Utrecht School of Governance research programme 2008-2013
Our research focuses on interactions between social transformations and organisations in public domains. More specifically: interactions between social transformations and organizations with public functions, and how these organizations make sense of and react to the consequences of these transformations from a public (governance) perspective. This focus on publicness runs throughout the various core activities of the USG, whether these are teaching, research, or consultancy. Our research programme aims to investigate interactions between society, organizations, and governance by highlighting three core aspects. They represent three corners of a triangle – the so-called USG-triangle (see below).
The title ‘Public Matters’ aptly conveys the different meanings in which publicness is investigated. Firstly, the program focuses on social issues and related public concerns that result from various important social transformations, such as:
- Internationalization of economy, governance, and society. The rise of multi-level forms of governance, both at the European and at a global level, raises a series of concerns about democracy and accountability. Similarly, the international trend towards public management reforms in public organizations and commercialization in voluntary organizations raises concerns for public service motivation and service quality.
- (Im)migration, cultural and social diversification understood broadly as involving diversities related to gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, professional identities and lifestyles. More specifically, issues regarding organizing diversities that arise for societies and organizations, and the related meanings of (public) responsibilities that public, private, and voluntary organizations recognize and enact.
- Informatization and more specifically the emerging primacy of an information society. Specific interest concerns the consequences of this transformation for political participation and democracy, the autonomy and responsibility of professionals, and the human resource policies that support professionalization, employability and labour participation.
Secondly, our research is confined to organizations with public functions. These are organizations which may be loosely defined as belonging to the public sector, such as government departments, agencies and independent administrative bodies, private institutions with public tasks, interest groups, associations and other civil society organizations and service organizations (profit and non-profit) like health care organizations and schools. We study how such organizations work.
Thirdly, our program attaches particular importance to (taking) public responsibility and public accountability. We think publicness matters. This yields a focus on questions such as: what does the interaction between social transformations and organizations with a public function imply about issues of ‘good governance’, both in the sense of public and corporate governance? How does it affect issues of political citizenship, democratic control, and public accountability, and such broader themes as socially responsible enterprise and social citizenship?
Our research programme combines approaches from public administration, political and social science, management and organization science. We value theoretical and methodological pluriformity and our research focus benefits from the insights that various disciplines, theoretical perspectives, and methodologies can offer.
Our research programme is divided into three major research lines, flowing from the aforementioned meanings of publicness:
- Managing social issues
- Public management
- Public governance