University of Pretoria (South Africa)


Our current global economic order is operating in compartmentalized, segmented, and unsustainable ways. The current crisis caused by the worldwide spread of Covid-19 has exposed the shallow foundations of the neoliberal empire. What current economic practice and analysis fails to take into account is human relationships. This project applies a tool that measures the relationships between people in an economic system on the premise that development cannot be limited to growth or well-being (the current status-quo of development theory), but needs to be understood in terms of healthy relationships. For this project, this tool is applied to measure the relationships in three organizations that have played a role in providing critical support to people economically affected by the Covid-19 crisis and the accompanying lockdown in South Africa. The driving question being asked is: What can we learn about the efficacy of humanitarian interventions through a relational approach? A follow-up question is: How can a relational approach assist us in understanding which humanitarian interventions are sustainable during a crisis? The comparative research between the three case organizations (a national-level initiative, a provincial-level initiative, and a community-level initiative) is likely to yield insights into the under-researched relational dimensions of interventions, allowing us to understand them beyond their utilitarian dimensions to issues such as how aspirations, values, identity, belonging, and connectivity affect the sustainability of interventions during a crisis.

Principal Investigators

Cori Wielenga

Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria

Cori Wielenga is a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences and the deputy director of the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation at the University of Pretoria. She holds a PhD in conflict resolution and peace studies from the University of KwaZulu Natal. Her research interest is in the intersection of state-led and grassroots justice systems during transitions. This has led to in-depth research on Rwanda’s gacaca courts, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and comparative projects on the indigenous justice systems in South Africa, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia.

Marlie Holtzhausen

Research Assistant, PhD Candidate, University of Pretoria

Marlie Holtzhausen is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria, and a volunteer at the James 1:27 Trust. Her research focuses on ways in which to build a relational economy and society.