Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

Public Governance & Civil Society

How and why governments engage with civil society as well as how civil society organizes itself and exerts political influence constitute the key focus of the research programme Public Governance & Civil Society. As such, this research programme offers unique expertise within the field of public administration both in the Netherlands and in an international context. Key research themes within the programme include: responsive and legitimate governance; civil society & the regulatory state, and civic democracy.

Caelesta Braun

For an introduction to the research programme, read the inaugural lecture text here or watch the visual report. Or watch the video explainer below. And see below for further information about the respective research themes.

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Public institutions engage with civil society throughout the policymaking process. From decision-making to implementation and evaluation, governments consider the involvement of civil society as a crucial condition for effective decision-making, better regulation, and sound implementation. Civil society, including business associations, NGOs, citizen groups, firms, semi-public institutions, but also think tanks and expert bodies - thus constitute a vital counterpart of public institutions for effectively coping with societal challenges. Yet, their involvement by governments raises fundamental questions about responsive and legitimate governance.

Within the theme of responsive and legitimate governance, we address not only the challenges faced by public officials to engage with civil society and how this relates to responsive policymaking. We also address issues of effective consultation arrangements, participatory and collaborative governance and evidence-informed policymaking as well as the extent to which citizen(group)s consider governance legitimate. Within this research line we often work together with public officials via contract research and workshops and masterclasses, see here for more information. 

Civil Society Engagement in the regulatory state has become an increasingly relevant phenomenon over the past decades. On the one hand, civil society engagement is salient because it can move regulatory decision-making away from the public interest to narrow and specialized interests. And in doing so result in regulatory capture. On the other hand, civil society engagement is often considered a vital element of responsive regulation. Two research projects (2-Capture; funded by NWO Vidi 2016-2022) and (Reconnect; funded by NWO Norface scheme (2020-2023) were designed to uncover multiple dimensions of civil society engagement in the regulatory state. Together, these projects offer more comprehensive insights into civil society engagement in the regulatory state

2-Capture: the driving forces of regulatory capture (2-Capture)

With regulatory capture - undue business influence on regulatory decision-making - as theoretical starting point and normative concern, the 2-capture team set out to offer a rich and systematic analysis of regulatory state-civil society interactions in their full variety. Such an approach, we believed, and still believe, offers valuable insights into how and why the nature of state-civil society interactions varies under different circumstances. Our empirical focus has mainly been the EU regulatory state, yet we ventured in national-level and comparative analyses as well.

Via this link you will find out more about the output of the project; via this link you will hear our experiences with team science.

Reconnecting citizens to the administrative state? (Reconnect)

RECONNECT investigates how calls for more ‘responsive’ administrative state institutions have developed – both among citizens and politicians – and how the administrative state has sought to become more responsive, especially when simultaneously faced with expectations of neutrality and impartiality. RECONNECT is a collaborative effort of research teams at LSE, King’s College, the Norwegian Businesschool and Institut Barcelona d’Etudis Internacionals. See for more information on the RECONNECT project.

If Civil Society, a wide variety of societal organizations ranging from business associations, to NGOs and (ad hoc) citizen groups, is to perform as a legitimate complement to representative democracy, it should function as a linking pin between public governance, their constituents and individual citizens. A major part of the Public Governance & Civil Society research programme therefore involves the study of organizational dynamics of civil society (that is, the mobilization, organization, and political influence of civil society organizations). Much research within this theme takes place via (inter)national collaboration. See for more information on this theme:

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