Re-designing public governance : how can institutional researchers drive transformation?

A.G.L. Romme, G.J. Brandsma, A. Meijer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


New forms of public governance or major changes in current governance practices are needed because public institutions are, in their present form, often not up to their task. Democratic and governance bodies operating at local, national and global levels are thus responding to major problems and challenges using yesterday’s tools: they draw on adhoc and multilateral negotiations largely driven by short-term interests of the stakeholders involved. Despite these huge challenges, most institutional researchers focus on describing and explaining these phenomena rather than engaging in actual attempts to change the (conditions of the) system itself. Several scholars have therefore been advocating a fundamental rethink of the apolitical character of institutional research to move away from research primarily driven by extant theories and methods, toward research framed around fundamental dilemmas in the real world. In this spirit, a design science (DS) perspective on institutional research and practice is proposed in this paper, inspired by Herbert Simon’s seminal work in this area. We explore the nature of institutional research as DS, review several examples, and discuss the implications and prospects of future research. A key implication is that any attempt to re-invent and transform public institutions is doomed to fail, when institutional scholarship does not play an active role.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWINIR Conference on Institutions & Open Societies, 14-17 September 2017, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Place of PublicationUtrecht
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event4th WINIR Conference, 14-17 September 2017, Utrecht, The Netherlands: Institutions & Open Societies - Academiegebouw, Utrecht, Netherlands
Duration: 14 Sept 201717 Sept 2017


Conference4th WINIR Conference, 14-17 September 2017, Utrecht, The Netherlands


  • design science
  • public administration
  • institutional change
  • institutional design
  • public governance


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