Contemporary governance of society is complex, as public authorities at different levels of government (EU, national, subnational) cooperate with non-state actors in multi-layered decision-making arenas when designing and implementing regulation. This complexity of governance is reflected in the concept of 'multi-level governance'.
For a multi-level governance system to perform well, trust is a fundamental condition. While a certain degree of organised distrust between actors may be functional, the recurring reports of declining trust between citizens, private sector organizations, and public authorities at different governmental levels raise severe challenges for society. When trust declines, cooperation between citizens, private organizations, and government, but also between public authorities at the different levels of government is compromised. And without cooperation, effective governance is not possible. However, scientific knowledge about the dynamics, causes and effect of trust and distrust in multilevel governance is underdeveloped.
Encompassing research teams from political science and public administration, law, communication sciences and behavioural economics, the research excellence consortium GOVTRUST will study in an interdisciplinary way the dynamics, causes and effects of trust and distrust between the actors involved in multi-level governance. To that end, the consortium will apply mixed research designs with diverse research methodologies, including legal studies, large-N surveys, different kinds of experiments, content analysis, social network analysis as well as small-N controlled case comparisons.
With its research program, collaborations and activities the consortium will contribute to scientific knowledge at an international level of excellence, while increasing the international reputation of the University of Antwerp and aiming for a substantial impact on the governance of society.