Universiteit Leiden

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Research programme

Public Governance & Civil Society

The engagement of civil society with the state as well as the organizational and political capacities of civil society itself constitute the key focus of 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. Several research themes offer complementary insights into how civil society engages with the administrative state as well as how civil society organizations manage to represent societal interests.

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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Civil society – consisting of a wide variety of organizations, including business associations, NGOs, citizen groups, firms, semi-public institutions, think tanks and expert bodies - constitute a vital counterpart of public institutions for effectively coping with societal challenges. Inclusive involvement of civil society is considered by many public institutions as a crucial condition for effective decision-making, better regulation and legitimate public governance. National governments and (supra)national organizations have implemented a variety of consultation and participation mechanisms to meet these ends. Such arrangements, however, also raise fundamental questions about the legitimacy and effectiveness of policymaking.

A long-standing research theme of this research programme therefore considers both the conditions under which such civic engagements is successful as well as the challenges faced by public officials to reach out to and engage with civil society. This research often results from collaborations with public officials as well as via 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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