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Underperforming institutions

a multi-perspective approach to trust and confidence
PhD ceremony:Ms M.S. (Marielle) Bovenhoff
When:February 02, 2023
Supervisors:prof. dr. T.T. (Tom) Postmes, K.E. (Katherine) Stroebe, Prof
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Underperforming institutions

This qualitative study examined how the complex institutional context of gas extraction in Groningen affects relations and processes of trust, and seeks to better understand what is necessary for restoring trust. In the Groningen gas case, responsibilities for dealing with multiple negative consequences of gas extraction are shared by many different organizations who together form a complex institutional system. 

Over 60 residents and professionals from various institutions were interviewed for this study. As individuals, case managers and other professionals are seen as benevolent, hard-working and trustworthy people. But as representatives of (large) institutions these professionals struggle to be seen as trustworthy because of persistent problems with institutional performance, with professionals themselves feeling they have insufficient discretionary power. 

More than interpersonal trust, an entirely different form of trust appears to be at stake here: confidence in the system itself. According to many respondents, confidence in the system is low because the perceived interests of the institutions that shaped this system are not aligned with those of residents and the region. In addition, the positions of power and responsibility within this system are opaque to both residents and professionals. Moreover, the institutional system is perceived to be based on a distrustful attitude toward citizens in general, resulting in elaborate procedures for accountability, control and monitoring. While understandable perhaps for financial and legal reasons, this treatment conveys distrust towards citizens and has become an obstacle to restoring confidence in the system, no matter how well residents and professionals get along as individuals.