Research Theme: City

Rotterdam, like many large Western European cities, struggles to help its underprivileged residents, many of whom are concentrated in the Rotterdam-South neighbourhood. These citizens deal on a daily basis with multiple challenges, among which are debt, job insecurity, poor housing, deprived conditions in their neighbourhoods and personal health that is far below the national average. The current COVID-19 crisis has had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable and poorest members of society. Furthermore, in the past few years, there has been growing concern regarding the increasing gap between rich and poor in the Dutch education system. The widening of socioeconomic inequalities between and within cities, and across generations, is the pressing issue central to our City theme.

Vulnerable people suffer in general from multifaceted issues that typically require an integrated approach. We combine an integrated understanding of the systems driving inequalities, with a strong data infrastructure as ‘evidence-based’ backbone. By combining data from existing databases and gathering more in a targeted way, we will be able to develop an understanding, at individual and population level, of individuals interacting with other individuals and their environment. This will be done over the long-term (longitudinal studies, based on experience with the Dutch GLOBE study, ERGO and Generation R), and from many different perspectives, such as education and inclusivity, a healthy living environment, debt and poverty, housing and sustainability.

However, knowledge and the incentive to use scientific knowledge in practice does not lie in the data alone, but can be found in many past and current initiatives and interventions. We are therefore investing in strong relationships with residents, professionals and various societal actors in the neighbourhoods involved, as well as linking up with academic colleagues already working in the Kenniswerkplaatsen and with other shared knowledge infrastructure within the municipality of Rotterdam. A better understanding of the daily life and interactions in the Rotterdam-South population will eventually lead to a better understanding of the initiatives and interventions that will contribute to changes in the system and of how to implement them at policy and decision-making level. This will lead to real improvements for the residents of Rotterdam-South and other neighbourhoods around the globe.