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Personal profile

Research interests

Dr. Lieke Oldenhof is Associate Professor in anthropology of the changing welfare state at the Erasmus School of Health Policy and Management.

Her research focuses on how citizens, professionals and public managers reconfigure the welfare state at the local level. Drawing from anthropology, pragmatic sociology and public administration, she generates new transdisciplinary insights about how the transition from a ‘welfare state’ to a ‘participation society’ is shaped at kitchen tables, in court rooms and in back-offices of local government administrators. Central questions are: what happens when (conflicting) values of the welfare state and the participation society meet? How are the outcomes of negotiations about these values consolidated in new (health)care institutions and (digital) infrastructures. And how can we use these insights to contribute to a more inclusive and fair society?

To ensure societal impact, her research projects and education are co-productions with partners like the Rotterdam municipality, the Council for Public Health and Society and local welfare organizations. To more structurally embed collaboration, she co-founded the CARE Lab Rotterdam (Connect, Action, Research, Education) together with the Rotterdam municipality and dr. Jeroen van Wijngaarden (ESHPM). The goal of the CARE Lab is to jointly do action research together with professionals and policymakers in order to contribute to integrated support for vulnerable Rotterdammers with multiple problems (care, debts, work, housing).

Lieke received several prizes and grants. She finished her PhD cum laude: an ethnographic study of the daily work of middle managers in a changing welfare state. For this research, she won the best PhD thesis award of the Karolinska Medical Management Centre and European Health Management Association. Her article ‘On Justification Work’ in Public Administration Review was awarded with the best Published Article Award by the Academy of Management. In 2018, she obtained a Veni grant by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) to investigate public encounters between citizens and professionals in the changing local welfare state (Dutch project title: 'Maatwerk of willekeur aan de keukentafel?'). In 2019, she received the Frans Rutten Research Award for Research Talent.

 Research themes:

  • Local welfare and social care
  • Personalization of public services
  • Regulatory pressure
  • New professional roles and forms of accountability
  • Conflicting public values
  • (Health) inequalities
  • Digitale welfare state and the use of AI

Research methods:

  • Multi-sited ethnography
  • Shadowing
  • Narrative analysis



Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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