalities using data of the prospective Generation R birth cohort. An iterative learning approach involving relevant stakeholders will be adopted in order to obtain crucial knowledge to implement at a policy level and directly in interventions.

Digital inclusion of small installation firms in post-industrial cities: Platforms, frugality and future scenarios

Applicants: Prof. dr. Peter Knorringa and Prof. dr. Martin de Jong
Researchers: Dr. Erwin van Tuijl, Dr. Emiel Rijshouwer and Jasmin Hofman (impact manager)

Faculties: International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus School of Law and Rotterdam School of Management

This study addresses the challenge of digital inclusion of small installation firms in energy transitions through a comparative analysis of post-industrial cities along three analytical angles. First, we explore how and why small installation firms use different platforms and, accordingly, the opportunities and challenges of platforms for these firms’ business. Second, we elucidate how frugality – an approach to solving local problems through complexity reduction when resources are limited – can help to achieve digital inclusion and energy transitions. Third, we analyse urban policies and -assets and aim to provide recommendations on how cities can support energy transitions and small installation firms’ business.

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The aim of this Vital Cities and Citizens Open Door Call is to stimulate interdisciplinary and interfaculty research with positive societal impact.
Helicopter view of the city Rotterdam

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