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Department of Geography Political Geography

Pia Hollenbach

Pia Hollenbach

Dr Pia Ruth Hollenbach is a freelance researcher and consultant based in Switzerland/Zurich. A development geographer by training (South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg), with hands-on experience on promoting community based organisations, self-governance and local partnerships for sustainable development and recovery. Her career has been guided by a motivation to co-create knowledge and learning processes in order to find contextualized and relevant solutions for complex development and post-disaster rehabilitation problems. She believes in action-oriented, interdisciplinary research and the bridging of theory and practice. Dr Hollenbach aims to support policy and programme work, evidence-based political dialogue and the quality improvement of international aid. Her recent research for IIED/UK includes the evaluation of community based reconstruction committees in Nepal towards their relevance, effectiveness and potentials to support and formulate an inclusive post-earthquake urban reconstruction policy. Findings are conveyed through workshops in Nepal brining together local authorities, central government, local NGOs and community based reconstruction committees fostering information and knowledge exchange and creation. 


Pia has an interdisciplinary background in development geography, peace education and development economics. In 2001, she completed her MA studies and complemented her theoretical and scientific knowledge through an internship at the UN Headquarters in New York, succeeded by a position at the UNDP regional office in Windhoek/Namibia. Her activities included the evaluation of local part organisations focusing on the relevance and implementation effectiveness in accordance to the Millennium Development Goals. She initiated active working groups bringing together community-based and non-governmental organisations, UN institutions, and the local/central government to create new knowledge and innovative solutions aiming to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In 2014, she completed her Ph.D on ‘The Paradox of Good Intentions. The Biography of Private Giving in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka’ at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. The Ph.D addressed the relation between giving, receiving, governance and post-disaster humanitarianism in Sri Lanka, specifically focusing on the political ecology of aid as a gift. Her research work was funded by the University Research Priority Program Asia and Europe, an interdisciplinary research program at the University of Zurich. 


Pia is an expert researcher of community based self-governance and recovery in the field of disaster management with hands-on experience in research and practice. She executed extensive qualitative research projects, evaluations, planned and implemented post-disaster rehabilitation and housing projects. The red thread of her life is: bridge sectors, connect people, bring potentials together, improve partnerships, and enhance exchange and co-creation processes.