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Our programmatic approach

CIS, as an integral part of VU International Office, actively supports and promotes the university’s strategy of internationalisation and diversity.

We work on interdisciplinary projects and training programmes. In a broader sense, CIS embodies the university’s commitment to society, supporting and facilitating research, education and outreach organisations in emerging economies and developing countries and beyond to the benefit of people, planet and prosperity.

The global society is increasingly challenged by complex problems affecting people, planet and prosperity. Food security, sustainability of the natural environment, governance, social and economic inclusiveness, are amongst the major issues of our time, demanding sustainable solutions. Our approach is people-centred, participatory and adaptive, aimed at creating long-lasting partnerships of collaboration, which can connect the world of science and technology to the needs of local communities, academic partners and organisations in developing countries.

Together with faculties we initiate and work on a number of long-term programmes that are aligned to one or more profiling themes and embedded in the research agendas of VU faculties. Projects and activities that constitute CIS programmes are interlinked and are mutually reinforcing.

CIS programmes

  • Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Land Management

    Food and nutrition security (FNS) is a key challenge in the world, and a central element in broader debates surrounding environmental and social sustainability. Feeding a growing population with increasing demands in terms of diet comes at the cost of land and water resources, changes in the nutrient cycle and greenhouse gas emissions. Increased production of food leads to conflicts over scarce natural resources and hampers efforts to protect biodiversity and ecosystems. This explains why effective solutions for FNS require an integrated approach, involving multiple stakeholders.

    FNS is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical, economic, and social access to nutritious food. In our program, FNS is addressed from different perspectives, looking at food systems transformation, sustainable land and water management, entrepreneurship in agri-food value chains and evidence-based education in related fields. Examples of our work include training and education for professionals and students; integration of entrepreneurial skills in education and training curricula; implementation of Real-Life Learning Labs, where society meets education and research; and collaboration with partners to integrate practice- and evidence-based learning.
    (links with VU profiling themes: Science for Sustainability, Governance for Society, Human Health & Life Sciences)

    Products / deliverables / events:

    • Desk studies
    • Needs assessments
    • Evaluations 
    • Preparatory doctoral training / PhD training
    • Co-supervision of PhD students
    • Publications
    • Lectures in International Development Honours Programme
    • Summer School course

    Contact person: Denyse Snelder

  • ICT for Development

    Despite major technological advancements the 21st century, 4.5 billion people in the world remain excluded from the Information Society. Amongst these are millions of people in rural areas, who are vulnerable to food insecurity, due to climate change and economic hazards.
    The Network Institute, in close collaboration with CIS, has been running a research program on “ICT for Development” since 2009. This is W4RA or Web Alliance for Regreening in Africa, aimed at improving knowledge sharing amongst rural communities through action-research. The program consists of extensive field research in Africa’s drylands, aimed at co-creation of innovative ICT services, with the close participation of rural communities.

    Social entrepreneurship and innovation are important aspects of the CIS programme on ICT4D and Digital Society in the Global South. In CIS’ broad international network we keep contact with businesses that have a corporate social responsibility policy and SDG-orientation. This makes it possible to encourage VU students who graduate in CIS-related ICT4D Master research projects to be involved in business related to ICT4D.

    We support our partners in the Global South (e.g. Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso) to be more entrepreneurial by offering training on digital skills. For example, in Burkina Faso, we supported innovative women entrepreneurs in rural regions, small-scale producers of non-timber forest products using co-creation and co-design techniques to improve their marketing skills and help them to access local markets. We support local community radio stations in Mali and Burkina Faso to expand their business through digitization of their existing business. Indirecly, at the level of Higher Education, our ICT4D educational program supports universities in the Global South (e.g. UDS Ghana, UNIMAS Malaysia) to design/develop new educational curricula to educate a new generation of professionals with advanced digital skills (e.g. AI, Blockchain technology. These curricula educate students to become skilled ICT professionals and responsible/reflective citizens that can engage in social and sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation for rapidly changing societies in the Global South.
    (links with VU profiling themes: The Connected World, Science for Sustainability)

    Products / deliverables / events:

    • PhD training
    • Master course ICT4D;
    • Supervision Master theses;
    • Website W4RA
    • Annual symposium
    • Publications and working papers
    • Video materials

    Contact person: Anna Bon

  • Conflict Resolution and Mediation

    Conflicts arise over a wide range of issues, on different levels and in different contexts. Conflicts arise over scarce natural resources, like access to land and water, over access to public services and unfair treatment, between as well as within communities, families, organisations and states. Effects can for example include displacement of people, uncertainty about livelihood, trauma, fear, depression and illness.

    Our programmatic activities in the area of conflict resolution and mediation address all different kinds of conflict and train people on how they can use conflict to create new realities, be it in their own personal conflicts, within their specific professional environment or as a neutral third party who mediates between people in conflict. Few people learn how to constructively solve conflicts, their natural tendency is to flee, fight or accommodate. Conflict resolution and mediation approaches look at was is truly at stake, what emotions are involved, why and how these are linked to one’s interest and motivation. It is at this level that people are able to share their grievances and to hear, see, meet and connect to each other. This new or renewed sense of connection can lead to regained trust, dignity, social cohesion and civic engagement.

    Conflict often has serious implications for economic development or the extent to which people can use their entrepreneurial potential. This can be related to obstruction of available infrastructure, limited freedom of movement or the degree to which insecurity is experienced. Where people become more conflict-ready or where people experience more security and trust, space is created to deploy entrepreneurship and be able to take more personal responsibility to ensure a sustainable livelihood.

    We focus not only on training professionals in the field of mediation, mediation techniques and other forms of conflict resolution, but also on how professionals can improve the resilience of communities and societies in terms of their capacity to solve conflict amicably. This requires an entrepreneurial mindset: pioneering, finding ways to create awareness, finding formal support for setting up new initiatives, adjusting policies and exploring new opportunities. Partners trained in mediation, mediation skills and other conflict resolution methodologies are therefore trained in how to create sustainable interventions and structures that will support their communities and societies to become more inclusive and prosper economically.
    (links with VU profiling themes:Governance for Society & Science for Sustainability)

    Products / deliverables / events:

    • Development and implementation of tailor-made training programmes on:
      • Mediation
      • Mediation skills in public service delivery
      • Facilitation of multi-party conflicts
      • Community Based Sociotherapy
      • Trauma and religion
    • Training of Trainers
    • Development of contextualised training materials
    • Curriculum review/development

    Contact person: Marise van Amersfoort

  • Governance for Society

    1. Good Governance & Democratisation
      Issues pertaining to human rights, democracy, migration, surveillance and privacy, corruption, environmental concerns, transnational law, international relations, trade regulations and rule of law are key challenges in the developing world today in terms of Governance. Hence this thematic area is of increasing relevance, impinging upon the lives of people in all parts of the world.  It is concerned with how societies and institutions organise and govern themselves. This focuses on government institutions, international organisations, (higher) education institutes, businesses, and others. The aim of this programme is to advance society in general, and ensure in particular that among others citizens, women, vulnerable groups and voiceless people are served better and more equally. This is indeed a broad area of interest, in which experts and scholars from different disciplines and sectors join forces, such as political science, law and governance, management & organisation, organisation sciences, computer sciences, psychology, anthropology and religion & theology.

      Our programmatic activities with regard to Good Governance and Democratisation concern both government institutions and higher education institutions. They also include the media as well as civil society organisations such as grassroots movements and non-governmental organisations. In our view, good governance and democratisation should be supported through a bottom-up strategy in which citizens gain awareness of their rights and are sensitised and encouraged to claim these rights. To this end, we adopt a tailor-made approach to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels to implement this two-pronged approach.
    2. Security & Rule of Law
      Our programmatic activities with regard to Security & Rule of Law aim specifically to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and to provide access to justice for all (SDG 16). The focus is on national and regional justice sector systems and institutions, as well as human rights organisations and community-based groups to seek to defend the rights of their citizens.

      In addition to the thematic areas described above CIS also focuses on Entrepreneurship, Employment & Job generation as part of Governance for Society programme. A substantial middle class is an important factor to guarantee a certain level of stability in society. In unstable societies or in countries with host communities for refugees entrepreneurship is often the only option for sustainable livelihood. Economic development from which all sections of society benefit are crucial for democratic political systems to flourish and for the Rule of Law to function.
      Therefore, project support and professional advice to facilitate employment opportunities– particularly for the youth as well as (social) entrepreneurs – and advance employability of graduates from universities and vocational training colleges are part of the CIS programme on Governance for Society. Furthermore, academic research to come up with evidence-based recommendations to support equal economic opportunities are important in this regard.
      (links with VU profiling themes: Governance for Society, Science for Sustainability,The Connected World)

    Products / deliverables / events:

    • Development and implementation of tailor-made training programmes on:
      • Strategy development
      • Leadership and management
      • Communication skills
      • Organisational learning
      • Monitoring and evaluation
      • Train the Trainers
    • Project management of large-scale (inter)national, multi-stakeholder projects
    • Curriculum review/development
    • International community service learning for students
    • Research capacity development (proposal writing, research skills, academic writing in English, postgraduate supervision skills and mentorship)

    Contact person (Good Governance & Democratisation): Esther den Hartog
    Contact person (Security & Rule of Law): Henk van den Heuvel

Do you have any questions for us? We are happy to help


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