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Accountable Governance


The idea

Accountability is of increasing importance in a public sector in which most tasks are performed by (partially) autonomous organizations. In recent years, more and more resources are invested in accountability. Unfortunately, however, this has not led to noticeable increases in performance. On the contrary, practical experience documents a plethora of accountability-failures. It is often time-consuming and expensive, provokes strategic reactions by managers and professionals, and easily harms their motivation. The key issue is: how can public accountability more effectively influence decisions and practices in public sector organizations? Or: when does accountability help public organizations to realize their public missions and to improve their policies?

The Calibrating Public Accountability project aims to answer this grand question. The project is funded by a prestigious NWO-vidi grant. This project builds on the well-established tradition of accountability research in Utrecht to which insights, methods and theories from behavioral science have been added. The core team in Utrecht collaborates with renown international colleagues and important public sector organizations in the Netherlands and beyond.


This project aims to

  • a) understand the effects of accountability processes on (key staff in) public organizations implementing policies, by
  • b) combining theories, methods and insights from behavioral science with ‘traditional’ public administration research, in
  • c) situated studies focusing on real organizations and/or real decision-makers in the public sector, preferably
  • d) in collaboration with those public sector organizations, based on
  • e) our contention that accountability should be calibrated – made-to-fit – to the specific context, organization, professional task and envisaged effect, in order to
  • f) contribute to the quality of accountability and decision-making in a public sector under pressure.