Case study

Building peace with the United Nations

Peacekeeping in some of the world’s most troubled regions inspired Marijn Sissingh to take our MSc in Behaviour Change – a combination that has led to a rewarding role with the United Nations.

Changing behaviour

Marijn’s job at the United Nations is to develop and design training programmes that support UN goals for Sustainable Development. He focuses on support for uniformed personnel (police and military) in Africa.

He has worked in Africa before. As a target audience analyst for the Dutch military, he was regularly sent on missions to the west African country of Mali. He has also worked in Afghanistan.

“My role was to advise the commander on how to change the behaviour of different audiences in the area where we were deployed, including civilians and armed groups,” he explains. “The idea was to protect civilians in a non-violent way where we could.”

Feeling appreciated

Marijn decided to take our Masters in Behaviour Change to give him a clearer understanding of behaviour.

“The course answered all my needs in terms of content, workload and flexibility” he says. “It is spread over three years, which allowed me to combine it with my ongoing work for the military, including a mission in Mali.”

The lecturers on the course had relevant professional experience, which Marijn found valuable. He says: “It increased their understanding of our needs as professionals.”

With such a unique background, and living in Switzerland while he studied, he found there were some limitations but says: “I felt accepted, appreciated and supported as much as possible. It’s up to the student to make the course relevant for their work, and this sometimes requires additional creativity and effort. As with everything, the more effort you put in, the more you will get out of it.”

Military boots
Marijn combined his studies with his work for the Dutch military as an analyst

Following his passions

In Marijn’s case, what he got out of the course turned out to be the opportunity to work for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

He explains: “Our aim is to change participants’ behaviour at work through training. Although the emphasis on behaviour change was already there, none of the professionals at UNITAR had a background in the subject. My newly obtained degree, and my military background, meant they quickly offered me the position.”

Marijn is enjoying the challenges of his new role.

“It combines two of my passions: peacebuilding and behaviour change. I am grateful to have had the chance to do this relevant course at the University of Derby, which has directly resulted in me having this great job.”