Research focus

In our research we focus on three main themes: flows of capital, flows of people and translocal development. Our involvement in the LANDac partnership and the Shared Value Foundation shows our strong engagement with society.

Flows of Capital

Over the final decade, the total volume and diversity of capital flows have rapidly increased. Large scale foreign and domestic investments, flows of remittances, aid from traditional donors, but also money originating from the BRIC countries and new charities and a new community of social businesses and impact investors now connect different places across the globe.

Large-scale land investments in food and biofuels, in nature conservation projects, urban development but also in tourism complexes, in mining and hydro dams contribute to urbanization and the rapid transformation of landscapes. These changes allow for economic growth, but often also restrict local people’s access to open land, water and forest and give rise to competing land claims. Local groups are increasingly under pressure. The rapid expansion of food and biofuel production promotes worldwide expansion of the areas used for industrial monocrops, for example soy, oil palm and sugar cane. There is a rapid increase of Fenced areas as a consequence of large scale investments in nature conservation and ecotourism. Facilitated through multilateral funding for reducing forest emissions, thousands of forest emission projects are currently being implemented on claimed large areas of land in countries with remaining forest frontiers. Even though local people are supposed to benefit, levels of remuneration are low and oftentimes they find themselves threatened by displacement. In addition, large-scale tourism development is occurring in many countries, from Mexico and Costa Rica to Vietnam and Mozambique. This is often followed by real estate booms and rapidly rising land prices in urban and peri-urban areas. The most beautiful spots are often owned by foreign investors.

Flows of People

Flows of people also intensively transform landscapes. Tourists, expats and migrants re-shape localities. Take migration as an example: European countries and the United States invested heavily in improved border control. As a direct result of these restrictive policies, routes have lengthened. Consequently migrants spend longer periods en route.  They are forced to earn extra money to finance their journey, therefore they stay in intermediate locations as temporarily migrants. We now see an increase in migrants settling in transit countries because their mobility is restricted. This results in new migration destinations. As a result of increased border control a migration industry including human smuggling has also increased rapidly.

These transformations have enormous implications not only for the directly affected populations, both migrants as well as host society; the effects also travel in space, creating concrete chains of translocal effects that also affect people in bypassed places: people are triggered to move away and resettle or are confronted with the arrival of displaced groups. What dynamics do these flows of people trigger?   How are migrants received in different localities? What new knowledge and ideas do they bring? And how do interactions between people from different places contribute to new knowledge production and cultural hybridity? 

Translocal development

Rather than producing transnational communities and spaces, globalization results in translocal patterns of development. People are more and more connected to others in different localities. The essence of integration nowadays lies in linking ‘the local’ to ‘the local’ elsewhere, and only partly in integration at the level of nation states. In fact, translocal connections contribute to a fragmentation of national spaces.

Such translocal patterns of development will create opportunities for some, but restrict others’ manoeuvring space to escape from poverty. Rather than depending on access to local resources, ‘local development’ is very much determined by whether people in certain areas are capable of ‘linking up’. Relational aspects are more important than ever in answering the question whether ‘local’ people can benefit from the inflow of new people, goods, capital and innovations.

The different flows reinforce each other. Migration for example does not only lead to flows of people but also to flows of knowledge and finance; many of the migrants sent money back home. In addition to the mentioned link between large scale investments and migration, displacement and resettlement, ‘diasporas’ often play a direct role by investing in their home communities or mobilizing investors that bring new flows of commodities, knowledge and ideas. At Transnational mobilities we aim to acquire a full picture of the different dynamics triggered and the consequences for the SDG’s. 


LANDac, the Netherlands Academy on Land Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development, is a partnership between Dutch organizations working on land governance, founded and directed by IDS, working in collaboration with various Dutch academic partners ** 

With a focus on new pressures and competing claims on land and natural resources, the LANDac network conducts research, disseminates information, and organizes courses and trainings. The guiding question is how to optimize the link between land governance, sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Focusing on various investment flows (in real estate development and infrastructure, energy (dams), food and biofuels production, nature conservation etc.), we analyse the local impacts in terms of land conversion and livelihood change (employment and income effects; food security etc.), including urbanization effects, resettlement and migration. We have a special interest in finding ways to optimizing processes of community consultation, compensation schemes and arrangements for benefit sharing.

Contact: Marthe DerkzenAnnelies Zoomers

Shared Value Foundation

Shared Value Foundation is a non-profit organisation working in developing countries and aims to contribute to the creation of Shared Value, a business concept that seeks opportunity for businesses to solve societal problems. Through our global network of experienced young development geographers at Utrecht University, we aim to assist businesses and other organisations that (want to) work in developing countries by providing in-depth local research to gain a clear insight in the local context  and (future) impact of the investment or intervention. We think this knowledge of, and interaction with, local communities, entrepreneurs and other local stakeholders is essential for an investment to be successful for both business and society. Shared Value Foundation works in close collaboration with IDS (the International Development Studies group at Utrecht University) and has a wide network of academic and civil societal organizations.

Contact: Romy Santpoort