Thesis subject

Corporations and corporate foundations and their role in development – how do they construct their roles and legitimacy?

In recent years, private enterprises are increasingly prominent in the field of development. For example, one can think here of Price Waterhouse Coopers, KPMG, Tata and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, considering the ever-louder cry for people’s ownership in development, this development raises many questions.

While these companies and foundations often work with government, they have little or no grounding in the societies in which their work takes place, and they may also displace local civil society organizations and state actors (both potentially more grounded in country contexts) previously carrying out development activities in certain areas. With development involving the defining of problems, priorities, and preferable solutions, a major question is how these corporations and foundations define what to do, what that makes of ‘development’ and how they deal with questions of legitimacy.

Practical information

Starting date: Flexible
Preferred language: English
Location/country: The activities of these corporations and foundations cover many countries. Fieldwork can be conducted online so travel is not needed.
Supervisor: Margit van Wessel

This study could be taken up by students in MID, MDR, MCS. Potentially also from other programs, just get in touch with Margit.

About the project

Research question: How do corporations and corporate foundations that take up roles in development construct their roles in development and the legitimacy of these roles?

This study can be carried out through analysis of documents showing and discussing corporations and foundations’ roles, like corporate websites, programme documents, reports and other forms of publicity, but also debates carried out online on the roles and legitimacy. Also online interviews could be conducted.  

Note: The research can also move into the way actors like state agencies working with corporations and corporate foundations and civil society organizations faced with their increased prominence, construct these roles and their legitimacy. Different students could take up different angles of the issue.