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Getting to grips with invisible interests

With the childcare benefits scandal in the Netherlands, certain interests in society were hidden for long to politics and governance. With the farmers’ protests, on the other hand, the major economic and political interests at stake were hidden for long to society. In her inaugural lecture on 16 September, Professor of Public Governance and Civil Society Caelesta Braun will explain why she is researching these kinds of unknown interests.

The childcare benefits scandal and the farmers’ protests are two examples of this. The former was invisible to politicians for a long time, whereas with the latter, the major agricultural and industrial interests were invisible to the general public for a long time. Braun: ‘It’s important for all of us that the public administration seeks solutions to such complex issues in conjunction with all the stakeholders, not just some of them. Unknown interests undermine the quality of our governance and the democratic state. This makes it important to get to grips with unknown interests.’


Braun is trying to get to grips with unknown interests in two different ways. She is looking at civil society organisations, from the small grassroots movement around the corner to the VNO-NCW employers’ organisation, and is researching how they shape their lobby, get organised and win support. She is also researching how the public administration deals with all these civil society organisations. How does it reach all these organisations? How does it ensure that all the relevant parties are involved and that it doesn’t overlook interests or allow itself to be led by major economic interests?


Braun has been interested in such issues since her very first job after graduating in public administration. This was as a staff member and researcher for the parliamentary enquiry committee into integration policy. ‘I went straight from university to working at the House of Representatives. The complexity of such a complicated issue and the way the public administration dealt with it unfolded before my eyes. I saw the tricky interaction with various civil society organisations. The challenges I saw were so incredibly relevant that I wanted to pursue them academically. And that interaction between public administration and society in all its forms has continued to interest me.’

In the video below Braun explains more about her research.

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Text: Dagmar Aarts

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