3 million euros for research into debt and poverty issues

1 March 2019

The economy has improved, but debt and poverty problems in the Netherlands are growing. How can we combat this poverty, reduce the number of people with problematic debts, and help people with debts more effectively? The 'Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA)' programme has made 3 million euros available to investigate these questions in knowledge-chain-wide, interdisciplinary consortia. Municipalities, knowledge institutions and other interested (civil society) parties can submit a letter of motivation to the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) between 9 March and 23 April 2019.

Research is needed to realise breakthroughs

In the coalition agreement, the Dutch cabinet stated its intention to combat poverty and debt. Concrete improvements must have been realised within several years.

The Brede schuldenaanpak [Broad approach to combatting debt] has initiated 40 campaigns to help people with debts. In this approach, the government is working together with dozens of parties. Research is needed, for example, to help municipalities answer their problems. New work methods must also be developed to tackle poverty and debt effectively. The NWA requires specific attention for knowledge transfer, knowledge utilisation and the application of research results throughout the entire duration of the projects. 

Research themes

This call for proposals will fund research into three themes:

1. Living in poverty and social exclusion

Which underlying mechanisms play a role in living in poverty and social exclusion? What is the consequence of growing up in poverty and which strategies for solutions can new research yield? How can municipalities provide their citizens with an appropriate service in this regard? Projects in this theme must lead to a translation of existing and new insights into the actions of professionals working for municipal and civil society service providers.

2. Hidden poverty in various groups

Identifying and approaching target groups that live in poverty is not always easy. Which services can be provided and do these alleviate the existing problems? The outcome of this research theme will be new interventions that can be tried out in municipalities or civil society organisations. Specific attention will be paid to working poor people.

3. Evaluation and effectiveness research into integrated and convergent interventions

Various projects in local implementation practice will be brought together under this theme. The call leaves scope for interpretation by the knowledge organisations and municipalities submitting proposals. The research could, for example, concern integrated, cross-domain approaches for multi-problem issues (including at least Work and Income and health issues), the convergence of interventions at the interface of debt collection and debt counselling, and research into preventing no response/not wanting to accept help/avoiding care.


Interested parties (municipalities, knowledge institutions and other interested civil society organisations) should write a letter of motivation for the theme they want to participate in. The letter of motivation should be submitted no later than 23 April 2019 at 14:00 hours CET. An independent committee will assess the letters of motivation. For each theme, the committee will state which parties will together form a consortium. Each consortium will submit a joint grant application. Please also read the call for proposals for the criteria, procedure and conditions.

About this call for proposals

The initiative for this call for proposals lies with the Ministry for Social Affairs and Employment (SZW).

Vakkundig aan het werk [Skills at work]

The realisation of the call for proposals is closely related to the knowledge programme Vakkundig aan het werk [Skills at work] of ZonMw. The aim of this programme is to develop new scientific knowledge that benefits municipal implementation practice so that ultimately more effective services can be provided to citizens. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and Divosa, ZonMw is realising this programme on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

Dutch National Research Agenda programme

The Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA) programme aims first and foremost to build bridges between various scientific disciplines, between different types of research (fundamental, applied, practice-oriented) and between different national and international agendas. Far-reaching multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research, a knowledge-chain-wide approach and collaboration with societal partners including government departments, companies and NGOs are therefore crucial characteristics in the consortia of NWA projects and programmes. The overarching ambition of the NWA programme is to provide a positive and structural contribution to tomorrow's global knowledge society, where new knowledge easily flows from the researcher to the user and where new questions from everyday practice and society quickly and automatically find their way into new research. This can only be achieved by building bridges now so that we can jointly tackle scientific and (global) societal issues.

The Debt and poverty call for proposals has arisen within line of action 2 of the NWA programme, in which thematic programmes suitable for a broad NWA approach are developed in consultation with government departments.

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Source: NWO