You are here

  1. Home
  2. Dr Keetie Roelen

Dr Keetie Roelen

headshot of Keetie Roelen

Profile summary

Web links

Professional biography

Dr. Keetie Roelen is a Senior Research Fellow and Co-Deputy Director at the Centre for the Study of Global Development (CSGD) in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) at the Open University, UK. Her research focuses on areas of (child) poverty, social protection and anti-poverty interventions in relation to children, women and psychosocial wellbeing. She is a mixed methods researcher, holding both quantitative and qualitative research skills. 

Keetie previously held positions at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK and Maastricht University, Netherlands. She is an Honorary Associate of IDS, Affiliated Researcher of the Global Research Programme on Inequality (GRIP) at University of Bergen, Norway and Advisory Council member of the Partnership of Economic Inclusion (PEI) at the World Bank. She is also founder of Poverty Unpacked - a platform for discussing the hidden dimensions of poverty. 

Keetie has worked with many international organisations such as UNICEF, Save the Children and Concern Worldwide, performing research and policy advice work in Southern and Eastern Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Haiti. She has secured £2.5+ million of external funding and has successfully led a range of large-scale multi-partner projects, including the prestigious ESRC Future Leaders grant and a GCRF ECD project funded through the British Academy. She is an experienced teacher and trainer, having developed and led courses for postgraduate students, professionals, and policy makers.

Research projects

Keetie currently leads the following research projects:

  • Lively Minds Together (LMT) radio evaluation: Keetie is Principal Investigator for this evaluation research project to generate robust evidence of the LMT radio programme and its impact, and to motivate funders to invest in scaling it up, in Uganda and other contexts. The research is grounded in theory-based evaluation and takes a mixed-methods and interdisciplinary approach. This research is commissioned by NGO Lively Minds.
  • Understanding attitudes and countering stigma to tackle poverty and inequality: Keetie leads this research project, which is part of the OU's Open Societal Challenges (OSC) programme. It aims to understand lived experiences of poverty and social protection and attitudes of service providers and wider public towards social protection beneficiaries. It is a cross-comparative two-country of localised research in Milton Keynes in the UK and Laguna in the Philippines (Laguna) with a focus on related welfare/ social protection programmes, namely Universal Credit (UC) in the UK and the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P) in the Philippines.
  • Fonkoze Graduation programme: Keetie is Principal Investigator on a longstanding collaboration with Fonkoze in Haiti to evaluate the impact of their multi-faceted economic empowerment intervention on women and their families. Research on previous cohorts has focused on the role of the programme in improving child development (funded by W. K. Kellogg Foundation and GCRF) while current research zooms in on the ability to withstand shocks and women's economic empowerment (funded by Swiss Embassy in Haiti). 

Projects that Keetie previously led at the Open University include:

  • CLARISSA Social Protection intervention: Keetie co-leads the development, implementation and evaluation of an innovative 'cash plus' scheme in a slum area in Dhaka within the Child Labour: Action-Research-Innovation in South and South-Eastern Asia (CLARISSA) programme. Together with implementing partner Terre des hommes and other partners, the intervension aims to find and evidence novel ways to improve family wellbeing and reduce worst forms of child labour. The programme is funded by FCDO and runs from 2019 to 2024.
  • CLEAR 'Becoming Poor: Social protection experiences of and attitudes towards new urban poor after Covid-19 in Bangladesh. Keetie is Principal Investigator on this research project that seeks to understand people’s lived experiences in relation to unforeseen and rapid changes to living conditions, especially for the new poor, and the psychological consequences of impoverishment and engagement with social support aiming to mitigate its effects. The research is funded by FCDO and runs from 2022 to 2023.

Keetie currently collaborates on other research projects led by colleagues at the Open University:

  • The Examining the role of climate vulnerability in intergenerational poverty in Amazonia project is part of the OU's Open Societal Challenges (OSC) programme and seeks to understand how climate and weather changes perpetuate Indigenous poverty in Amazonia, and how social policies can be better equipped to respond climate vulnerabilities for Indigenous families. This project is led by Thais de Carvalho.
  • Barriers and facilitators to physical activity for transplant recipients is part of the OU's Open Societal Challenges (OSC) programme and its research aims to explore lived experiences of transplant athletes and transplant recipients in taking up physical exercise, including enabling factors or barriers such as socioeconomic conditions. This project is led by Bart Rienties.
  • ​The 3MPower project (Mobile Learning for the Empowerment of Marginalised Mathematics Educators) that evaluates a large-scale intervention on technology-enhanced teacher education for marginalised mathematics teachers in Bangladesh. Keetie advises on the quantitative component of the largely participatory ethnographic evaluation. This project is led by Tom Power
  • The Catch Up Project (CUP) that evaluates the role of World Vision's CUP intervention to address learning deficiencies among children in marginalised communities in five countries. Keetie leads on the quantitative component of the evaluation. The project is led by Ale Okada.

Notable previous projects for which Keetie was PI before joining the OU include ‘Pathways to Stronger Futures in Haiti: how can economic strengthening through social protection improve early childhood development?’, funded by DFID GCRF ECD programme through British Academy, 2017-2019; ‘Assessing the perceptions and feedback from beneficiaries and service providers of the interventions carried out under the Integrated Nutrition and Social Cash Transfer (IN-SCT) Pilot in SNNP region’ for UNICEF Ethiopia, 2016-2017; ‘Researching the linkages between social protection and children’s care’ in Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa, funded by Family for Every Child, 2013-2016; and ‘Reducing poverty in the first 18 years of life: the importance of measurement for getting it right’ in Burundi, Ethiopia and Vietnam, funded through ESRC Future Leaders Grant, 2012-2015.

Teaching and professional development

Keetie is active in postgraduate research supervision. She currently co-supervises two postgraduate researchers:

2023 – present                                  Martha Nicholson – ‘How do nurses and midwives learn about abortion in Northern Ireland?’
Start date: September 2021. Third supervisor, co-supervision with Lesley Hoggart and Peter Keogh (The Open University)

2020 – present                                  Rosalind Willi – ‘Preventing child-family separation through family support: role of social support and networks’ Start date: September 2020; estimated date of submission: September 2023. First supervisor, co-supervision with Dorte Thorsen (IDS)

Keetie has supervised four PhD theses through to completion:

2017 – 2023                                      Marie Claire Burt Wolf – ‘Mentorship in Poverty Alleviation Programs: Evidence from Paraguay’
Start date: September 2017; degree awarded May 2023 (unconditional pass). Equal co-supervision with Janet Boddy (Department of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex). 

2019 – 2022                                      Juan Carlos Pane Solis – ‘The Process of Empowerment in Hybrid Poverty Interventions: Evidence from Urban Paraguay’
Start date: September 2017; degree awarded June 2022 (corrections). Second supervisor, co-supervision with Marina Apgar (IDS).

2018 – 2022                                      Khaufelo Raymond Lekobane – ‘Multidimensional Poverty in Botswana: Leaving No One Behind’
Start date: February 2018; degree awarded April 2022 (corrections). First supervisor, co-supervision with Giel Ton (IDS) and Stephen Devereux (IDS).

2016 – 2020                                      Annalena Oppel – ‘Social identity, redistribution and inequality. A case study on interpersonal redistribution through social networks in Namibia’
Start date: September 2016; degree awarded December 2020 (minor corrections). First supervisor, co-supervision with Stephen Devereux (IDS) and Dominik Froehlich (University of Vienna).

Keetie has acted as internal and external examiner on ten occasions.

Keetie also holds extensive experience as lecturer, supervisor, and convenor in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. At Maastricht University, Keetie was lecturer and convenor in undergraduate and postgraduate modules on international economics and administered a new MSc programme in Public Policy and Human Development, supporting its establishment and leading its development into a fully-fledged programme with multiple specialisations. At IDS, she was convenor of the MA module ‘Poverty and Inequality’, a core module of the MA Poverty and Development, for more than a decade, leading on curriculum development, delivery of lectures and small-scale seminars, student supervision, assessment, and quality control. In addition, Keetie has acted as lecturer, supervisor and marker in other modules of IDS’ MA programmes and has supervised more than 65 Master dissertations. She is currently HEA Fellow.

Further, Keetie has led on the development of large face-to-face, blended and online courses for professional development. At Maastricht University, she was jointly responsible for developing and teaching a large-scale blended learning professional training for 300+ senior staff from UNICEF, including supervision of small-group tutors. At IDS, she led a highly successful face-to-face short course on social protection for mid-career professionals. She also led the creation of an innovative open access online course on social protection in 2020, offering a self-directed learning experience for 2500+ adult learners around the world. 

Academic engagement

2018 – present                                 Editor for European Journal of Development Research (Impact factor: 1.931)

2019 – present                                 Member of editorial board of Children & Society (Impact factor: 0.826)

2011 – present                                 Co-convenor of DSA and EADI Study Group on Multidimensional Poverty and Poverty Dynamics

Keetie regularly reviews journal articles for a wide range of journals on development studies, social policy, poverty, childhood studies, economics and public health, such as World Development, Development and Change, Children and Youth Services Review, Journal of Social Policy, Social Science & Medicine, Review of Development Economics, The Lancet Public Health.

Policy engagement

2022 - present                                  Advisory Council Partnership for Economic Inclusion (PEI) at the World Bank

2021 - present                                  Advisory Group Ideas42 and World Bank on cash transfers and behavioural interventions

2015 - present                                  Global Coalition to End Child Poverty (led by UNICEF and Save the Children)

In addition to acting as member of various policy groups, Keetie has strong policy networks  in the fields of (child) poverty and social protection. She has received numerous invitations to speak at high-level events, such as high-level event on social and economic inclusion for Government Ministers from across Latin America in 2024, the opening of the 3rd National Social Protection Forum in Kenya in 2023 (with the President of Kenya), the roundtable event ‘Just Give Money to the Poor’ at the European Parliament in 2020, oral evidence session for the Work and Pensions Commons Select Committee inquiry on poverty measurement in 2021, and the high-level forum Social Protection Dialogue in Ghana in 2017 (with the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection).

In 2019, Keetie acted as external expert on the development of UNICEF’s Global Social Protection Programme Framework. In 2017, Keetie initiated and directed an international research conference entitled Putting Children First: Identifying Solutions and Taking Action to Tackle Child Poverty and Inequality in Africa’ at UNECA in Addis Ababa, co-organised with multiple partners including UNICEF, ACPF and the University of Addis Ababa. 

Keetie is actively engaged in moving from research findings to policy impact. She does so through publication of policy-oriented outputs; communication via opinion pieces such as The Conversation, The Guardian and Project Syndicate; engagement on social media; and participation in media outlets including BBC World Service. In 2020, she founded the podcast and blog ‘Poverty Unpacked’, reaching thousands of readers and listeners across the world.

Externally funded projects

Fonkoze Graduation Programme Research and internal learning
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 May 202315 May 2024Embassy of Switzerland in Haiti

The OU, led by PI Dr Keetie Roelen, will conduct a piece of research and evaluation of Fonkoze NGO Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM) or "The Pathway to a Better Life" program. This empowers Haiti's poorest women to lift themselves out of ultra-poverty, with hope and vision for their futures. Fonkoze has been implementing its CLM anti-poverty programme since the early 2000s. This OU piece of research and evalution focuses on evaluating of the livelihood and empowerment impacts of the PROMES cohort of the CLM programme. It builds on a baseline completed in 2021 and serves to promote input into and analysis of endline data. It also entails the development of an overall report and two policy briefs, and dissemination of those outputs.

Child Labour: Action-Research-Innovation in South and South-Eastern Asia
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Mar 202331 Mar 2024FCDO Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

The CLARISSA Cash Plus intervention is an innovative social protection scheme for improving family wellbeing and economic resilience, and tackling social ills, including the worst forms of child labour (WFCL). Combining community mobilisation, case work and cash transfers, it aims to support people in a poor neighbourhood in Dhaka to build their individual, family, and group capacities to meet their needs. An increase in capacities is expected to lead to a corresponding decrease in deprivation and community-identified social issues that negatively affect wellbeing, including WFCL. The social protection intervention is part of the larger CLARISSA programme (led by the Institute of Development Studies) that aims to build a strong evidence base and generate innovative solutions to WFCL and will explore how take these to scale. Over five years, between 2019 and 2024, the consortium co-develops innovative and context-appropriate ways to increase options for children to avoid engagement in hazardous, exploitative labour. The social protection intervention is implemented together with Terre des hommes Bangladesh.

Becoming Poor: Social protection experiences of and attitudes towards new urban poor after Covid-19 in Bangladesh
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Mar 202331 Oct 2023FCDO Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a large increase in poverty in Bangladesh. Estimates based on the PPRC Livelihood Survey indicate that 21.2 million people had fallen into poverty after the first lockdown period in June 2020. This fell to 14.7 million in March 2021 before rising again to 19.5 million in August 2021. Poverty increased by twice as much in urban areas compared to rural areas. Enduring restrictions in response to new spikes in Covid-19 infection rates suggest that many millions of the 'new poor' are now facing long-term socioeconomic uncertainty. To obtain a rounded understanding of experiences of the 'new urban poor', the proposed research zooms in on both perceptions of those who have become newly poor as well as views held by service providers. Research questions include: Do the new poor consider their situation a temporary setback and feel confident about the future, or do they struggle to see new opportunities and blame themselves for their predicament? In their experience, did they receive adequate socioeconomic support, and was it delivered respectfully and fairly? How do policy makers and frontline workers perceive of the new poor, and what attitudes do they hold towards them? Are they looked upon more or less favourably compared to chronically poor and marginalised groups and receive differential treatment? The research is implemented together BIGD as part of the FCDO-funded CLEAR research programme.


Barriers and facilitators to physical activity: a comparative analysis of transplant athletes competing in high intensity sporting events with other transplant recipients (2024)
Rienties, Bart; Duncan, Elaine; Judd, Perry; Oakley, Ben; Pengel, Liset H. M.; Roelen, Keetie and Topley, Nicholas
PLoS ONE ((in press))

Behaviour change communication for child feeding in social assistance: A scoping review and expert consultation (2022-07)
Barnett, Inka; Meeker, Jessica; Roelen, Keetie and Nisbett, Nick
Maternal & Child Nutrition, 18(3)

Chicken or Egg? A Bi-directional Analysis of Social Protection and Social Cohesion in Burundi and Haiti (2022)
Roelen, Keetie; Leon-Himmelstine, Carmen and Kim, Sung Kyu
The European Journal of Development Research, 34(3) (pp. 1216-1239)

Pathways to stronger futures? The role of social protection in reducing psychological risk factors for child development in Haiti (2021-06)
Roelen, Keetie and Saha, Amrita
World Development, 142, Article 105423

Urban social assistance: Evidence, challenges and the way forward, with application to Ghana (2021-05)
Cuesta, Jose; Devereux, Stephen; Abdulai, Abdul‐Gafaru; Gupte, Jaideep; Ragno, Luigi Peter; Roelen, Keetie; Sabates‐Wheeler, Rachel and Spadafora, Tayllor
Development Policy Review, 39(3) (pp. 360-380)

Effectiveness of cash-plus programmes on early childhood outcomes compared to cash transfers alone: A systematic review and meta-analysis in low- and middle-income countries (2021)
Little, Madison T.; Roelen, Keetie; Lange, Brittany C. L.; Steinert, Janina I.; Yakubovich, Alexa R.; Cluver, Lucie and Humphreys, David K.
PLOS Medicine, 18, Article e1003698(9)

Social Protection, Covid-19, and Building Back Better (2021)
Lind, Jeremy; Roelen, Keetie and Sabates-Wheeler, Rachel
IDS Bulletin, 52(1) (pp. 45-64)

Leaving No One Behind: Multidimensional Child Poverty in Botswana (2020-12)
Lekobane, Khaufelo Raymond and Roelen, Keetie
Child Indicators Research, 13(6) (pp. 2003-2030)

Assessing mental health in a context of extreme poverty: Validation of the rosenberg self-esteem scale in rural Haiti (2020)
Roelen, Keetie and Taylor, Emily
PLOS ONE, 15, Article e0243457(12)

COVID-19 in LMICs: The Need to Place Stigma Front and Centre to Its Response (2020)
Roelen, Keetie; Ackley, Caroline; Boyce, Paul; Farina, Nicolas and Ripoll, Santiago
The European Journal of Development Research, 32(5) (pp. 1592-1612)

Multiple and Multi-dimensional Life Transitions of World Transplant Athletes (2025)
Rienties, Bart; Roelen, Keetie; Oakley, Ben; Duncan, Elaine and Pengel, Liset
In: Jindal-Snape, Divya ed. The Palgrave Handbook of Multiple and Multi-Dimensional Educational and Life Transitions
Publisher : Palgrave MacMillan (In Press) | Published : London

Blurred Definitions and Imprecise Indicators: Rethinking Social Assistance for Children’s Work (2023-04-28)
Sabates-Wheeler, Rachel; Roelen, Keetie; Mitchell, Rebecca and Warmington, Amy
In: Sumberg, James and Sabates-Wheeler, Rachel eds. Children’s Work in African Agriculture: The Harmful and the Harmless (pp. 174-203)
Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol

Understanding Children’s Harmful Work: The Methodological Landscape (2023-04-28)
Roelen, Keetie; Barnett, Inka; Johnson, Vicky; Lewin, Tessa; Thorsen, Dorte and Ton, Giel
In: Sumberg, James and Sabates-Wheeler, Rachel eds. Children’s Work in African Agriculture: The Harmful and the Harmless (pp. 52-80)
Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol

Social protection (2023)
Roelen, Keetie
In: Clarke, Matthew and Zhao, Xinyu (Andy) eds. Elgar Encyclopedia of Development
ISBN : 978 1 80037 211 5 | Publisher : Edward Elgar

Child-sensitive social protection (2021)
Roelen, Keetie
In: Schuering, Esther and Loewe, Markus eds. Handbook on Social Protection Systems (pp. 368-377)
ISBN : 9781839109102 | Publisher : Edward Elgar Publishing | Published : Cheltenham

Social Protection Experiences of and Attitudes Towards New Urban Poor After Covid-19 in Bangladesh (2024-02-14)
Roelen, Keetie; Ahmed, Shakil Md.; Chowdury, Kabita; Diwakar, Vidya; Huq, Lopita; Al Mamun, Saklain; Rabbi, Abu Sayem; Rahman, Nuzaba Tahreen; Rownak, Raisa; Sultan, Maheen and Sumanthiran, Shilohni
Institute of Development Studies, Brighton.

Coaching in Economic Inclusion: Learning from Existing Models and Casting a Way Forward (2023-12-12)
Sumanthiran, Shilohni and Roelen, Keetie
World Bank, Washington DC.

Social Protection Pathways to Nutrition. Synthesis report (2023-08)
Nisbett, Nicholas; Salm, Leah; Roelen, Keetie; Baldi, Giulia; Mejia, Carla; Gonzalo Jaramillo Mejia, Juan; Paredes Cauna, Fiorella; Gelli, Aulo; Olney, Deanna and Vooris, Emily
IDS, WFP & IFPRI, Brighton.

Social Protection Pathways to Nutrition: Rapid evidence review (2023-08)
Nisbett, Nicholas; Salm, Leah; Roelen, Keetie; Baldi, Giulia; Mejia, Carla; Juan, Gonzalo Jaramillo Mejia; Fiorella, Paredes Cauna; Gelli, Aulo; Olney, Deanna; Vooris, Emily; Casu, Laura and Ruel, Marie
IDS, WFP & IFPRI, Brighton.

Social Protection Pathways to Nutrition Case studies (2023-08)
Nisbett, Nicholas; Salm, Leah; Roelen, Keetie; Baldi, Giulia; Mejia, Carla; Mejia, Juan Gonzalo Jaramillo; Cauna, Fiorella Parades; Gelli, Aulo; Olney, Deanna and Vooris, Emily
IDS, WFP & IFPRI, Brighton, UK.

Social Assistance in Response to Covid-19: Reaching the Furthest Behind First? (2022-03-30)
Roelen, Keetie and Carter, Becky
Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Brighton.

How to Make ‘Cash Plus’ Work: Linking Cash Transfers to Services and Sectors (2017-08)
Roelen, Keetie; Devereux, Stephen; Abdulai, Abdul-Gafaru; Martorano, Bruno; Palermo, Tia and Ragno, Luigi Peter
UNICEF Office of Research, Florence, Italy.