Participation, community-based initiatives and social entrepreneurship

Three volunteers standing together
Two people are having a conversation during work
Zen Chung

What are we researching?

We research both civic participation and community-based initiatives and forms of social entrepreneurship. The questions we address are: what are the advantages and disadvantages of involving citizens in solving social problems? But also: how does involving citizens lead to better services? Which social issues do they manage to solve, and which factors are essential in this respect? The relationship between community-based initiatives from the bottom up on the one hand, and top down government control on the other hand, is of particular concern to us. For example, which roles can governments, citizens, and other stakeholders take to foster mutual coordination and cooperation?  

Why are we doing this research and how are we doing it?

Governments increasingly realize that they cannot achieve today's significant societal challenges (such as energy transition, poverty, inequality, etc.) on their own. Citizens themselves are also increasingly motivated to contribute to these challenges. That is why governments explicitly offer space for citizens to provide input and take the initiative. However, the cooperation between citizens and governments does not always run smoothly. We also do not know yet which factors are relevant and explanatory to enhance mutual coordination and collaboration.

We combine this administrative science perspective and approach with other research disciplines, including sociology. We are accustomed to using different methods appropriate to the issue, such as quantitative analyses through surveys and qualitative in-depth comparative case studies. In addition, our research often puts us "right in the middle of the playing field" through action, design-oriented and intervention research. In these ways, we seek to increase the social relevance and impact of our research.

How does our research make an impact?

Based on our research, we are regularly asked to:

  • Provide workshops and masterclasses for civil servants, administrators, professionals and community-based initiatives.
  • To provide evaluation studies of initiatives and participation processes and of attempts by governments to inviting community initiative.
  • To advise on the organization of participation and the design of an ‘inviting government’.
  • Using design research to help shape instruments and organizational and institutional arrangements to facilitate participation and initiative.

We actively communicate about our research through innovative publications (in professional journals, glossy essays, videos and podcasts). In addition, we play an active role in the Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities & Citizens, and several other partnerships with the municipality of Rotterdam (Knowledge Workshop Liveable Neighborhoods and GovLab010). Much of the impact from our research is realized by and through GovernEUR.

In this way, we strengthen the knowledge base on participation, community-based initiatives and inviting and responsive government. Moreover, we help governments, social entrepreneurs and community-based initiatives by bringing this knowledge into practice.

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