Kontinen Tiina, Academy of Finland Research Fellow

Dr Tiina Kontinen is a Senior Lecturer at the Master Degree Programme in Development and International Cooperation. During 1.9.2016-31.8.2021 she is an Academy of Finland Research Fellow.
Kontinen Tiina, Academy of Finland Research Fellow
Development and international cooperation
Opinkivi 313.2.


Tiina Kontinen is a visiting researcher in the University of Dodoma, Tanzania 15.2-30.6.2018.

 Research group on Civil Society and Citizenship in Development (CitDe)

As a part of her Academy of Finland Research Fellowship Kontinen leads a research group on Civil Society and Citizenship in Development. The group brings together researchers, PhD candidates and students with multiple disciplinary backgrounds to examine dynamics, manifestations and dilemmas related to citizenship and civil society in the context of development research and practice. The group searches for new approaches to understand contextualized organizing and mobilizing processes as well as conducts critical analysis of practices under the banner of "strengthening citizenship and civil society".  Currently, the group focuses on Eastern Africa and Finland. The group builds on the concluded and ongoing research projects led by Kontinen and actively searches for new collaboration and funding opportunities in relevant fields.

More information about the group activities and its members can be found here. If you wish to join the group please contact the group leader and provide a short introduction to your research interests.


I received my PhD in 2007 at the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences, University of Helsinki. My PhD Learning Challenges of NGOs in Development was awarded a price among five top-PhDs in the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences. I attended (1999-2003) a multidisciplinary Graduate School for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research in one of the Centres of Excellences granted by the Academy of Finland. I was also an associate member of the national graduate school for development studies, DEVESTU. In 2004-2007, I worked as an assistant lecturer in the discipline of Development Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki, where I later (2010-2011) continued as a postdoctoral researcher. In between (2007-2010), I was employed by a Finnish umbrella organization KEPA as a coordinator for organizational development. I joined the staff of the University of Jyväskylä in January 2012.

In 2015 I received the Title of Docent (adjunct professor) in Development Studies at the University of Helsinki, and in 2016 in Adult Education (especially in organizational learning and change in associations) at the University of Jyväskylä. In 2016 I held an Honorary Research Fellowship in Social Anthropology in the School of Social Studies, University of Manchester.

I was a Finnish representative in the Executive Committee of the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) in 2011-2017. I am also a former Chair and a member of the Board of the Finnish Society for Development Research, and a Board member in the UniPID - Finnish University Partnership for International Development until the end of 2017.

Currently, I am a co-convenor of EADI-working group on Citizenship and Civil Society in Development together with Marianne Millstein and Kees Biekart.   

I was the editor in chief of a Finnish Journal Kansalaisyhteiskunta  (Civil society) for 2013-2015. In 2017 I joined the editorial board of the journal Forum for Development Studies.

Areas of Interest

I am a founding member in the Jyväskylä Research Group on Civil Society (JYRES: https://jyres.wordpress.com/about/ ). My research interests revolve around two main areas: civil society and NGOs in development, and transformations in the working life.These broad areas are investigated from the perspectives of organization theory, organizational institutionalism, organizational and institutional learning, and organizational interventions. I have published on North-South partnerships, approaches to knowledge creation in NGOs, and concepts of intervention. My current research projects explore the changing organizational epistemologies and organizational learning in Finnish development NGOs, learning of citizenship in encounters between its different conceptualizations in Tanzania and Uganda, and organizational hybridities. I am interested in promoting dialogue between different epistemic communities such as academics and NGO-practitioners, and engaging with multidisciplinary approaches.

Research Areas

Civil society and development; development NGOs; knowledge creation in development NGOs; organizational institutionalism; organizational learning; organizational hybridity; Tanzania; Uganda; citizenship

Orcid IDorcid.org/0000-0002-0302-6666



Research projects:

 Other projects

Developing development studies – Phase II (2013-2015), Funded by CIMO and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Kansalaisyhteiskuntaselvitys. Study into the role of civil society actors in development cooperation (11/2016-3/2017), Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

The Relevance and Benefits of Research

Investigation of civil societies' potential role in societal development, organizational dynamics and knowledge production in development NGOs provides useful ideas for the practitioners and policy makers in international development. Much of my research contributes not only through dissemination of results, but also by means of active engagement of NGO practitioners in co-construction of knowledge through workshops, feedback seminars, and training. My research contributes to organizations' critical self-reflection and improvement of their work on issues such as empowerment of the global impoverished.

See my interview and read the report on the Pathways of Empowerment, one of the practical results of LIMINARI -project conducted with an NGO.

Thesis supervision

I have supervised over 30 completed Master Thesis on a wide variety of topics related to international development, and continue supervision on a regular basis. Currently I welcome students to conduct their Thesis in relation to the themes of my ongoing research projects.

I have supervise one completed PhD thesis:

Minna Hakkarainen,  2015,  Development Studies, University of Helsinki: Navigating between democracy and gendered practices in Vietnam: A Bakhtinian reading of development aid practice.

I am currently a supervisor of two ongoing PhD thesis and welcome students interested in the themes related to my ongoing research projects.

Recent Publications

Baud, I.S.A., Basile, E., Kontinen, T., von Itter, S. (Eds.) (forthc. 2019) Building Development Studies for the New Millennium. London:  Palgrave MacMillan.

Kontinen, T. (2018) Learning and Forgetting in Development NGOs. Insights from Organisational Theory. Oxon: Routledge. 

Holma, K., Kontinen, T. & Blanken-Webb, J. (2018) Growth Into Citizenship: Framework for Conceptualizing Learning in NGO Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Adult Education Quarterly 68 (3), 215-234.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0741713618768561

Kontinen, T. & Onali, A. (2017) Strengthening Institutional Isomorphism in Development NGOs? Program Mechanisms in an Organizational Intervention. SAGE Open 7 (1).

Kontinen, T. & Millstein, M. (2017) Rethinking Civil Society in Development: Scales and Situated Hegemonies.  Forum for Development Studies, 44(1), 69-89.  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/08039410.2016.1264994?needAccess=true

Hayman, R., King, S.,  Kontinen,T. & Narayanaswamy, L. (eds.) (2016)  Negotiating Knowledge: Evidence and Experience in Development NGOs. Rugby: Practical Action.

Koponen, J., Siitonen, L. & Kontinen, T. (2016) Globaali hallinta, kehitys ja valta. [Global governance, development, and power]. In: Koponen, J. & Lanki, J. & Sato, M. & Kervinen, A. (toim.). Kehityksen tutkimus. Johdatus perusteisiin. Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 385-434. 

Holma, K. & Kontinen, T. (2015) The Rocky Road of Growth into Contemporary Citizenship: Dewey, Gramsci, and the Method of Democracy.Studier i Pædagogisk Filosofi 4 (2), 24-37.

Kontinen, T. & Katsui, H. (2015) Ethical, managerial and methodological perspectives in knowledge creation in two Finnish civil society organisations.  Journal für Entwicklungspolitik – Austrian Journal of Development Studies 31(1), 65-82.

Kontinen, T. & Melber, H. (2015) Civil Society, Cooperation and Development. Introduction to a special issue.  Journal für Entwicklungspolitik – Austrian Journal of Development Studies 31(1), 4-12.

Kilonzo, R. & Kontinen, T. (eds.) (2015) Contemporary Concerns in Development Studies: Perspectives from Zambia and Tanzania. Helsinki: Publications of the Department of Economic and Political Studies, 23. http://hdl.handle.net/10138/154641

Carbonnier, G., & Kontinen, T. (2015). Institutional Learning in North-South Research Partnerships. Revue Tiers Monde, 2015 (221), 149-162.

Rantala, S., Kontinen, T., Korhonen-Kurki, K., & Mustalahti, I. (2015). Equity in REDD+: Varying logics in Tanzania. Environmental Policy and Governancedoi:10.1002/eet.1669 

See more publications at:

Teaching (list of courses)

  • I am not teaching full courses during my Academy Fellowship