Bettina von Lieres

Researcher Profile

Bettina von Lieres, Assistant Professor, International Development Studies Program, University of Toronto Scarborough; formerly senior lecturer, Political Studies Department, University of the Western Cape (1991 -2001); affiliated as a lead researcher (and co-convenor of the “States and Localities” working group) to the Development Research Centre for Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (2002-2011).

Current Research

  • An edited book (together with Laurence Piper) entitled “ Between Civil Society and the State: The Politics of Democratic mediation in the Global South”. This book looks at the role of the actors (e.g. NGOs, CSOs and individuals) which mediate or negotiate the relationship between marginalised communities and local states. The book locates the rise of the concept and practice of mediation against the increasing shift of governance in the global South away from the state into civil society which is increasingly viewed as the source of democratic deepening as a counterbalance to state and market. The role of mediation has increasing relevance with the emergence of new and more complex spaces for citizen action in the context of neo-liberal globalisation, and a growing dissatisfaction with traditional forms of representation across the globe. The emergence of new forms of democratic mediation challenge some of the assumptions that seem to be implicit in relation to many dominant policy drives in the global south and north: assumptions about the likelihood  that poor citizens will necessarily benefit from policies to promote decentralisation and citizen engagement, without  access to sources of democratic mediation, facilitation, capacity-building and empowerment. Initial research suggests that the practice of mediation is an increasingly common, yet under-researched component of engagements between citizens and public authorities across the globe. This book examines the complex politics of accountability which surrounds emerging  practices of mediation in a number of case studies from the global South.
  • Applying for funding for a project aimed at understanding the new landscape of development in the global South:  mapping new funders and networks of development actors in Southern contexts; understanding the new role of BRICS countries in re-defining new discourses and practices of development
  • Applying for funding to develop a “hub” for research on methodologies of researcher/practitioner  engagement

Collaborative Research

  • From 2002 – 2011 I was affiliated as a lead researcher and program co-convenor to the Development Research Centre for Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (CDRC), a north-south research partnership which was funded by DFID and hosted by the Institute for Development Studies at Sussex University in the UK. This centre involved over 60 researchers and practitioners from fifteen countries in the global South, including Bangladesh, Brazil, India, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, Jamaica and Angola.  The centre partnered with a diverse group of Southern institutions – universities (older and revitalized ones), NGOs and think tanks. Together with a Brazilian colleague from the Brazilian Centre for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP) I led the Centre’s international working group on “Building Democracy in States and Localities” from 2007 – 2011.  The  Citizenship DRC carried out three broad activities: research, capacity-building and policy engagement.
  • From 2009 – 2012 I was involved in an international research project and collaboration entitled “Creating Systemic Change: Solutions to Poverty through Accountable and Representative Policy Processes”, funded by the Ford Foundation. This global research project was co-hosted by researchers at the Harvard Business School and the Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP). Its research program aimed to understand how civil society organizations are influencing national-level policies on poverty, and the implications of these experiences for new models of civil society organization – state relations. It carried out its work in six countries: India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bolivia, South Africa, and Uganda. I participated in the South African group which will focused its research on the evolution of HIV-Aids policy and state-society relations in South Africa. Our group aimed to offer lessons for successfully altering national policy in a dominant party context.
  • Since 2009 I  have been an active member of  The Participedia Project, hosted by the Harvard Kennedy School.  This project and collaboration is aimed at creating a global open knowledge and dissemination platform for innovations in democratic governance.  Its  global database will be continuously updated to reflect new developments in global governance and democratization, as well as the emergence of new forms of citizen participation. It aims to serve the needs of researchers and practitioners who seek to improve their knowledge and practice of democratic governance. Like current date-bases, Participedia will enable users to search for best practices to be linked closely to specific circumstances. Participedia is currently approaching a range of US-based and global donors for long-term funding. It is co-hosted by Archon Fung (Harvard Kennedy School) and Mark Warren (UBC).
  • CDRC Citizenship Teaching and Learning Collaboration:  from 2009-2011 I co-led an international curriculum development project with partners in India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico, for the Development Centre for Citizenship, Participation and Accountability at Sussex University. Our group developed collaborative courses on democracy and citizenship for our partner universities in these countries, as well as short courses for NGOs and public officials. I am also a member of the advisory board of a new long-distance teaching program initiated by the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), an Indian NGO.

Leave a Reply