INTEREST REPRESENTATION &
I am Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs at Leiden University.
My research and teaching focuses on lobbying and interest representation. I study the internal organization and development of political organizations, such as interest groups and think tanks, and for instance analyze how these organizations change over time, the way in which they involve their members, or how they determine their policy agenda. At the same time, my research also examines the different ways in which interest groups and think tanks engage with policymakers in order to shape public policy. A key question here is how policymakers can ensure the inclusive and effective engagement of societal stakeholders in public governance.
I believe that it is important to connect academic research with the perspectives of practitioners and the challenges they face. For this reason , I co-founded the Policy Advocacy Lab together with Professor Darren Halpin (Australian National University) and Dr Herschel Thomas (University of Texas at Arlington). The Policy Advocacy Lab is a platform through which we engage in research-led education, organize workshops with practitioners and contribute to public debates. I also write a regular “Research in the Spotlight” Column in Community, the professional magazine of the Belgian Society of Association Executives, in which I discuss recent academic publications and clarify their implications for practitioners. In addition, I regularly provide Workshops and Masterclasses to advocacy groups and public affairs professionals. Fundamental research provides the foundation for all these activities, which I consider as unique opportunities to disseminate research findings and to learn from practitioners.
I am a Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Political Science at the University of Antwerp and the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University . Furthermore, I hold degrees in Global Management (Antwerp Management School), Public Administration (KU Leuven) and Political Science (University of Antwerp). From 2006 until 2008, I worked part-time as an assistant to a Member of the European Parliament.
CONCEPTUALIZING CONSULTATION APPROACHES: IDENTIFYING COMBINATIONS OF CONSULTATION TOOLS AND ANALYZING THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR STAKEHOLDER DIVERSITY
Co-authored with Adria Albareda (Leiden University) and Caelesta Braun (Leiden University)
Contemporary governance is increasingly characterized by the consultation of different types of stakeholders, such as interest groups representing economic and citizen interests, as well as public and private institutions, such as public authorities and firms. Previous research has demonstrated that public officials use a variety of tools to involve these actors in policymaking. Yet, we have limited knowledge on how particular consultation approaches relate to stakeholder participation. To what extent do open, closed and hybrid consultation approaches, with the first two, respectively, referring to the use of public and targeted tools, and the third one implying a combination of both of them, relate to the policy engagement of a different set of stakeholders? In this paper, we identify the different tools used by the European Commission to engage stakeholders in policymaking and assess how variation in consultation approaches relates to stakeholder participation via a descriptive and multivariate analysis. We rely on two datasets: a regulatory database that contains detailed information on 41 EU regulations and a stakeholder database that comprises 2617 stakeholders that were involved in these regulations through different consultation tools. Our main finding is that implementing different consultation approaches affects stakeholder diversity. Specifically, closed consultation approaches lead to a lower level of business dominance than hybrid approaches that combine open and targeted consultation tools. Read more
HOW DO INTEREST GROUPS LEGITIMATE THEIR POLICY ADVOCACY IN TIMES OF DIGITAL DISRUPTION?
Co-authored with Darren Halpin (Australian National University)
The ongoing embrace of interest groups as agents capable of addressing democratic deficits in governing institutions is in large part because they are assumed to contribute democratic legitimacy to policy processes. Nonetheless, they face the challenge of legitimating their policy advocacy in democratic terms, clarifying what makes them legitimate partners in governance. In this article we suggest that digital innovations have disrupted the established mechanisms of legitimation. While the impact of this disruption is most easily demonstrated in the rise of a small number of ‘digital natives’, we argue that the most substantive impact has been on more conventional groups, which typically follow legitimation logics of either representation or solidarity. While several legacy groups are experimenting with new legitimation approaches, the opportunities provided by technology seem to offer more organizational benefits to groups employing the logic of solidarity, and appear less compatible with the more traditional logic of representation. Read more.
THINK TANKS AND STRATEGIC POLICY-MAKING
Co-authored with Darren Halpin (Australian National University)
Think tanks have proliferated in most Western democracies over the past three decades and are often considered to be increasingly important actors in public policy. Still, their precise contribution to public policy remains contested. This paper takes the existing literature in a new direction by focusing on the capacity of think tanks to contribute to strategic policy-making and assessing their particular role within policy advisory systems. We propose that strategic policy-making capacity requires three critical features: high levels of research capacity, substantial organizational autonomy and a long-term policy horizon. Subsequently, we assess the potential of think tanks to play this particular role in policy-making, using empirical evidence from structured interviews with a set of prominent Australian think tanks. Read more.
This article won the Harold D. Lasswell Prize, which is awarded annually by the international journal Policy Sciences to a publication that makes an important contribution to the theory and practice of policy sciences.
THE BALANCING ACT OF ESTABLISHING A POLICY AGENDA: CONCEPTUALIZING AND MEASURING DRIVERS OF ISSUE PRIORITIZATION WITHIN INTEREST GROUPS
Co-authored with Anthony Nownes (University of Tennessee) and Darren Halpin (Australian National University)
Interest groups are important intermediaries in Western democracies, with the potential to offer political linkage and form a bridge between the concerns of citizens and the agendas of political elites. While we know an increasing amount about the issue-based activity of groups, we only have a limited understanding about how they selected these issues to work on. In this article, we examine the process of agenda setting within groups. In particular, we address challenges of conceptualization and measurement. Through a thorough review of the group literature, we identify five main factors that are hypothesized to drive issue prioritization. We operationalize items to tap these factors and then empirically assess this theoretical model relying on data from a survey of national interest groups in Australia. Our findings, from a confirmatory factor analysis, provide support for the multidimensional nature of agenda setting. We discuss how this provides a firm conceptual and methodological foundation for future work examining how groups establish their policy agenda. Read more.