Thesis Opportunity: Stakeholder analysis for sustainability a in Central Mexico

A new and exciting RSO thesis opportunity: Stakeholder analysis for regional sustainability analysis in urbanizing landscapes in Central Mexico


Around Mexico-city, rural landscapes have changed significantly – and continue to do so – due to the growth of the city into these rural landscapes. This so-called peri-urbanization occurs in many places in the world and is accompanied by a specific sustainability challenges regarding water management, the role of agriculture in rural communities and the cultural changes that result from this. This MSc thesis will be part of a study of how peri-urbanization has affected the sustainability of three case study regions or watersheds. Regional assessment of the sustainability of natural resource management is complicated by the large range of stakeholder priorities and perspectives. Obtaining an accurate idea of the existing stakeholder’s priorities with regard to the state of the region’s natural resources, the main challenges and their management, is thus an important first step. This gives a basis for the definition of indicators for the sustainability assessment. However, it does not yet enable giving weights to each indicator. A proposed answer to this challenge is to first distil a list of possible sustainability indicators from semi-structured stakeholder interviews, and subsequently ask those same stakeholders to attach a weight or value to these indicators, using pairwise comparisons. The resulting ranking can then be used as an important input to a regional sustainability assessment. Another challenge, still to be resolved, is how to weigh the perspectives of different actors, perhaps according to each actor’s influence and/or importance.

Objective: To define a list of regional sustainability priorities with quantitative weights attached to them, based on the analysis and integration of stakeholder perspectives.


  • Stakeholder selection
  • Semi-structured interviewing
  • Survey development and execution
  • Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches
  • Writing and defending an MSc thesis


  • MSc student in (rural) sociology or related
  • Fluency in Spanish
  • Willingness to do research in Mexico
  • Financial self-sufficiency
  • 5-6 months for the project
  • Start date January 2015 or late July 2015

Contact details

This MSc thesis will be jointly supervised by Dr. Jessica Duncan (Rural Sociology) and Leendert van Wolfswinkel (Farming Systems Ecology).

The project will contribute to the PhD project of Leendert van Wolfswinkel, who will also be the daily supervisor in Mexico. The PhD project is a collaboration between Farming Systems Ecology (WUR), CIMMYT and the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana.

For more information contact with a statement of interest and a CV.

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About FoodGovernance

Jessica Duncan is Associate Professor in Rural Sociology at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). She holds a PhD in Food Policy from City University London (2014). Jessica’s main research focus concerns the practices and politics of participation in food policy processes, particularly the relationships (formal and non-formal) between governance organizations, systems of food provisioning, the environment, and the actors engaged in and across these spaces. More specifically, she maps the diverse ways that actors participate in policy-making processes, analysing how the resulting policies are shaped, implemented, challenged, and resisted, and she theorizes about what this means for socio-ecological transformation. Participation and engagement is at the core of her approach. In turn, she is active in a broad range of local, national and international initiatives with the aim of better understanding participation processes with a view towards transitioning to just and sustainable food systems. She is involved in several research projects including ROBUST, HortEco & SHEALTHY. Jessica is published regularly in academic journals. She recently co-edited the Handbook on Sustainable and Regenerative Food Systems (2020). Her other books include Food Security Governance: Civil society participation in the Committee on World Food Security (2015) and an edited volume called Sustainable food futures: Multidisciplinary solutions (2017). Jessica has received several awards for her teaching and in 2017 she was awarded Teacher of the Year for Wageningen University (shortlisted again in 2018 and 2019, longlisted in 2020). With the funds she has received for these awards she launched a story-telling workshop for students and faculty, with storytelling trainer, Emma Holmes. Jessica is on the Editorial Board of the journal Sociologia Ruralis and is an advisor to the Traditional Cultures Project (USA). She is a member of the Wageningen Young Academy and sits on the Sustainability Board of Experts at Wageningen University.