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Katarzyna Cieslik, MA MSc PhD

Katarzyna Cieslik, MA MSc PhD

Research Associate, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Bye Fellow of Murray Edwards College

I am a scholar in Development Studies whose research focuses on the interactions among society, policy and environment, and their implications for sustainable development in the Global South. I am particularly interested in the agency of individuals and institutions in addressing the pressing development challenges related to sustainable transitions. My work at Cambridge focuses on youth, decent work and livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on technology/employment trade-offs.



  • 2019 – Research Associate, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UK
  • 2015 – 2018: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Public Administration and Policy Group, Knowledge, Technology, Innovation: Center for Integrative Development, Wageningen University, the Netherlands


  • 2016 - PhD in Economics and Management, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management
  • 2014 - Visiting Assistant in Research (VAR), Yale University, Agrarian Studies Center, MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, USA
  • 2011 - M. Sc. in International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam, International Development Studies, the Netherlands


I am a development studies scholar whose research critically examines the work of development institutions, from governments and international donors to research institutes and NGOs, in the Global South. I am particularly interested in the processes of sustainable transitions in the context of subsistence economies, in which youth employment plays a key role.

My earlier work explored the contested issue of micro-entrepreneurship and self-employment that have recently become the cornerstone of development policy in Sub-Saharan Africa. In partnership with UNICEF Innovation Labs, I examined the role of social enterprises in remote, rural contexts, focusing on community-based cooperatives producing green energy.

I also have a keen interest in science and technology studies, in particular in information and communication technology (ICT4D). My postdoctoral research at Wageningen University focused on the role of ICT4Ds in sustainable governance of agro- and eco-systems in Nepal, Peru and Ethiopia.

My research is highly practice-oriented; I have cooperated with the UNICEF and UNESCO agencies and a number of local NGOs in Africa (FVS Amade, FARA, CIP), South America (CONDESAN, AGAPE), Asia (Practical Action, Mountain Societies Research Institute) in order to provide rigorous evidence of what works in the field of international development.

Current projects

Decent work and youth livelihoods: public policy challenges for employment creation in Sub-Saharan Africa

The aim of this research project is to assess the policy challenges that arise in response to the growing crisis of youth (un)employment, working poverty and livelihoods in Sub-Saharan African countries. The region is of particular interest due to the persistent rise in youth populations, which is expected to continue until at least 2100. The potential of this demographic dividend is contingent upon meeting the challenge of finding meaningful work that enables people to make a living. While this global priority is now enshrined in the SDG agenda, developing locally and national appropriate employment strategies is a key public policy challenge. Taking a global perspective, we also look at youth unemployment as a key contributor to the refugee crisis.

Technology, work and livelihoods in Nigeria: can digital platforms create decent jobs?

Platform economy encompasses economic and social activities facilitated by digital platforms. Driven by technological innovations and increased online connectivity, platforms have proliferated across Western Africa, bringing out transformations of labour relationships and dissolution of work boundaries. While some scholars argue that platforms can improve productivity, reduce inefficiencies create work opportunities in less developed countries, others point to technological unemployment and growing precarity of labour, worsening tax revenue and data privacy abuses. This project seeks to deepen our understanding of platform economy by looking at both: the experience of the different level stakeholders and the institutional ecosystem at both global and local scales. Is 'decent work' possible within gig work platforms? Gig platforms: disruptive innovators or value appropriators?

Collective action through connective action: the role of ICTs in managing public bads in Ethiopia

This research project investigates the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in overcoming the challenges of integrating heterogeneous actors in collective management of shared resources (here: public bads). In this research, we develop a framed field experiment to model the decision-making process of potato farmers in Ethiopia in the face of the collective threat of highly infectious potato disease. Our experimental research in the Oromia region (Wolmera) provides a quantitative perspective on the contested topic of 'ICT-revolution' and its supposed transforming effect on African agriculture.


Selected peer-reviewed papers

  • Cieslik, K. Shakya, P., Uprety, M., Dewulf, A., Russell, C., Clark, J., Dhital, M.R., Dhakal, A. (2019). Building Resilience to Chronic Landslide Hazard through Citizen Science. Forthcoming in: Frontiers in Earth Science.
  • Cieslik, K., Dewulf, A., Buytaert, W. (2019). Project Narratives. The Ins and Outs of Participatory Environmental Monitoring in the Peruvian Andes. Forthcoming in: Development and Change.
  • Cieslik, K., Hudon, M, Verwimp, P. (2019). Unruly Entrepreneurs. Investigating Value Creation by Microfinance Clients in Rural Burundi. Oxford Development Studies.
  • Cieslik, K. (2018). The Quandaries of Social Entrepreneurship Studies – A Discursive Analysis of the Discipline. Review of Social Economy.
  • Cieslik, K., Leeuwis, C., Dewulf, A., Feindt, P., Lie, R., Werners, S. van Wessel, M. and Struik, P. (2018). Addressing Socio-Ecological Development Challenges in the Digital Age: Environmental Virtual Observatories for Connective Action. Journal of the Royal Netherlands Society for Agricultural Sciences (NJAS).
  • Leeuwis, C., Cieslik, K., Struik, P. Dewulf, A. (2018). Reflections on the Potential of Virtual Citizen Science Platforms to Address Collective Action Challenges: Lessons and Implications for Future Action Research. Journal of the Royal Netherlands Society for Agricultural Sciences (NJAS).
  • Cieslik, K. and D'Aoust, O. (2017). Risky Business? Rural Entrepreneurship in Subsistence Markets. European Journal of Development Research.
  • Cieslik, K. (2016). Moral Economy Meets Social Enterprise: A Community-Based Green Energy Project in Rural Burundi. World Development 83. 12-26.
  • Paul,J., Buytaert, W., Allen, S., Ballesteros-Cánovas, J.A., Bhusal, J., Cieslik, K., Clark, J., Dewulf, A., Dhital, M.R., Hannah, D.M., Liu, W., Nayaval, J.L., Schiller, A., Smith, P.J., Stoffel, M., Supper, R. (2018) Citizen science to support community-based flood early warning and resilience building. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water.
  • Bokus, B. and Cieslik, K. (2006). How Should the Hero of Aesop's Fable Act? A Contribution to the Narrative Psychology of Moral Development. Psychological Colloquia 15, 173-188.

Policy papers

  • Barford, A. and Cieslik, K. (2019). Making a life: a youth employment agenda. Murray-Edwards College Report.
  • Cieslik, K. Giani, M., Muñoz Mora, J., Ngenzebuke, R.L. and Verwimp, P. (2015). Green Energy Project 'Lumiére': Report of the Baseline Survey. UNICEF Burundi Working Paper.
  • Cieslik, K., Giani, M., Muñoz Mora, J., Ngenzebuke, R.L. and Verwimp, P. (2014). Inequality in Education, School-dropouts and Adolescent Lives in Burundi. UNICEF Burundi Working Paper.


  • Lecturer: Part II, Paper 1, Geographies of Work and Employment. Section: Work in the Global South, Unemployment and Self-Employment (2020 - present)
  • Lecturer: Paper 3, Development Theories, Policies and Practices. Section: Technology and Development (2021- present)
  • Supervisions:
    • Paper 1A, People, Place and the Politics of Difference; Historical Geography of Globalization, Geopolitics and Political Geography, Society, Environment and Sustainable Development, Understanding Cultural Geographies, Contemporary Urban Geographies, Unequal Geographies, Economic Globalization and its Crises (2019 - preset)
    • Part II Paper 1, Geographies of Work and Employment
    • Paper 3, Development Theories, Policies and Practices
    • Paper 7, Geographies of Global Urbanism