Ambitious plans have been made to transform The Hague Southwest from an area facing complex social issues into a strong thriving environment. The Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities and the municipality of The Hague have joined hands to tackle various social challenges. The newly established Thesis Hub The Hague Zuidwest is a platform that bridges social-economic issues and academic knowledge to create a real impact.
Opportunities for collaboration: Regional Deal The Hague Zuidwest
The area of Zuidwest is characterised by relative poverty, low social mobility, dated infrastructure and various social challenges. The municipality aims to revamp the area, developing it into a strong and resilient place.
Renewed attention for development is stimulated by the Regional Deal. The Regional Deal is a four-year project subsidised by the national and local government with the aim to enhance regions facing complex social challenges. Three pillars form the basis of the project: strengthening society and participants, empowering vital citizens, and supporting an inclusive local economy by means of activation, education and employment.
Research for Policy
Mandy Koenraads, Coordinator of the newly established The Hague Zuidwest Thesis Hub explains the importance of the project for both the municipality and the universities involved: ‘The themes laid out by the government are wicked problems in need of extensive analysis and provide opportunities for multidisciplinary collaborations. This is where the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities come in. Bringing academic insights into complex social-economic challenges is mutually beneficial for the municipality and students, laying the foundations for The Hague Zuidwest Thesis Hub. The thesis workshop set up by Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre Governance of Migration and Diversity connects students with the municipality and the locality and vice versa.’
Master students participating in the programme translate practical social challenges into academic research questions and produce well-researched and integrated policy recommendations. The municipality gains evidence-based policy recommendations, and the Master students get the important opportunities to move beyond theory and work in the field, applying academic knowledge.
‘The Thesis Hub had an excellent kick-off last academic year. The project started with knowledgeable input from alderman Martijn Balster, as well as guidance from three professors: Olaf van Vliet, Thea Hilhorst and Peter Scholten. The kick-off allowed for meaningful interaction between students and policymakers. This direct engagement allowed challenge-owners to understand how students interpret the challenges and how such challenges may be translated into academic theory.’
The first cohort of students have successfully completed their Master theses with the Thesis Hub. The students of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus master's program Governance of Migration and Diversity used their academic knowledge to tackle challenges such as public participation, policy evaluation and strengthening the feeling of safety for residents.
The second group of students will undertake practice-oriented studies with the Thesis Hub this autumn. To stimulate more interdisciplinary interaction and fresh perspectives, the programme is expanding to include students from across the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities. In addition to LDE Governance of Migration and Diversity students, the programme is open for other Masters such as Architecture and Public Administration students.
Urban participatory governance projects
One of the aims set by the municipality of The Hague is to involve residents more by improving participatory policy. The participation of citizens in the policy process is expected to make projects more accessible and capable of increasing social cohesion in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Tirza Pulleman, one of the first students to graduate with the multidisciplinary Thesis Hub, studied what this citizen interaction looks like in practice and whether this participation indeed stimulates contact between residents.
The Master Governance of Migration graduate explains: ‘I investigated the Municipality of The Hague’s policy to use citizen participation to improve social cohesion in distressed neighbourhoods of The Hague Southwest. More specifically I visited two local participation projects in Bouwlust and Moerwijk and spoke with their participants to see whether their participation indeed improved their social contact and neighbourhoods.’
‘Being part of the LDE DHZW enabled me to conduct research that is clearly grounded in the real world, as my topic revolved around an issue that the Municipality of The Hague, and many others as well, is currently dealing with. It also gave me the chance to produce a thesis with a clear impact, as my results and recommendations will be presented to the Municipality. This made the thesis process even more worthwhile.’
Find out about Tirza Pulleman’s policy recommendations, as well as insights from other students of the first graduate batch from The Hague Zuidwest Thesis Hub. The outcome of the Thesis Hub projects and the comprehensive evidence-based insights for improving policy-making will be presented to the municipality of The Hague on Thursday 28th of October. This final presentation enforces the bridge between science and practice.
Prof. Peter Scholten and Mandy Koenraads of the LDE Centre Governance of Migration and Diversity will present the new Thesis Hub The Hague Zuidwest at LDE Talks on 12 October. We heartily welcome you to join this event. Find more information here.