Our ‘Dual Focus PhD’ series tracks the working lives of our part-time PhD fellows. Many work at the highest of levels, both nationally and internationally — and in normal times they come to Maastricht in person for our unique PhD Dual Career Training Programme in Governance and Policy Analysis (GPAC²). This time we catch up virtually with Ornsaran Pomme Manuamorn, who will shortly defend her thesis on the ‘Governance of international adaptation finance for local climate change adaptation: An analysis of adaptation fund projects’.
Pomme, on 17 November you’ll defend your PhD thesis. Can you briefly explain what the study is about?
My thesis examines the role of international adaptation finance, which is a form of international development aid targeted at climate actions, in supporting vulnerable local communities in developing countries to respond to climate change. Given the global recognition that these communities are at the frontlines and urgently need more resources to deal with climate challenges, it is puzzling why still so little international adaptation finance has reached them to date.
Motivated by this puzzle, my research examines under which governance conditions does international adaptation finance reach local communities in developing countries. Does the governance of the money itself matter? Does the governance of the country that receives the money matter? What other enabling conditions matter? Do all the factors work independently or together to shape the community focus in internationally funded adaptation projects?
Recognising that climate change can create ‘new normals’ that call for innovations, the thesis also analyses the influence of the governance models of international adaptation finance on how the projects funded in recipient countries are designed to promote innovative climate responses among local communities.
Getting published in a top journal is exceptional for a part-time GPAC2 student. How did you go about publishing your work in both Elsevier and Springer?
One of my supervisors really pushed me to write for publication, and I am very glad that I have done it. While more demanding, writing for publication required me to be very clear yet brief, which makes the texts pretty much ready to go into the final dissertation book without many changes. So, I think of it as saving me from more work later. The process of submitting for journals also exposes the research to more review comments that helped me think through so many issues that I would not have thought of. Addressing these comments has contributed greatly to improving the papers, and in many ways helped me anticipate the questions that may come up at defence.
These journals that I published in are read widely both in the academic and development practitioner communities. The first article I published has already started to receive citations and is shared among people working on global climate finance. So, apart from making the research known in the academic community, I think publishing would also help position me as a development practitioner with strong research skills for policy-relevant questions.
You’ve taken five years to formally defend your PhD thesis – which is good even by full-time standards. What tips can you share for keeping on track?
A few tips have worked well for me during my five-year PhD journey. I generally tried to break the whole research project into different tasks that are accomplishable within a short timeframe. In many ways, I used my busy schedule as a planning tool to fit these tasks in between the free times I could find. I am not the most efficient person at all, and when I have a lot of time, I do waste time. But when I am busy, I do become a bit more efficient. So, when my calendar suggests there will be this window of relatively free 3-4 days, then I try to fit in the PhD work.
As a part-time researcher not based at the university, I also never missed coming to a Maastricht session in five years. I think the sessions serve as a very effective planning and commitment tool. For me, something major needs to get done so that I have enough to present in Maastricht every six months. In between the sessions, I did take a break from thinking about the PhD, but I also never let myself get disconnected from it for more than two or three weeks at a time.
Most importantly, I tried to create a reward system for myself. Before enrolment, a PhD was something that I wanted to do. But once it started, it became something that I had do it, so it also had to be balanced with something else I wanted to do like travel, yoga or seeing friends. So, I tried to reward myself with a trip or something fun after I completed something major for the PhD.
Beyond your work for the World Bank as senior specialist consultant on environmental governance and climate change, you also moved countries twice. Do you have a really good support system?
Support from supervisors, family, friends, and colleagues has been very important for my PhD journey. I was lucky to have close working relationships with supervisors so we talked very often. This allowed me to approach them whenever I needed advice. This system made things move faster. I also feel empowered by my supervisors to make decisions on the research. We would agree on major things like conceptualisation, methodology etc., but within this framework I made other analytical and practical decisions, and can resort to them when problems arise. My husband, friends and colleagues have also been great listeners to me throughout the whole process. Having that space to share is invaluable.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
UNU / H. Pijpers