PUBLICATIONS IN ENGLISH
WHY DO INTEREST GROUPS PRIORITISE SOME POLICY ISSUES OVER OTHERS? EXPLAINING VARIATION IN THE DRIVERS OF POLICY AGENDAS
Co-authored with Darren Halpin and Anthony Nownes
Journal of Public Policy (2020). doi:10.1017/S0143814X2000015X
Interest groups cannot advocate on every issue they might consider relevant. They must decide what issues to prioritise and which ones to leave to one side. In this article, we examine how groups seek to balance different internal and external considerations when prioritizing issues, and which factors might explain variation in the relative strength of these drivers. We integrate data of a survey of national interest groups in Australia with findings from interviews with a cross section of high-profile groups. While the literature often suggests a clash between external political considerations and internal membership demands, we find that groups view these drivers as largely compatible. Our explanatory analysis points to the policy orientation and insider status of the group, its democratic character, and the extent to which it faces competition for membership contributions, as important factors shaping the relative strength of distinct drivers of internal agenda setting.
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)
Policy Sciences (2020), doi:10.1007/s11077-020-09382-3
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.
HOW DO INTEREST GROUPS LEGITIMATE THEIR POLICY ADVOCACY? RECONSIDERING LINKAGE AND INTERNAL DEMOCRACY IN TIMES OF DIGITAL DISRUPTION
Co-authored with Darren Halpin
Public Administration (2018), 96 (1): 23-35.
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.
ASSESSING THE PROMINENCE OF INTEREST GROUPS IN PARLIAMENT: A SUPERVISED MACHINE LEARNING APPROACH.
Co-authored with Timothy Graham and Darren Halpin
Journal of Legislative Studies (2018), 1-25. doi:10.1080/13572334.2018.1540117
Ascertaining which interest groups are considered relevant by policymakers presents an important challenge for political scientists. Existing approaches often focus on the submission of written evidence or the inclusion in expert committees. While these approaches capture the effort of groups, they do not directly indicate whether policy makers consider these groups as highly relevant political actors. In this paper we introduce a novel theoretical approach to address this important question, namely prominence. We argue that, in the legislative arena, prominence can be operationalised as groups being mentioned strategically – used as a resource – by elected officials as they debate policy matters. Furthermore, we apply a machine learning solution to reliably assess which groups are prominent among legislators. We illustrate this novel method relying on a dataset of mentions of over 1300 national interest groups in parliamentary debates in Australia over a six-year period (2010–2016).
LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY? ORGANIZATIONAL MAINTENANCE AND MORTALITY ANXIETY OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS.
Co-authored with Frederik Heylen & Jan Beyers
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (2018), 47(6): 1249–1270
Communities of civil society organizations are characterized by substantial volatility, as new organizations are continuously established and old ones are regularly disbanded. This article aims to improve our understanding of the dynamic nature of civil society by focusing on a particular aspect of organizational maintenance, namely, mortality anxiety. Building upon previous work that assesses actual and perceived survival chances of civil society organizations, we examine how inter-organizational competition, ties with public authorities, and the internal institutionalization of civil society organizations shape how these groups assess their survival chances. Our results demonstrate that high levels of inter-organizational competition and a strong reliance on government funding significantly increase mortality anxiety. Furthermore, they highlight the importance of a professionalized and internally differentiated structure. We rely on survey data and focus on the case of Belgium, in this way providing a first assessment of mortality anxiety in a neo-corporatist political system.
CONCEPTUALISING THE POLICY ENGAGEMENT OF INTEREST GROUPS: INVOLVEMENT, ACCESS AND PROMINENCE
Co-authored with Darren Halpin
European Journal of Political Research (2018), 56(3): 723–732
While much progress has been made in empirically mapping and analysing a variety of interest group activities in the last decade, less attention has been devoted to conceptual work that clearly defines and distinguishes different forms of policy engagement. This article contributes to this endeavour by developing a theoretical framework that explicitly links currently available measures of the policy engagement of groups to the distinct concepts of group involvement, access and prominence. It argues that greater conceptual clarity will lead to better accumulation of knowledge in the sub‐field and a better understanding of the role of interest groups in political systems.
THINK TANKS AND STRATEGIC POLICY-MAKING: THE CONTRIBUTION OF THINK TANKS TO POLICY ADVISORY SYSTEMS
Co-authored with Darren Halpin
Policy Sciences (2017), 50(1): 105-124.
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.
THE BALANCING ACT OF ESTABLISHING A POLICY AGENDA: CONCEPTUALIZING AND MEASURING DRIVERS OF ISSUE PRIORITIZATION WITHIN INTEREST GROUPS
Co-authored with Darren Halpin & Anthony Nownes
Governance (2018), 31(2): 215-237.
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.
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK: LINKING INTERNAL AGENDA-SETTING PROCESSES OF INTEREST GROUPS TO THEIR ROLE IN POLICY MAKING
Co-authored with Darren Halpin
Administration & Society (2017), doi:10.1177/0095399717728094
Although scholarship has highlighted the role of stakeholders in policy making, less is known about the preparations they make that lay the groundwork for their lobbying activities. This article links ideas on collaborative governance with the study of agenda setting within interest groups. We outline an orthodox mode of agenda setting that anticipates groups possess a proactive policy mode, an institutionalized policy platform, and a pyramid-like agenda structure. Subsequently, we use this orthodox mode as a heuristic device for examining agenda structures and processes, combining survey data on the practices of groups in Australia with illustrative qualitative evidence.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND INTEREST ORGANIZATIONS AT THE CROSSROADS: PERSPECTIVES ON THE TRANSFORMATION OF POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS
Co-authored with Darren Halpin
Political Studies Review (2018), 16(1): 25-37.
This article reviews the case for considering the study of parties and interest organizations together, under the umbrella of “political organizations.” While both literatures are rather disconnected at the moment, we believe that they share many commonalities. A common narrative involves the apparent transformation of parties and interest organizations, as both organizations are continuously adapting to changing environments. In this review, we integrate both literatures and assess arguments for organizational convergence vis-à-vis claims of continuing diversity. Building upon recent work that takes a more joined-up approach, we advance a common research agenda that demonstrates the value and feasibility of studying these organizations in tandem
ASSESSING THE COMPOSITION AND DIVERSITY OF THE AUSTRALIAN INTEREST GROUP SYSTEM
Co-authored with Darren Halpin
Australian Journal of Public Administration (2016), 75(4): 476-491.
Any democratic society requires mechanisms for citizens to have effective political voice. Clearly, political parties provide a key channel for expressing views and preferences. However, organised interests provide another important mechanism for such representation. A crucial question in this regard is whether the interest group system is capable of ensuring the representation of a variety of public and private interests. Resolving these debates requires data that map the terrain and also are attentive to organisational diversity. This article takes up this challenge through exploring the composition and diversity of the Australian system of organised interests, using a new data set based on the Directory of Australian Associations. This system‐level approach delivers important insights into the nature of the Australian interest group system, as well as provides a framework for subsequent work interpreting and contextualising advocacy activities of particular groups, or lobbying dynamics in specific policy domains.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME? EXPLAINING VENUE SELECTION OF REGIONAL OFFICES IN BRUSSELS.
Co-authored with Jan Beyers and Tom Donas
Journal of European Public Policy (2015), 22(5), 589-608.
While subnational authorities strongly mobilize in Brussels, they do not lobby all EU-level venues to the same extent. This article explains the varying intensity with which regional offices interact with various EU-level policy-making venues when seeking to influence EU policies. Theoretically, we complement an exchange-based perspective with political-institutional and contextual factors, such as regional political autonomy and the degree of preference alignment with key policy-making venues. To test our hypotheses, we rely on evidence collected through 33 face-to-face interviews with regional representations concerning their lobbying activities in four salient policy processes. Our results highlight that while most offices regularly interact with both national and supranational venues, the central government representation in Brussels is always, irrespective of what is at stake, the most important contact point. Furthermore, we also find that policy alignments shape venue selection, indicating some evidence of strategic manoeuvring.
THE EXPANDING CORE AND VARYING DEGREES OF INSIDERNESS: INSTITUTIONALIZED INTEREST GROUP INVOLVEMENT THROUGH ADVISORY COUNCILS
Co-authored with Jan Beyers & Tom Donas
Political Studies (2015), 63(3): 569-588.
The interaction between organised interests and policy makers is an important ingredient of contemporary political systems. In earlier work, interest group scholars have distinguished groups that enjoy access to consultation arrangements from those that are bound to stand on the sideline. Frequently, these insiders are considered to be equally connected to public authorities. Yet their degree of ‘insiderness’ differs significantly. By unpacking the set of organised interests that have gained access, this article distinguishes core insiders from groups that occupy a more peripheral position in an interest intermediation system. Empirically, we demonstrate and explain varying degrees of insiderness in the community of insider groups in Belgium, using the extensiveness of representation in advisory bodies as a proxy for access. Our findings show that, although nowadays a diverse set of organised interests gets involved in policy-making processes, the inner circle is dominated by traditional economic interests.
WHO'S IN AND WHO'S OUT? EXPLAINING ACCESS TO POLICY-MAKERS IN BELGIUM
Co-authored with Jan Beyers
Acta Politica (2016), 51(2): 214-236.
In most political systems, the community of policy insiders represents a small subset of the total interest group population. Therefore, one key question is which factors explain why some mobilized interests become insiders and others remain outsiders. By contrasting a bottom-up registration of interest groups with a top-down census of all groups that enjoy access to policymakers, we present a unique approach to distinguish insiders from outsiders. This approach allows us to systematically analyze which factors – such as resources, constituency, scale of organization and policy portfolio – predict who becomes a policy insider. Our analysis focuses on interest group politics in Belgium, and shows that next to resources, the size of the membership, the scale of organization and a group’s policy portfolio are strong predictors of the likelihood to gain access.
IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT THE MONEY: EXPLAINING VARYING POLICY PORTFOLIOS OF REGIONAL REPRESENTATIONS IN BRUSSELS
Co-authored with Tom Donas & Jan Beyers
Interest Groups and Advocacy, 3(1), 79-98
The literature on territorial lobbying in the European Union (EU) has paid much attention to the interaction between regional representations in Brussels and the member-state central governments, and the relations of these representations with the European institutions. Surprisingly, far less systematic research has been conducted on the policies that regional representations prioritize when they lobby in Brussels. In this article, we focus on the policy portfolios of these organizations and analyze variation concerning the domains and issues these regional representations prioritize. Empirically, we demonstrate that the size and the nature of a policy portfolio is not primarily affected by the capabilities of a regional representation, but rather results from structural ties of regional lobbyists with other public and private interests. This claim is corroborated by data collected through a telephone survey with 127 officials from regional offices and trans-regional associations.
THE VISIBLE HAND OF THE STATE: ON THE ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF INTEREST GROUPS.
Public Administration, 92(2): 406-421.
To understand dynamics within communities of organized interests, researchers have primarily studied organizational births and deaths. The organizational development of established interest organizations has received far less attention. This article claims that the evolution of interest groups' organizational features is strongly affected by evolving resource dependencies with the state. A life‐history case study of an environmental interest organization is used to substantiate this argument empirically. The findings demonstrate that resource dependence relations with state actors critically shape organizational development, but that this dependence affects an organization's mission, structure, and strategy in different ways. This conclusion highlights the vital role of government patronage in the survival and maintenance of interest organizations.