D.C. (Deirdre) Casella


As an external PhD candidate in the Engineering Systems and Services department, my research project focuses on social learning approaches to fostering change in the rural water services system in the Republic of Uganda. 

I obtained a bachelor of arts in Sociology from the University of California in 1994. During my master of arts in Population and Development Studies at the Erasmus International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague (completed 1999) the focus of my research was on demographic and institutional change processes in the context of social inclusion and food security interventions in Bangladesh. The combination of social sciences and 17 years of working in the water services sector in Africa and Asia serve as a basis for my research project using (agent) modelling to explore the arising dynamics.


My doctoral research project was commissioned by IRC, an international “think and do” that works with governments, NGOs, entrepreneurs and people around the world to find long-term solutions to the global crisis in water, sanitation and hygiene services. Their vision is a paradigm shift whereby national water services sectors move from short-term project interventions to sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services. To achieve this they pursue a concerted approach to catalysing systemic change.

My research contributes to IRC’s work by grounding this concerted process-based approach in the complexity sciences while co-creating agent based models for the purpose of obtaining relevant policy and practice insights.

The scientific contribution of this research lies in the insights obtained through the iterative model-based policy analysis process as well as in an examination the model-based policy analysis method for its usefulness and applicability in the context of the water services sector in Uganda. 

Deirdre Casella

PhD candidate

Engineering Systems and Services

Energy and Industry

Research interests:
Governance of water and sanitation services in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia
The role of social learning and evolving institutions in socio-technical systems
Process-based approaches to fostering change in socio-technical systems
Agent-based modelling and model-based policy analysis