Research themes

Institutions for Open Societies: A Multidisciplinary Approach

The research programme “Institutions for Open Societies” is built around five interrelated research themes, which represent the cornerstones of open and sustainable societies. Relevant expertise from the various disciplines is thus clustered around these themes, which at the same time link up with major societal issues. The programme seamlessly connects to the grand societal challenges identified in Horizon2020.

At Utrecht University, scholars from economics, history, public administration, law, sociology, language and communication, ethics, social and organizational psychology, innovation studies, and geography have decided to join forces to improve the understanding of the formation and effects of these institutions. By combining their expertise, they contribute to the construction of open and sustainable societies. Their multidisciplinary endeavour is organized around five concrete themes that jointly form the main pillars on which open, sustainable societies are built:

Institutions for Cooperation, Self-regulation, Collective Action

This theme considers how to ensure cooperative behaviour among groups of citizens using modes of voluntary human behaviour and interaction, as well as effective regulation with specific rules and measures of enforcement where necessary. Read more

Institutions for Social Sustainability and Resilience

This theme deals with the question how we can organize our society so that economic development is not hampered while at the same time the basis for future development is not eroded, economically, ecologically and socially. Read more

Institutions for Innovation and Economic Growth

Societies are always in flux, never in equilibrium. Technology and innovation change our world  and can improve well-being worldwide. This theme addresses the question how innovation should be managed and regulated to improve economic and societal performance - which is a continuously developing research question. Read more

Institutions for Equality, Inclusion, Social Mobility

This theme focuses on equal opportunities for people in our society. How  do we achieve a broad distribution of political and economic resources, while avoiding inequality and related tensions, and ensuring equal educational, wage-earning, cultural and jurisdictional opportunities? Read more

Institutions for Democratic Governance, Citizenship, Trust

This theme concerns the main question about sustainable democratic governance: how to create and reinforce robust, resilient, and inclusive democratic institutions, based on the rule of law, at various geographical scales? The focus is on the core institutions of the democratic Rechtsstaat - equal citizenship, representative government, independent adjudication, impartial administration. Read more