About the program

Self-organizing citizen initiatives can be a valuable source of governance capacity (Ostrom, 1990), especially when viable connections arise between more government-induced forms of problem-solving and service delivery and self-organizing citizens initiatives. However, much is unknown about how self-organizations effectively and legitimately develop in interaction with existing political and governmental institutions (Stolle and Hooghe, 2005). It is therefore important to improve our understanding on how governmental actors can deal with self- organizing initiatives, how they can stimulate or give room for them and how they can synchronize them with public policy and service delivery (Goldstein, 1999; Van Meerkerk & Edelenbos, 2012).

Within the RePolis program (started in 2015) the Department of Public Administration and Sociology, together with the Institute of Housing and Urban Studies, TNO and Deltares, study citizen initiatives in the field of water management, energy, local welfare and urban regeneration within comparative perspective.

Main aim

The goal of this research project is a) to analyze and explain the conditions under which processes of self-organization in the fields of health care, sustainable energy, water management and urban development result in increased governance capacity, b) to analyze how these processes can contribute to formal processes of public service delivery and c) to develop governance strategies that strengthen the synergy between governmental action and self-organization.

Research questions

  • Which forms and processes of self-organization can be distinguished, what are the patterns and mechanisms that characterize them and what are its main consequences?
  • To what extent do these forms of self-organization differ in the different sectors of urban management, water management, sustainable energy and health care and different state governance traditions, and how can we explain these differences and similarities?
  • Which factors stimulate or hamper the emergence of self-organization, how do they differ or resemble in different institutional contexts and how can these patterns be explained?
  • What are effective governance strategies in different contexts to enhance the governance capacity of self-organization and the synergy between self-organization and traditional service delivery?