Pia is a SNSF senior researcher at the Institute.
She is a development geographer by training (South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg), with hands-on experience on promoting local partnerships for sustainable development, her career has been guided by a motivation to co-create knowledge and learning processes in order to find contextualized and relevant solutions for complex development problems. Pia has an interdisciplinary background in development geography, peace education and development economics. In 2001, she completed her MA studies and complemented her theoretical and scientific knowledge through an internship at the UN Headquarters in New York, succeeded by a position at the UNDP regional office in Windhoek/Namibia. Her activities included the evaluation of local part organisations focusing on the relevance and implementation effectiveness in accordance to the Millennium Development Goals. She initiated active working groups bringing together community-based and non-governmental organisations, UN institutions, and the local/central government to create new knowledge and innovative solutions aiming to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In 2014, she completed her Ph.D on ‘The Paradox of Good Intentions. The Biography of Private Giving in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka’ at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. The Ph.D addressed the relation between giving, receiving, governance and post-disaster humanitarianism in Sri Lanka, specifically focusing on the political ecology of aid as a gift. Her research work was funded by the University Research Priority Program Asia and Europe, an interdisciplinary research program at the University of Zurich. Since 2017 she is working as senior researcher in a SNSF funded project at the Human Geography Department, University of Zurich, investigates how the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Switzerland engages in development and peacebuilding in post-war Sri Lanka and tries to understand and analyse different perspectives, practices and dynamics of engagement in Switzerland and Sri Lanka.
Pia believes in action-oriented, interdisciplinary research and the bridging of theory and practice. Her aim is to support policy and programme work, evidence-based political dialogue and the quality improvement of international aid. In addition to her involvement in academic research, she is an expert evaluator of local partner organisations in the field of development with hands-on experience in practice and research. She executed evaluations, planned and implemented development projects, and conducted extensive qualitative research. The red thread of her life is: bridge sectors, connect people, bring potentials together, improve partnerships, and enhance exchange and co-creation processes.
Her regional expertise is South Asia, particularly Nepal and Sri Lanka.