Research projects

ESR 9: Consultancy firms and the circulation of policy paradigms: roles, responsibilities and impacts

Early Stage Researcher: Alejandra Burchard Levine
Host institution: ARCADIS, The Netherlands
Principal supervisor: Prof. Dave Huitema
Co-supervisor: Prof. Nicolas Jager
Non-academic co-supervisor: Mrs. Nynke Schaap & Ms. Jolijn Posma


Increasingly attention is paid to the global circulation of ideas on water governance. The role of environmental consultancy firms in that process deserves more attention, something that this ESR project will accomplish. Building on existing frameworks on policy intervention, diffusion, and adoption, boundary work, policy entrepreneurship, policy evaluation, etc. the project will seek to develop a conceptual model of the role of consultancy firms, containing several potential hypotheses on how and when consultancy firms influence water governance debates. The subsequent empirical research will focus on the real-life impact of consultancy firms on a number of critical processes in the circulation of ideas on water governance, notably the translation of academic ideas into actionable proposals for new governance technologies, the role of consultancy firms in uploading them to international institutions and downloading them to local and regional jurisdictions, and their role in the evaluation of novel approaches and communicating about their performance. The project is explicitly aimed to create reflexive insights for consultancy firms and to co-develop normative guidance on how the industry could further improve their role in the global circulation of ideas.

This research project will:

  1. Conceptualize the role of consultancy firms in the development, diffusion, and evaluation of water policy paradigms
  2. Describe and analyse empirically how consultancy firms develop ideas for novel paradigms, for instance by making academic ideas actionable
  3. Describe and analyse the role of consultancy firms in the uploading and downloading of policy ideas between various jurisdictional levels, for instance by certifying the credibility (proof of principle) of certain ideas
  4. Study how consultancy firms pick up the task of evaluating the performance of policy ideas in practice, for instance by looking at the evaluation methods they use, and the way communication about findings takes place
  5. Stimulate a reflexive discussion on the principles that should underpin future paradigm circulation, including but not limited to context-sensitivity
  6. Produce actionable, evidence-based and normatively sound suggestions for approaches that consultancy could follow in fulfilling their role in the global circulation of policy ideas

Expected results:

  1. A conceptual framework highlighting the role of consultancy in the circulation of policy ideas globally
  2. Empirical evidence on the way consultancy firms pick up their role, understand their normative responsibilities, and affect water governance practices globally
  3. A discussion on the normative principles that could guide consultancy firms in their future approach
  4. Actionable recommendations on how to improve current practices (best practice recommendations).

About Alejandra Burchard Levine

Alejandra is a Canadian born Spanish and Chilean Chemical Engineer (McGill University - Canada) with a Masters in Environmental Science and Engineering (Tsinghua University - China). She has over 8 years of global experience in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe managing international cooperation projects in the water sector. She has worked for a wide range of industrial, government, non-profit, and consultancy partners such as Veolia, Suez, GFA Consulting Group GmbH, UNICEF, UNESCO, KfW, GIZ, IADB, LuxDev, Waterlution, among others. 

She is a high-energy multidisciplinary professional bringing a multi-faceted angle including engineering, research, multi-stakeholder facilitation, and project management, as well as communication and creative content development. She enjoys photography, film-making and had the opportunity to direct a short GIZ-funded video in 2019 on “Enhancing skills for water and sanitation services in Uganda”.

She is now based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, working as an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) hosted by Arcadis – The Netherlands and pursuing a Ph.D. at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on Water Governance. She is part of NEWAVE and working on Project nr. 9 on “Consultancy firms and the circulation of policy paradigms: roles, responsibilities, and impacts”.

LinkedIn profile: Alejandra Burchard Levine


Alejandra Burchard Levine
NEWAVE Early Stage Researcher, Ph.D. Candidate
ARCADIS, The Netherlands

Prof. Dave Huitema
Professor of Public Administration and Policy,
Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands

Dr. Nicolas Jager
Postdoctoral researcher at the research group on Ecological Economics at Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany

Mrs. Nynke Schaap
Project Leader and Consultant
ARCADIS, The Netherlands

Ms. Jolijn Posma
Project Leader and Team Manager
ARCADIS, The Netherlands