Research team

Politics & Public Governance

Expertise

research on structure of government, autonomy, coordination and collaboration. trust in government

How nature of regulation and levels of trust affect each other over time: the case of financial regulation in the EU (REGTRUST). 01/09/2022 - 31/08/2024

Abstract

Regulation and trust are at the heart of our society. In setting regulations to govern the behavior of citizens, firms and states, policymakers make regulatory design choices that are partly grounded in trust/distrust between them and key actors in the field at hand. Yet we know surprisingly little about the iterative processes whereby the nature of regulation and trust affect each other over time. A truly interdisciplinary project bringing theoretical, methodological and empirical innovations, REGTRUST studies the bidirectional relation between the nature of regulation and levels of trust through a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. Focusing on the case of EU financial regulation during 2011-20, REGTRUST 1) maps the nature of EU financial regulation along two key dimensions (specificity-broadness; stability-revisability), 2) assesses statistically significant relations between such a nature and current and past levels of trust/distrust among key EU and national actors (policymakers, regulators, regulatees, consumers), and 3) traces causal mechanisms underpinning these statistically significant relations. The MSCA postdoctoral fellowship builds on the existing experience and talent of the researcher (Dr. Bernardo Rangoni) and is supported by the expertise and facilities offered by the University of Antwerp (Prof. Koen Verhoest) and the secondment at the Florence School of Banking and Finance (Prof. ElenaCarletti). A customized dissemination and communication plan ensures that the project and its results are known well beyond the academic community, while also seeking active engagement with a wider audience (e.g. workshops, class experiments). Altogether, REGTRUST at once bridges a major scientific gap and makes a timely contribution to pressing societal debates.

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Research team(s)

Vaccine hesitancy in the (post-) COVID-19 EU: Effects of European identity, party orientation, trust and political polarization. 01/09/2021 - 31/08/2024

Abstract

Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy (VH) – a reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated – varies considerably across EU member states (74,3% in Spain versus 58,9% in France and 56,3% in Poland) (Lazarus et al., 2020). Understanding why and how this vaccine hesitancy occurs is important, and the relevance of this issue carries beyond national borders. This is especially the case in the EU–comprised of 27 countries with diverse experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, various political systems and citizens embedded in different political communities. So far, vaccine hesitancy in developed countries has been investigated mostly from the health sciences perspective and focused almost exclusively (1) on socio-economic and demographic explanations (2) in specific subgroups of the population (at meso- levels, e.g. health professionals, parents, religious or immigrant communities). Little has been done in the field of political science to explore possible (1) political explanations for vaccine hesitancy and (2) at other than meso-levels (i.e. at macro-(cross-country) and micro-(individual)level). Meanwhile, the cross-national differences in VH and recent evidence suggest that VH might be strongly linked to political factors. Against this backdrop, this project asks: how do political factors explain vaccine hesitancy at macro- and micro-levels? In this interdisciplinary project, I combine insights from political science, political psychology, European studies, public administration and health sciences to build a theoretical model offering political explanations of vaccine hesitancy. Based on extensive literature review, I conceptualize vaccine hesitancy as contradictory to vaccination, which is a (a) pro-social (b) rule and norm compliant (c) risk-taking behavior. As such, it is likely to be a result of both normative (i.e. European identity, party orientations) and instrumental modes of compliance (i.e. trust) known from the compliance literature. To these, I add one more political factor of possibly high relevance for vaccine hesitancy: political polarization. As research shows, increasing political polarization is currently undermining functioning of democratic regimes around the world (Carothers & O'Donohue, 2019; Citrin & Stoker, 2018; McCoy, Rahman, & Somer, 2018; McCoy & Somer, 2019). In politically polarized states, "cleavages are likely to be very deep, consensus is surely low, and legitimacy of the political system is widely questioned" (Sartori, 1976, p. 135). High political polarization hinders government's capacity to solve collective action problems, which might result in e.g. vaccine hesitancy. This project contributes to several important academic debates. First, I add to health sciences by bringing in a political science perspective: I offer new political explanations to the old questions of vaccine hesitancy. Second, I formulate socio-political consequences of political polarization and trust in a highly relevant area of public health. Third, I adapt the theoretical framework of rule compliance to a new field of vaccination and vaccine hesitancy. Fourth, I link the specific rule compliance behavior to the issues of national vs. European identity, exploring to what extent these political identities can be translated into a pro-social risk-taking behavior.

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Trust and distrust in multi-level governance: causes, dynamics, and effects (GOVTRUST). 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

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.

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The Executive Triangle: Politicians, Ministerial Advisors and Top Civil Servants 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

Our scientific research network, known as the "The Executive Triangle", was informally established in 2015, initially comprising 12 senior academics with an interest in researching executive-level public administration from across Europe and the UK. We have since grown to include more than 26 senior researchers across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Fortunately for Flanders, Professor Marleen Brans in the Public Governance Institute at KU Leuven, was a key founding partner of the network, a key researcher, and is a leading voice in the group. We have only just made early steps to formalise our network, by, among other things, coordinating specialist panels at international conferences, preparing joint grant applications, developing a research agenda, and plans to launch a website. If successful, the Scientific Research Network (WOG) grant will provide a timely contribution to strengthen the network and help our Flemish partners improve their scientific leadership and knowledge exchange. We aim to use grant funding for building scientific collaboration by organising workshops, symposia, specialist technical exchanges, and joint publications. Plus, we aim to submit joint research projects with international research bodies (such as the UK's Economic and Social Research Council, Research Council of Norway, German Research Foundation, and international/multi-lateral level opportunities like the successor of Horizon 2020, NORFACE, and Open Research Area), which, if successful, would provide Flemish researchers access to new comparative projects and publications. Our research questions focus on the impact of politicisation on policymaking and legitimacy across Europe. Building a research infrastructure to answer our research questions will be a major step beyond purely descriptive analyses towards understanding the consequences of politicisation. In a more nuanced sense, the Executive Triangle delves into the tension between political craft and professional competence; or in other words, tension between democracy and technocracy. Critically, the network could potentially lay the foundation for a major push forward in the comparative study of the apex of governments, which has only progressed incrementally since the early 1980s.

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Trust in Governance and Regulation in Europe (TiGRE). 01/01/2020 - 30/06/2023

Abstract

TiGRE provides an encompassing and coherent analytical framework for the study of trust relationships in governance. It studies trust among actors of regulatory regimes, such as regulators, political, administrative and judicial bodies, the regulated industries, service providers and their interest organisations, consumers and other societal interests, as well as citizens at large. TiGRE opens thereby new research directions within the tradition of studies of trust relationships between citizens and public authorities. TiGRE's aim is to reveal the role of trust and distrust in European regulatory governance and the ways trust can be maintained, enhanced, repaired and nurtured via administrative practices and reforms. It takes a multilevel governance approach, which includes the EU level as well as the national and regional ones. Trust – both as a pre-condition and a consequence of well-functioning regulatory regimes – is a key factor to be considered in order to capture how these regimes are able to produce effective and legitimate governance. The in-depth investigation of the complex interplay between trust configurations and regulation in different regulatory regimes (finance, food safety, communication and data protection) across levels of governance and in several countries requires the joint effort of experts with wide-ranging experience. TiGRE is run by a tightly integrated multidisciplinary consortium of top-level scholars, who bring together a very broad range of theoretical, substantial, and methodological skills. A cutting-edge mixed-method approach is applied to provide a comprehensive understanding of such multi-faceted trust-related processes. To bridge research with policy and practice, TiGRE provides criteria, indicators and early warning mechanisms for detecting decreasing trust, and scenarios on consequences thereof. They will be validated through interaction with stakeholders and compared with evidence from outside the EU.

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Trust in Governance and Regulation in Europe (TiGRE). 01/01/2020 - 30/06/2023

Abstract

TiGRE provides an encompassing and coherent analytical framework for the study of trust relationships in governance. It studies trust among actors of regulatory regimes, such as regulators, political, administrative and judicial bodies, the regulated industries, service providers and their interest organisations, consumers and other societal interests, as well as citizens at large. TiGRE opens thereby new research directions within the tradition of studies of trust relationships between citizens and public authorities. TiGRE's aim is to reveal the role of trust and distrust in European regulatory governance and the ways trust can be maintained, enhanced, repaired and nurtured via administrative practices and reforms. It takes a multilevel governance approach, which includes the EU level as well as the national and regional ones. Trust – both as a pre-condition and a consequence of well-functioning regulatory regimes – is a key factor to be considered in order to capture how these regimes are able to produce effective and legitimate governance. The in-depth investigation of the complex interplay between trust configurations and regulation in different regulatory regimes (finance, food safety, communication and data protection) across levels of governance and in several countries requires the joint effort of experts with wide-ranging experience. TiGRE is run by a tightly integrated multidisciplinary consortium of top-level scholars, who bring together a very broad range of theoretical, substantial, and methodological skills. A cutting-edge mixed-method approach is applied to provide a comprehensive understanding of such multi-faceted trust-related processes. To bridge research with policy and practice, TiGRE provides criteria, indicators and early warning mechanisms for detecting decreasing trust, and scenarios on consequences thereof. They will be validated through interaction with stakeholders and compared with evidence from outside the EU.

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Digital revolution in Belgian Federal Government: an open governance ecosystem for big data, artificial intelligence, and blockchain (DIGI4FED). 15/12/2019 - 15/03/2022

Abstract

The potential and actual use of Big Data (BD) applications affects the theoretical and practical context of decision-making, learning and process optimisation in the public sector. DIGI4FED ​aims to develop a governance design that serves the internal administrative and public service processes of the Belgian federal government; a governance design that is embedded in the open governance ecosystem and makes full use of the potential offered by big data (BD) and its application via artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology (BCT​).

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Project website

Reputation and Structural Reforms of Public Organizations: Explaining Temporal Dynamics. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

This proposal studies the temporal dynamics between the reputation of public organizations and the structural reforms they experience. Public organizations perform important services in society. When performance of these organizations is perceived to be problematic, political and administrative actors are often urged to initiate structural reforms (e.g., reshuffling tasks between organizations, merging or changing the legal status of organizations). Therefore, reforms have symbolic value as signals to society that problems concerning public sector performance are being perceived and acted upon. However, no studies have examined on a large sample how the perceived performance of public organizations (i.e., their reputation) affects these organizations' chances for being reformed. Neither do we know how structural reforms in turn impact organizations' future reputations. This proposal addresses these gaps. The dynamics between reputation and reforms through time are studied on a diverse set of 60 Flemish public organizations. Specific attention goes to the moderating role of reputation management strategies of these organizations and to several organizational and environmental conditions. The proposal will benefit from the most recent developments in machine learning techniques to automatically collect data on the multiple facets of the reputation and reputation management of public organizations. Advanced statistical models allow to analyze the complex relations through time.

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Using Twitter as a public communication strategy: Can 140 characters reduce the Performance-Satisfaction Gap in the public sector? 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Research project funded by the Flemish Research Fund: Customer satisfaction regarding public services is often only loosely coupled to changes in actual performance. This gap between satisfaction and performance may lead to misguided reforms and may erode trust in public services. Literature shows how the incapacity of customers to assess actual performance can be attributed to the bounded rationality of customers. We know less about how public communication influences this bounded decision making that underlies the performance-satisfaction gap. With the rise of social media, the communication channels for public sector organizations have grown extensively. Twitter has become the dominant medium since it allows public organizations to interact directly with large audiences and offer live updates on services. Twitter should be ideally suited to address the information problem and thus to mitigate the performance-satisfaction gap. Yet, studies to the potential benefits and effects of social media within a public sector context are lacking. This project therefore asks whether and how public communication by public service providers via Twitter reduces the performance satisfaction gap. Using a quasi-experimental pretest-posttest setup with advanced time series modelling, this project will bring new insights on what influences satisfaction of public services, the effect of public communication through social media as well as methodological innovation in the use of social media sources for Public Administration research.

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Slow-healing wounds? How continuous structural reforms in the public sector reduce levels of job satisfaction and slow the recovery of job satisfaction in the long term. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Research Project funded by the Flemish Research Fund: In the last decades, waves of structural reforms have been implemented in OECD countries to create more efficient public services, causing some organizations to have experienced severe and continuous trajectories of for instance mergers, splits and changes in legal form. While governments continuously impose structural reforms to improve public sector performance, we may simultaneously expect such continuous structural reforms to have detrimental side-effects, such as strong reductions in employee job satisfaction. Recognizing that continuous structural reforms have become a pervasive feature of modern public sectors, the research proposed here will innovatively investigate (a) the effect of extensive structural reform histories on post-reform levels of job satisfaction and (b) the impact of such reform histories on the long-term recuperation of job satisfaction levels following sequences of reforms. We utilize a combination of both large-N regression analysis and a small-N natural experiment. Both the large-N and small-N phases will utilize two measurement points, not only allowing us to assess the long-term development of job satisfaction, but also to improve causal inference. As job satisfaction has been linked with factors such as performance, turnover and even sick leave on the basis of single reform studies, but the long-term effects of continuous structural reforms remain unexplored, the project holds important implications for scholars and policy-makers.

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Transforming into Open, Innovative and Collaborative Governments (TROPICO). 01/06/2017 - 30/11/2021

Abstract

The Research Group on Public Administration and Management from the University of Antwerp is partner and work package leader in the H2020 funded project TROPICO (2017-2021). The international research project TROPICO (Transforming into Open, Innovative and Collaborative Governments) received funding over 4.7 mil Euro from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to study digital transformation in the public sector. For UAntwerpen prof. Koen Verhoest is involved as well as one PhD researcher and one post-doc position. By comparing formal frameworks and individual bureaucrats' attitudes, it investigates the key drivers and barriers for better collaboration using information and communication technologies (ICT). Looking closer into key practices of ICT-enabled collaboration among governmental authorities but also between the state and users (citizen, companies or societal organisations etc.), TROPICO identifies key trends and crucial features making better collaboration work in practice. Finally, it assesses the effects of ICT-based collaboration for accountability and identifying responsibilities as well as red tape and governmental efficiency. The work package (2019-2020) led by the University of Antwerp (RG on Public Administration and Management – coordinator Prof. Koen Verhoest) studied how different kinds of partnerships between public and private actors lead to collaborative innovation in service delivery, and how citizens and users are involved in these collaborative processes. The project brings together an inter-disciplinary team of researchers in public administration, public management, political science, sociology, law, and digital engineering from 12 leading universities in 10 European countries. It runs from June 2017 to May 2021 and is coordinated by the University of Bergen. The 12 project partners are: University of Bergen (Norway), Universiteit Antwerpen (Belgium), Cardiff University (United Kingdom), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam (Netherlands), Hertie School of Governance (Germany), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), Central European University (Hungary), Roskilde Universitet (Denmark), Tallinna Tehnikaulikool (Estonia), Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain), and Universität Potsdam (Germany) Regular updates on the project are available online: www.tropico-project.eu and @tropico_project on Twitter.

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Project website

The influence of the multi-level environment and globalization on (autonomous) public sector organizations. 01/02/2012 - 31/01/2027

Abstract

Research professorship position funded by Special Research Fund BOF - UAntwerp Research Council: CentraI is the question how public sector organisations are steered and coordinated in a multi-Ievel environment (and how the control by different governmental levels interact with each other). Additionally, affiliated research issues are defined which focus on related issues of the influence of global crises, risks and reform ideas on governance, on multi-Ievel collaboration and regulation, and on national public administrations. The research plan aims at designing and testing refined explanatory modeis, drawing from different theoretical perspectives, by combining quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches.

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Trust, legitimacy and intended compliance with COVID-19 exit strategy measures. 01/06/2020 - 31/05/2021

Abstract

Hoewel ingrijpende Covid-19 lockdownmaatregelen legitiem waren in de eerste maanden van de crisis, begint de roep om strenge maatregelen geleidelijk aan af te nemen. Burgers eisen dat exit-strategieën ontwikkeld worden met voldoende aandacht voor hun sociaaleconomische belangen, terwijl potentiële inbreuken op grondrechten zoals bewegingsvrijheid, privacy en eerlijke mededinging, en rechtsbeginselen zoals gelijkheid en proportionaliteit, leiden tot kritiek en zelfs rechtszaken tegen overheidsmaatregelen. De huidige overheidsstrategieën zijn hoofdzakelijk gebaseerd zijn op epidemiologisch en medisch onderzoek. De toenemende relevantie van sociale en juridische factoren voor exit-strategieën impliceert echter dat nieuwe data en kennis dringend nodig zijn. In het bijzonder is er behoefte aan inzicht in de voorwaarden waaronder Covid-19 overheidsmaatregelen sociaal legitiem en wettig zijn en burgers stimuleren tot naleving. Ons project verhelpt het gebrek aan wetenschappelijke en beleidsrelevante kennis van sociale en juridische factoren van belang bij Covid- 19 exit-strategieën, door middel van een dubbele onderzoekaanpak: 1) drie vignette surveys bestuderen hoe de nalevingsbereidheid en legitimiteit van combinaties van nieuwe Belgische Covid-19 maatregelen worden beïnvloed door framing op onderliggende volksgezondheids-, sociale en juridische belangen, en 2) een systematische juridische analyse genereert inzicht in de wettigheid van nieuwe maatregelen, en dient tevens als essentiële input voor het ontwerp van voornoemde vignette surveys. Door middel van continue communicatie aan overheden van resultaten uit zowel de vignette survey als de juridische analyse, kunnen we reeds gedurende het project beleidsrelevante input leveren voor concrete maatregelen. Daarmee helpen we overheden om geïnformeerde en gebalanceerde beslissingen te nemen over hun exit-strategieën en helpen we gebrekkige naleving van of rechtszaken tegen Covid-19 maatregelen te voorkomen.

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Brain-Transversal assessment of intermodal new strategies trainer (BRAIN-TRAINER). 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

The five thematic BRAIN-TRAINER tracks compose a truly interdisciplinary approach, with interlinkages and mutual inputs, and with feedback scenario loops among them. This provides governments realistic approaches to future developments. The output is useful not only in a Belgian context, but has scientific merits which are also applicable in other contexts, both as to the methods and techniques developed, as to the types of scenario applications made. The lessons learned and methods developed can for instance be applied also to measure economic and environmental impact for other economic activity sectors, to optimize regulatory setups, and to create a suitable government interaction and co-ordination framework.

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Too wrapped up? On the effects of red tape on collaborative innovation. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

Collaboration with external stakeholders such as businesses, non-profit organizations, interest groups and citizens continues to manifest itself as an important vehicle for public sector innovation. Red tape, or burdensome rules and procedures that negatively affect performance, is known as a crucial barrier to the effective functioning of public organisations (Bozeman, 1993). While research indicates that red tape hampers innovation as well as collaboration, red tape is rarely included in research into conditions for collaborative innovation specifically. It is still unclear through which mechanisms red tape affects collaborative innovation, and which aspects of collaborative innovation (such as the set-up of the collaboration, its sustainment, or its innovative success) are hindered by red tape. Therefore this project proposes a two phased-research. In the first explorative stage the complex dynamics between red tape and collaborative innovation are studied qualitatively and in depth in five comparative cases in the social policy sector. In the second stage the findings from the first stage are tested by conducting a survey among managers of the highest and second highest hierarchical level of 44 public organizations (departments and agencies). This survey is processed using multilevel regression analysis. This PhD scholarship from the Flemish Research Council is awarded to Charlotte Van Dijck (KULeuven), with Koen Verhoest (UAntwerpen) as co-promoter. In line with its focus on collaborative innovation, this application is a collaboration between KULeuven (promoter Trui Steen) and the Research Group on Politics & Public Governance, University of Antwerp (co-promoter Koen Verhoest). The financial resources are allocated to the main institution (KULeuven). The research is closely linked to the interuniversity project on public sector innovation through collaboration PSI-CO as coordinated by Koen Verhoest (UAntwerpen).

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Inspection for care 3.0 01/08/2018 - 28/02/2019

Abstract

This project is set up to do scientific research into context and changes in regulatory actors with inspection tasks (internationally and nationally). The research is done by Nick Thijs and Dr. Jan Boon.

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MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE Individual Fellowship on Public Administration and Technology (PATECH - Veiko Lember) (UAntwerp as partner-organisation) 29/05/2017 - 28/05/2019

Abstract

This MSCA individual fellowship 'PATECH' is awarded to dr. Veiko Lember with KULeuven as main institution (G. Bouckaert as promoter) and UAntwerpen as partner organisation (Research Group on Politics & Public Governance - Koen Verhoest as host). The financial resources are fully allocated to the main institution - KULeuven. Digital technologies are in the centre of the ongoing industrial revolution that is bound to change not only markets, but also societies and governments. Central to these developments is the evolution of public sector technological capacities, that is, an ability of public organizations to explore, develop and/or adapt new technological solutions in public service design, delivery and evaluation. One of the central questions that has so far fallen in between different research strands is how technology affects the evolution of work organization and administrative capacities in public sector. In the context of increasing dependence on technological developments, and thus, related opportunities as well as uncertainties and risks, the conventional public administration accounts fall short in fully grasping the influence of technology on public sector change. The research objectives of the project are to: a) develop a coherent and novel conceptual framework on public sector technological capacities and provide novel and empirically grounded explanations on the co-evolutionary development mechanisms of public organizations and technology through comparative cross-country analysis. In order to map and understand different co-evolutionary patterns, the project will use a comparative approach by studying two different fields (with high and low/moderate level of technological complexity) in two different small states (in an advanced (Belgium) and less advanced (Estonia) socio-economic contexts).

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Upscaling network management skills in government - a development trajectory 03/04/2017 - 30/06/2018

Abstract

In this project together with Prof. Joris Voets (UGent), Koen Verhoest (UAntwerpen) and Astrid Molenveld (Erasmus University Rotterdam and UAntwerpen) jointly develop a trajectory to upscale network management skills in the Flemish government in order to improve the coordination of transversal and horizontal policy issues. This is done through a combination of knowledge transfer, cases, project-based working, intervision and foreign visits. Funded by the Flemish Government.

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Project website

Antwerp Consortium on the Organization of Rulemaking and Multilevel Governance in Europe (ACTORE). 01/09/2016 - 31/08/2019

Abstract

The core research revolves around the theme of multilevel governance in the EU. The consortium examines how EU multilevel governance impacts upon public policymaking processes in relation to rule-making and rule-implementation, both at the European and the domestic level. Its research program is centered around three interrelated research lines focusing on the complex multilevel governance system of the EU, changing domestic and EU rule-making processes and the legitimacy of the EU multilevel political system. Multilevel governance in the EU has made the organizational and institutional architecture of government and governance institutions much more interdependent and complex, affecting the way national and European societal interests organize themselves, how they secure representation and provide input in order to influence policy outcomes. These developments interact with changing domestic and European processes and outcomes of rule-making. All this ultimately raises questions concerning the legitimacy of how the EU multilevel political system operates and involves citizens and societal groups.

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When, why and how do bureaucrats and politicians respond to reputational threats? Comparing Central Government Organizations in Denmark and Belgium/Flanders'. 24/06/2016 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Whereas the creation and institutionalization of semi-autonomous agencies with increasing degrees of organizational autonomy has been a global trend for more than two decades, an partially opposite international trend of increased saliency of these agencies resulting in de-agencification, agency mergers, and reducing agency autonomy becomes recently observable. In this joint four-year research project by prof. dr. Heidi Houlberg Salomonsen (Denmark), prof.dr. Koen Verhoest and dr. Jan Boon (both UAntwerpen), financed by the Danish Agency for Science, Research and Innovation, we connect these observations with theoretical insights of bureaucratic theory, as elaborated by Daniel Carpenter, George Krause and Moshe Maor. In order to test and further develop central claims made in bureaucratic reputation theory, this project consists of two distinct yet integrated parts. First a medium-N study, including the quantitative analysis of hypotheses on whether threats to different aspects of an agency's reputation affect the various types of communication responses from different types of agencies with different kinds of tasks. In this part we test acclaimed theoretical insights which were derived from regulatory agencies in US and Israeli context by studying agencies with different kinds of tasks in different politico-administrative settings. Second a multiple-case study, using process-tracing methods to identify whether an accumulation of reputational threats to agencies results in political decisions at the detriment of agencies.

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Societal and spatial added value of PPP: a policy brief 09/03/2016 - 25/03/2016

Abstract

As a result of a participatory research trajectory with a survey of 100 policy makers and practitioners, two workshops and a conference, a policy brief was written on how to optimize the societal and spatial added value of public private partnerships (PPP). This project was done in cooperation with the Flemish Architectural Regulator, the PPP Knowledge Center and the PPP Investment Agency and was conducted by Koen Verhoest, Tom Willems and Joris Voets (UGent).

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Public Sector Innovation through Collaboration (PSI-CO) 15/12/2015 - 15/09/2020

Abstract

The interuniversity consortium 'Public Sector Innovation through Collaboration' (2015-2020), coordinated by Professor Koen Verhoest (UAntwerpen) consists of four Belgian (UAntwerpen, KULeuven, UCL and ULg) and one Dutch university (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam) and is funded by the BRAIN-be program (Belgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks). The partners will work together and study how specific collaborative arrangements can lead to innovation and how governments can support and enhance these collaborations. Both Belgian and foreign collaborative practices in different policy domains will be investigated, using case studies, surveys and action research (Living Labs methodology). The research aims to generate both fundamental/scientific insights (PhDs and publications) and policy-oriented insights (recommendations for Belgian federal government and/or other governments). Nowadays, Public Sector Innovation (PSI) is high on government agendas across the globe. Confronted with major budgetary pressures and grand societal challenges, governments worldwide experience a need to step beyond conventional wisdoms and sedimented practices. Public sector innovation literature increasingly asserts that the ability of public organisations to engage and set-up collaborative interaction within and across governmental levels and with societal actors determines their innovative capacity. Government can set up collaborative governance arrangements by engaging in (a) transversal coordination and collaboration with other departments and agencies within government as well as across governments. Government can also engage (b) individual citizens, (for profit and non-profit) organisations and organized interests through co-production or other forms of participation. Despite the growing awareness of the need for collaboration, there is a lack of knowledge about how such collaborative governance arrangements results in meaningful innovations regarding policies and services, and how different forms of collaborative governance interact and reinforce each other. This project will address this research gap by conducting a multi method study on collaborative innovation, studying both (a) how collaborative governance can foster innovation, and (b) by what conditions, in turn, collaborative innovation is supported. The overall research question of this project is 'how and under which conditions do collaborative governance arrangements foster the initiation, adoption and diffusion of innovations in policies and services?' The project uses multiple methods to address these questions, combining (1) a multiple case study phase, (2) a validation phase (Delphi and international validation), (3) a design-phase with two test cases, using Living Lab methodology and (4) a gap-analysis phase, using quantitative survey data, and (5) this in an international comparative set-up.

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Bureaucracy despite reforms: does a history of intensive structural reforms make public sector organizations more bureaucratic (again)? 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

This project, funded by BOF (Special Research Fund) studies through quantitative and qualitative research the impact of reforms on the organizational climate in public sector organizations. The research is done by Bjorn Kleizen with Prof. dr. Koen Verhoest and dr. Jan Wynen as supervisors. The research does not deal with effects on individuals inside organisations.

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How history matters for public sector organizations: examining the effect of past changes on organizational autonomy. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

In response to economic pressures and increasing demands on public sector performance, subsequent waves of public sector reforms were introduced over the last decades. During these global reform waves, public sector organizations were subject to a wide array of structural changes. Research has largely neglected the impact of such sequential and repeated structural changes on public sector organizations. My research addresses this gap and examines the effect of an organization's history of structural changes on a key variable for the functioning of a public sector organization: the way it deals with organizational autonomy. The autonomy an organization enjoys in practice does not always equal the formal autonomy it received from political principals (parliament, cabinet and ministers). Some organizations do not fully exploit their autonomy leading to situations whereby organizations are unable to fulfill their goals for society. In contrast, others try to maximize and even expand it, making the organizations more resistant to control from their political principals. Consequently, the issue of organizational autonomy is attracting much academic interest because it impacts directly on both public sector performance as well as democratic control of public organizations. The link between an organization's history of structural changes and its organizational autonomy will be examined using large N data as well as small N indepth case studies. This FWO post-doc is carried out at both KULeuven and UAntwerpen.

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Optimizing public-private partnership projects for innovation. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

PhD research funded by the Agency for Innovation and Science: Innovation is currently a hot topic and policy makers all over the world believe that innovation is required to tackle major global policy challenges. Often the assumption is made that public-private partnerships (PPPs) are one of the cooperation forms that can deliver on innovative outcomes. However, there is insufficient knowledge on how and under what conditions the governance of PPPs can be used to stimulate innovation and sustainability. Therefore, the main research question in this PhD project is: how does the governance of PPP-projects by the government influence the degree to which private sector companies involved in these PPP-projects innovate? We expect that both 'market-oriented governance' and 'network governance' instruments can influence innovation and that these elements interact with each other. The empirical research will be divided into two steps: first a medium-N study based on fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fs-QCA) and second a small-N case study based on comparative process tracing.

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Business Models for Enhancing Funding and Enabling Financing of Infrastructure in Transport (BENEFIT). 01/12/2014 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

EU-funded H2020 project BENEFIT takes an innovative approach by analysing funding schemes within an inter-related system. Funding schemes are successful (or not) depending on the Business Model that generates them. The performance of the Business Model is affected by the implementation context and the transport mode. It is matched successfully (or not) by a financing scheme. Relations between actors are described by a governance model (contracting arrangements). These are key elements in Transport Infrastructure Provision, Operation and Maintenance. Success is a measure of the appropriate matching of elements. Within BENEFIT funding and financing schemes are analysed in this respect. Describing these key elements through their characteristics and attributes and clustering each of them is the basis of, first, developing a generic framework.

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Public administration study of innovative contract and cooperation models as opportunities for more sustainability. 07/01/2014 - 07/10/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract. The project aims at strengthening the sustainability of government actions and public procurement in the context of the grand societal challenge to make the economy greener and more sustainable. The project analyses how sustainability aims are inserted into innovative public procurement contracts and cooperation models (including public private partnerships PPPs) and how this is actually applied in real-life cooperation. This is studied in a multi-level context of European legislation and policies.

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Brain-Transversal Assessment of Intermodel New Strategies (BRAIN-TRAINS). 01/12/2013 - 28/02/2018

Abstract

Interuniversity research project financed within the BRAIN program (Belgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks). BRAIN-TRAINS deals with rail freight intermodality, and the extent to which it can be made successful, under market, society and policy-making challenges, and analyzing how intermodality contributes to answering these challenges. Starting point is the relative weak usage of this type of transport. The research proposal aims at building on existing knowiedge, integrating, and approaching the problem from an interdisciplinary perspective.

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Spatial and societal gain (in the context of supporting research for the PPP-trajectory. 23/09/2013 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract. This project studies the extent to which public private partnerships can lead to more quality, added value in terms of economic, ecological and social benefits, and how this materialises in the complex multi-level partnerships which are prevailing in Flanders (local, regional and European).

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Liberalization and privatization of essential public services. 06/09/2013 - 14/07/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Erasmus Mundus. UA provides Erasmus Mundus research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract. This funding provides in the preparation of a PhD by Nurul Amin on the effects of the global trend of liberalisation and the emergence of a multi-level regulatory arrangement on the regulatory effectiveness and market competitiveness in telecom and energy in South Asian countries, in comparison with other parts of the world.

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Recommendations for future-oriented organizational-administrative framework for the administrative policy of the Flemish administration. 01/05/2013 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract. This project starts with the observation that the current structure of the government is not fit to deal with the global societal grand challenges in a multi-level and globalising context which we are confronted with. How has the government to be organised to be able to act in a transversal coordinated way across levels, in a resilient and swift way taking into account the restricted budget? This project deploys survey, interviews and focus groups to tackle these questions.

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Regulation, procurement processes, and contractual incentives in PPP projects, and their impact on PPP performance: a comparative study of PPP cases in different countries. 15/12/2012 - 15/12/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other Republic of Indonesia. UA provides Republic of Indonesia research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract. This project studies how governments deal with public private partnerships as globally diffused form of public service delivery. How should governments regulate, support and steer public private partnerships and what is the effects on the features and dynamics of these partnerships? This study compares policies and practices in European countries with other countries, taking into account the effect of supranational regulations and policies.

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In search of economical behaviour in times of global budgetary scarcity - Effects of autonomy, control, task and management on overhead costs in public organizations: Theoretical- empirical research using non-obtrusive data and 3 analysis methods. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

In these times of global financial and fiscal crisis, governments all over the world are looking for ways to reduce the budgetary burden of public organizations and to foster their economical and cost-conscious behaviour. The budgetary policies of the EU are also a major factor in this. One crucial element is the reduction of overhead costs within public organizations, as this allows budgetary savings and the reallocation of relative more budgetary means to the primary activities of public organizations. Overhead costs refer to the resources that organizations invest in supporting functions which enable the execution of their primary processes. The share of resources spent on organizational overhead (i.e. spent on non-program expenses) is generally considered to be a good inverse measurement of economical behaviour of organizations. Hence, for governments and society at large, it is crucial to know what causes large organizational overhead, and hence, a lack of economical behaviour. Moreover, since the 1980s governments around the world have adopted New Public Management (NPM) reforms, aiming to render public organizations more business-like, and make them more economical and cost-conscious as part of a better performance (i.e. economy, efficiency and effectiveness). According to NPM-doctrines, public bureaucracies needed to become 'lean and mean', by among others (1) disaggregating them in smaller, single-purpose agencies at some distance from government and shielding them off from political influence , (2) by giving them large degrees of managerial autonomy and (3) simultaneously subjecting them to result control by the minister through performance contracts and incentives. These changes in the control and regulatory environment of public organizations was believed to enhance economical behaviour, and hence reduce share of overhead costs. Likewise, more private sector oriented management would cut overhead costs. However, until now empirical research remains inconclusive about the extent performance, including economical behaviour, has indeed improved by agencification and other NPM-reforms. Also governments are increasingly sceptical about the extent to which NPM reduced overhead expenses for government as a whole, as NPM reforms, like agencification, seemed to have created proliferation and fragmentation of overhead functions. By using a dataset on all 70 departments and agencies under the remit of the Flemish government, this project enables to compare the share of overhead between organizations which have been subjected to a different extent to managerial autonomy and result control by the minister, as well as to other NPM reforms. Moreover, the project studies and theorizes the effect of these reforms on organizational overhead. The project deals with the caveats which we identify in the current state of the art of governmental efficiency studies and public sector performance studies, by: (1) defining a robust theoretical framing of hypotheses, based on neo-institutional economics and alternative theories; (2) integrating external (i.e. control and regulatory environment, task-specific and political environment) and internal determinants (i.e. management, encompassing structure, tools, values and strategies) in one theoretical model and studying their interaction effects; (3) explaining public sector overhead across sectors; (4) having attention for the political environment of public organizations and its effects; (5) avoiding the use of potentially biased perceptual data or ill-comparable archival data regarding relevant variabels, through the use of a non-obtrusive dataset, (6) by studying causality through three alternative methods (statistical analysis methods, econometric estimation of parametric frontiers and comparative configurational methods (CCM)), resulting in methodological triangulation.

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The influence of the multi-level environment and globalization on (autonomous) public sector organizations. 01/02/2012 - 31/01/2015

Abstract

CentraI is the question how public sector organisations are steered and coordinated in a multi-Ievel environment (and how the control by different governmental levels interact with each other). Additionally, affiliated research issues are defined which focus on related issues of the influence of global crises, risks and reform ideas on governance, on multi-Ievel collaboration and regulation, and on national public administrations. The research plan aims at designing and testing refined explanatory modeis, drawing from different theoretical perspectives, by combining quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches.

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