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We focus on expressions of trust and distrust in various sites of interaction in public policy. We analyze interactions between government officials of the Investment Fund for Rural Areas (ILG) in the Netherlands. We found that both trust and distrust were performed in different settings. The distrust performances developed into stories. Through telling and retelling, these stories became dominant in more non-public settings. As performative stories, they became the basis for further actions. The performances of trust took place in more public settings, but were interpreted as signs of distrust when linked up to stories of distrust. On these sites trust was faked and forced in an attempt to uphold a story of successful policy implantation. We found that the performances of both trust and distrust negatively influenced the course of the ILG. We conclude that expressions of trust, which generally have positive associations, can contribute to distrust and troubled relations within inter-governmental cooperation.
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This is a revised personal version of the article published in Land Use Policy. Please cite as: De Vries, J.R., Roodbol-Mekkes, P.,
Beunen, R., Lokhors, A.M. and Aarts, N. (2014) Faking and forcing trust: the performance of trust and distrust in public policy. Land
Use Policy 38: 282289.
Faking and forcing trust: the performance of trust and distrust in public
Jasper R. de Vriesab, Petra Roodbol-Mekkesb, Raoul Beunena, Anne Marike Lokhorsta and Noelle Aartsa
a Strategic Communication Group , Wageningen University, PO Box 8130, 6700 EW Wageningen , The Netherlands
b Land Use Planning Group, Wageningen University
In this article we analyse the effects of expressions of trust and distrust in various sites of interaction in
public policy. We analyse interactions between government officials of the Investment Fund for Rural
Areas (ILG) in the Netherlands. We found that both trust and distrust were performed in different
settings. The distrust performances developed into stories. Through telling and retelling, these stories
became dominant in the more non-public settings. As performative stories, they became the basis for
further actions. The performances of trust took place in more public settings, but were interpreted as
signs of distrust when linked up to stories of distrust. On these sites trust was faked and forced in an
attempt to uphold a story of successful policy implantation. We found that the performances of both trust
and distrust negatively influenced the course of the ILG. We conclude that expressions of trust, which
generally have positive associations, can contribute to distrust and troubled relations within inter-
governmental cooperation.
KEYWORDS: trust, rural development, policy implementation, , governance, Investment Fund for Rural
Areas, cooperation.
In response to questions from the Dutch parliament
regarding the progress of the Investment Fund for
Rural Areas (Investeringsbudget Landelijk Gebied:
ILG), the Minister of Agriculture, Nature, and Food
quality answered: ‘...I trust that both the provinces
and the municipalities will comply with earlier
agreements in bordering and protecting the nature
areas.’ Not long after, a government official from the
ministry, also working on the ILG, stated in an
interview: ‘Well, according to me, trust between the
ministry and the provinces is gone.’ And later, in a
meeting with other officials: ‘The ILG is congealed
These expressions of trust and distrust caught our
attention during a study on the implementation of the
ILG in the Netherlands. The ILG was a seven-year
project in which the national government delegated
the realization of rural spatial policies to the 12
provinces. The delegation was arranged and
consolidated through a set of contracts. The contracts
were output based, and progress was to be evaluated
every year, and more extensively in a mid-term
review and a final review. In total, the fund had 3.4
billion euros at its disposal for the seven-year period.
Starting from these apparently contradictory quotes,
we dug deeper into the ILG process. We found that
these quotes did not stand alone; rather, they were
part of a series of expressions of trust and distrust.
From these expressions it became clear that trust and
distrust were important themes in discussions on the
ILG. Trust and the lack thereof were often used to
explain the success or failure of the ILG. The frequent
use of the concepts of trust and distrust throughout
the process, the apparent contradiction between
them, and the importance attributed to them made us
curious. How could both trust and distrust be present
alongside each other so strongly? From where did
these expressions originate? How did these concepts
become so important? And how did these expressions
influence the implementation and working of the ILG?
The importance of trust in understanding interactions
and relationships has been part of scientific studies
and debates for decades, and originates from
organization studies and adjacent fields (Tyler and
Kramer, 1996). In these fields, various characteristics
are imputed to trust. Trust is seen as a lubricant for
cooperation, as an important mechanism for the
course of decision-making processes (De Vries et al.,
2013; Bachmann, 2001), as a way to cope with
uncertainty (O’Brien 2001), and as a means of
reducing complexity (Luhmann, 1979). Related to
these characteristics, many definitions of trust have
emerged in various studies. Broadly, these studies on
trust can be categorized into two traditions. The first
is the behavioural tradition focussing on the relation
between trust and choices or actions in cooperative
settings. These studies focus for example on trust as
the basis for decisions made (Lewicki et al., 2006).
The second tradition has a more cognitive approach,
focussing on interpersonal characteristics associated
with trust, such as expectations, intentions, and
uncertainties (Lewicki and Brinsfield, 2012; Lewicki
et al., 2006). If these two traditions are combined,
trust can generally be seen as a positive expectation
regarding another’s thoughts, words, and actions
(Idrissou et al., 2013).
Studies dealing with the various aspects of trust focus
mainly on a better theoretical understanding of the
concept of trust. Consequently, only a few scholars
have touched upon the role and meaning of
expressions of trust (Idrissou et al., 2013; Lewicki and
Brinsfield, 2012). In these studies, the expressions of
trust and distrust are viewed as strategic acts. In
cooperation processes, these expressions influenced
choices and decisions made (Idrissou et al., 2013).
However, these studies do not extensively elaborate
on how the expressions of trust and distrust influence
actions and decisions. Starting from our initial
curiosity and the questions that spontaneously arose,
we focus on the question of how expressions of trust
and distrust influence choices made and actions taken
by various actors in cooperative processes. We do this
by analysing the ILG case in the Netherlands.
To analyse how expressions of trust and distrust sort
effect, we view expressions of trust and distrust as
performances (Hajer, 2005). This focus allows us to
distinguish between 1) expressions of trust, 2) the
way these are interpreted, and 3) how these
interpretations can lead to actions. We introduce the
theoretical concepts of performance and
performativity in the next section. Afterwards, we
present the expressions of trust and distrust in the
ILG. These expressions are then analysed and
discussed using our initial theoretical notions. On the
basis of this discussion, we offer our conclusions on
the influence of the expressions of trust and distrust
on actions taken and decisions made.
This paper is based on an interpretative study of
performances of trust and distrust. Such a study starts
with the recognition that people actively make
meaning, making sense of the reality they experience
(Herzele and Aarts, 2013). Consequently, we focus on
how various perspectives gain meaning over time and
lead to actions and observable outcomes (Bevir and
Kedar, 2008). The data for this study were collected in
two rounds of interviews. In the first round, we
conducted seven interviews on the progress of the
ILG. These interviews were held with officials from
the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality
(Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuurbeheer en
Voedselkwaliteit: LNV) (three), provinces (three), and
the Government Service of Land and Water
Management (DLG) (one). In the first round, we aimed
to get a general overview of the ILG and the issues at
stake. Therefore, we used open interviews. The
second part of the study consisted of a new round of
interviews and a document study.
The second round of interviews included 20
interviews conducted with government officials, two
from the Ministry of LNV, 14 from the provinces, and
four from governmental management authorities such
as DLG. The interviews were semi-structured, with a
checklist of topics. The interviews contained
questions on the organization and progress of the ILG,
the evaluation process, the explanatory factors for
success or failure, the cooperation between the two
government tiers, and the developments in the
relation between them. In addition, interviewees were
invited to raise other topics. In these interviews, trust
and distrust were often mentioned as important
aspects in the ILG. Most of the time, the topic was
raised by the interviewees during the discussion of
the evaluation process and the ILG success or failure
factors. If the topic of trust or distrust was brought up
by the interviewees, additional questions were asked
regarding trust and distrust. These interviews were
conducted and recorded between 2009 and 2011 and
lasted about one to two hours. All interviews were
audio-taped and transcribed with the participants’
The data from these interviews were supplemented
by a document study in order to gain a more complete
overview of communications within the ILG. We made
an inventory of the official written communication
and newspaper articles about the ILG from the period
2004 to 2012. To gather the material, we made an
inventory of all documents concerning the ILG in
public databases from parliament, the ministry, and
the Association of Provinces of the Netherlands (IPO).
We looked for documents with ILG as a topic or in
which the ILG was mentioned.
The documents found comprised:
1) Policy documents and formal communications
from the Ministry of LNV, provincial governments,
and other governmental organizations involved.
2) Transcriptions of parliamentary debates (in both
the upper and the lower house),
3) Written media, like newspapers and magazines.
The documents were analysed using the words
vertrouwen (trust), wantrouwen (distrust), and
related words such as vertrouwelijk (confidential). In
total, 45 documents including one of these words
were found.
Both the documents and the transcriptions of the
interviews (from the first and second round) were
coded. We used trust and distrust as codes, after
which we categorized the coded parts in relation to
the setting. This information was combined with the
most important events in the ILG and integrated into a
timeline (Figure 1). On the basis of our perspective of
performances, settings, and stories, we used this
timeline to reconstruct the way in which the
performances of trust and distrust and events built
upon one another, became a story, and led to actions.
In this paper, we focus on the performance of trust
and distrust on various policy sites and the effects of
these performances. The analysed policy process is
considered as multi-interpretative and dynamic
(Beunen and Duineveld, 2010; Arts and Babili, 2013).
It is an environment in which statements are
expressed and shared and in which realities are
constructed through a process of mutual
interpretation in interaction (Ford et al., 2001).
Particular attention is given to the embedding of
notions of trust and distrust in the stories that the
involved actors put forward. Storytelling plays an
important role in collaborations, managing relations,
and keeping track of one another (Dunbar, 2004).
Stories exist in many forms and contain various
elements. For instance, stories often contain good and
bad characters, and develop over time with a dramatic
tension. Moreover, stories have the possibility for
generalization, for introducing information of
personal interest, and for recognizing universal
elements in the day-to-day telling (Sandercock, 2003).
These elements make it worthwhile to tell, listen to,
and retell stories to others.
By telling stories, people can position themselves in
relation to others, their ideas, and their thoughts (Van
Assche et al., 2012a; Sandercock, 2003). Stories can
take form in, and cover, a wide range of communi-
cations, ranging from informal talk, such as anecdotes
and gossip, to formal stories, such as policy
statements and presentations (Sandercock, 2003;
Gabriel, 1991). Storytelling, therefore, plays an
important part in daily life, and an almost non-stop
role in receiving, taking over, and retelling
information, while at the same time influencing
existing stories and giving rise to new stories (Elias
and Scotson, 1994; Gabriel, 1991;).
The effect a story sorts depends on its performance,
that is the way stories are brought to life, interpreted
and embedded in existing discursive structures
(Beunen et al., 2013). This requires a selection among
alternative interpretations and, possibly, the creation
of new interpretations (Bal, 2002). In this process,
occasion, audience, genre and location are all
important factors influencing interpretations and thus
the effect of the performance (Lloyd, 1999). These
effects can largely differ between sites of
performance. Here, site refers to a particular occasion,
e.g. place, setting, and time of interaction (Beunen et
al., 2013; Bialasiewicz et al., 2007). These sites range
from parliamentary debates, official meetings, and
statements in the media to phone calls between actors
and informal conversations between colleagues.
These various sites all have different strategic assets,
expectations and rules and different audiences and
therewith a different potential for a certain
performance (Munro, 1999). More precise, the
composition of a site shapes the potential for
performances or parts of these performances to
spread, while it also represents the potential of
transformation, as partial performances can be linked
up to other elements and reconstructed in new
performances (Van Assche et al., 2012a). As such
performances do mostly not stand on their own, but
co-evolve at various sites in which utterances of the
past are constantly reproduced (Van Assche et al.,
2012a; Ford, 1999). Consequently, stories, can
become widely accepted and seen as ‘true’ (Rap,
2006; Mercer, 2003; Elias and Scotson, 1994; Gabriel,
1991). They can influence people’s understanding of
the world and concurrently their actions and
decisions. Therewith the performances do have
reality effects and as a self-fulfilling prophecy, the
performances become performative (Arts and Babili,
2013; Turnhout et al., 2010; Hajer, 2005). This implies
that performances of trust and distrust are not just
descriptions of a certain state of affairs, but active
contributions to the construction of these affairs.
Performance and performativity are distinctly
different. Where performance is an act, the constant
reproduction of meaning, performativity is the
enactment based on that act (Beunen et al., 2013;
Spicer et al., 2009; Butler, 1993). Although
performance and performativity do not necessarily
imply each other, performance can become
performative. Performativity can develop through
strategic interactions. In these situations the
performer aims to persuade others of his ideas. The
performer will construct and perform the message in
a way that fits the lines of the setting, and the ideas
and thoughts of the audience (Turnhout et al., 2010;
Munro, 1999). The performer will then build upon his
knowledge about earlier performances (Ford, 1999).
The concepts of performance and performativity
enable an analysis of the relation between
expressions (performances), how these expressions
influence stories and vice versa, and the effects of
these expressions (performativity). Using this
perspective, we analyse the expressions of trust and
distrust within the ILG as performances and show
how these expressions were interpreted, influenced
stories, and consequently affected mutual relations
and actions taken by the actors.
The Investment Fund for Rural Areas the worsening of
The Netherlands has a long history in developing and
implementing rural policies. Much of the
contemporary practices relate to the policies and
organisations that have been developed after World
War II. The primary focus of these policies was on
agricultural development. However, through time the
government gradually started to address more and
more issues. This resulted in a wide range of sector-
based policies for the rural areas. These included
policies for the development of nature areas, water
management, the protection of landscape and
heritage, and dealing with urban sprawl. Each policy
field was characterised by its own documents,
procedures, concepts, discourses and spatial claims.
The different policy fields were strongly top-down
oriented with a national government that sets goals
and provides funding for plans and policies that need
to be integrated and implemented by provincial and
local governments (Rientjes, 2002; Hajer and
Zonneveld, 2000). This approach was grounded in a
strong technocratic tradition. In this tradition, it was
believed that the government knew what was right
way forward based on expertise. However, the
coordination of spatial policies proved to be difficult
and governments were continuously searching for the
most effective and efficient instruments to implement
the different policies. In an attempt to tackle these
difficulties the Investment Fund for Rural Areas (ILG)
was developed. With the ILG, the governments would
move away from the traditional top-down steering
model and cooperated more on a basis of equality. As
such, the ILG should allow provincial and local
governments to realise national objectives for the
rural areas on local level in a more effective way. In
designing the ILG policy the process was strongly
influenced by new ideas about cooperation between
public and private parties and using markets
mechanisms to enhance the efficiency (Van Ark,
2005). As a result contracts arranging the
intergovernmental cooperation played an important
The ILG was introduced in 2007 by the Dutch national
government in order to delegate the implementation
of national rural spatial policies to the 12 provinces.
The provinces implemented these national policies
through a regional planning process, involving
regional and local stakeholders, and combining
national, regional, and local policies and interests. In
this way, they aimed to make the implementation
more integrated and effective. The projects within the
ILG focussed mainly on nature conservation,
recreation around urban centres, and rural
The basis of the ILG was a set of administrative
agreements between the provinces and the Ministry
of LNV. The agreements were output based and
contained detailed descriptions of the investments of
the national government and the various goals to be
met by the provinces. These goals had to be executed
and reached within a set budget and a seven-year
time period (20072013). It was explicitly stipulated
that the provinces were free to decide how to
organize the implementation of these goals. The
involvement of LNV in the implementation phase was
limited to a yearly round of talks on progress and a
more extensive mid-term review (MTR). After the set
period of seven years, a final review was to be held,
simultaneously with a new round of negotiations for
another seven-year period. The ILG was an explicit
attempt to alter the relations between the national
and provincial governments from rather hierarchical
towards a more horizontal relationship.
The introduction of the ILG was a long process which
started in the 1990s. In 2004, the first policy
document about the ILG was published, followed by
the first official ILG conference. At this time, the
general idea amongst the initiators of the ILG was that
the ILG was built on mutual trust, and the relations
between the ministry and the provinces would be
arranged through a set of agreements on rather
broadly formulated goals. However, in the
negotiations, both the provinces and the national
government tried to minimize uncertainties by
stipulating every investment and every goal in great
detail. For instance, the number of hectares of a
specific type of nature was specified, just as the
amount of black-tailed godwit (a bird species) pairs
that should be breeding in a specific area within seven
years. The result was a set of highly detailed
In the following years, the discussions between the
ministry and the provinces focussed on monitoring
and control. The first annual reports were one of the
major points of discussion. According to the ministry,
the provinces presented incomplete figures about the
progress of the ILG. The first progress report,
originally only meant as a first insight into the
working and progress of the ILG, turned the ILG into a
volatile subject of political debate. As a result, many
discussions were held, varying from meetings and
informal talks between civil servants to public
debates in parliament, and a wave of official
documents and letters. At this time, the parliament
added pressure to the process by asking for better
insight into the progress of the ILG. Eventually, they
asked the National Court of Audit (Rekenkamer) to
investigate the ILG.
These discussions put pressure also on the already
troubled relations between the ministry and the
provinces. In the following years, parliament would
insist on more monitoring and control measures, and
thereby increase pressure on both the ministry and
the provinces to show they were making good
progress. This led to an increased focus on ‘numbers,’
for example on the amount of money spent, or the
number of hectares of nature development realized.
Dissatisfaction with the ILG grew among both the
provinces and the ministry, frustrating the
relationship between the two. This was partly because
of the difficulty of finding out the ‘right’ numbers and
‘real’ progress made. In addition, relations were
frustrated because the regional rural planning process
that the ILG was intended to be, had become merely
an accounting affair. These discussions were
intensified in the months prior to the MidTerm
Review, as the MTR also focussed mainly on numbers.
After nearly four years, a new government took office
in October 2010 announcing the abandonment of the
ILG and heavy budget cuts on nature conservation
and rural development. In 2012, after nearly two
years of negotiation, a new agreement was reached
between the provinces and the national government.
This included a decentralization of the rural
development agenda in combination with heavy
budget cuts. With these new agreements, the ILG
officially ended.
Expressions of trust and distrust in the ILG
Trust and distrust were expressed in various sites
over time. These include various sites that could be
regarded as rather non-public, such as conversations
and closed meetings. While others were regarded as
more public such as parliament, letters, and policy
documents. In this section we will discuss the
expressions of trust and distrust in the various sites,
and how expressions on the various sites related and
influenced each other.
At the initiating conference in 2005, trust was
introduced as an important concept by one of the
initiators of the ILG, the then Minister of LNV, Cees
Veerman. He stated: ‘When you trust one another, you
can cooperate with a small number of rules and
agreements. If there is distrust, then you need a
wheelbarrow full of paper.’ In this vision, trust should
go both ways: ‘The basic element for flexibility is
mutual trust … Trust from the national government
that the provinces are able to do their jobs, and trust
from the provinces that the national government will
fulfil its obligations.’ This site, the starting conference,
was the first official public gathering of the ILG. The
emphasis on trust was regularly recalled by civil
servants from the ministry and the provinces, and was
also repeated in official documents.
In January 2007, the ILG officially took off. Just after
the start, critical questions were raised in parliament
about the instruments the ministry had for
monitoring and control, and how to hold the
provinces accountable. In response to these questions,
the ministers kept underlining the importance of
trust. Here, the Minister of LNV underlined that trust
was especially important in relation to ecological
objectives as a lot of work still had to be done in
which the organizations needed one another. These
statements of trust were regularly repeated in various
discussions in parliament in the following years and
affirmed by official letters from the minister to
parliament. For instance, in one of these letters
(2008), the minister expressed it as follows: ‘I trust
that the provinces and the municipalities will work
according to earlier agreements.’ The statements
about trust were also supported by other
governmental agencies and authorities. The Social and
Economic Council (Sociaal Economische Raad: SER)
for instance stated (2008) that they trusted that the
provinces could perform their agreed tasks. These
statements were taken over and shared by the civil
servants working on the ILG. One of our interviewees
from the ministry stated, ‘the ILG cannot work
without mutual trust.’
In reports published about the progress of the ILG,
this statement was underlined. However, in these
progress reports trust was also mentioned as a
prerequisite for overcoming the hiccups and
problems that the ILG was facing. In the MTR (2010),
the importance of trust was again emphasized. It was
stated for instance: ‘Mutual trust [between the
ministry and the provinces] is crucial and requires
continuity.’ Over the years, several other documents
were published with suggestions about how to
improve trust for instance, the visitation reports
which suggested that trust building was important
and needed input. A speech by the Minister of LNV,
delivered at a meeting with the provinces halfway
through the ILG (2009), was one of the examples
referred to by officials: ‘you should help me to create
trust, to show the people in parliament that the ILG is
doing well, show successes, create trust.’
Civil servants from both the ministry and the
provinces worked together to fine-tune the realization
of the national objectives at regional level. In the
interviews, most civil servants indicated that from the
beginning the day-to-day working relationship
between the ministry and the provinces was
characterized by distrust. They refer to two large
points of contention between the provinces and the
ministry that were present from the start and
persisted in the years that followed.
The first was the process of writing the agreements, in
which the descriptions of the goals became much
more detailed than initially intended. An official from
the ministry explained in an interview the process of
how the detailed contracts came into place: ‘The top
officials of the ministry were very much focussed on
accountability, they fought very hard to tie up all loose
ends. They wanted to be able to have strict control.
They did not want flexibility in the contracts.’ This
official also stated: ‘The provinces were very much on
the same line. They themselves made the agreements
more detailed.’ Another official from the ministry
explained his opinion about this development, he
stated: ‘... it is all about numbers, this is partly
because, according to me... there was no trust
between the national government and the provinces.’
This focus on numbers continued over the years. The
strong quantitative focus of the annual reports, the
Midterm Review, and the reports of the evaluation
committee enhanced the idea of numbers being the
most important part of the ILG. However, because of
the complexity and long lifespan of the regional
planning processes that had to produce the ILG
results, showing unambiguous numbers about the
progress proved nearly impossible. This resulted in
long discussions between the ministry and the
provinces on the ‘right’ numbers. According to the
ministry, it was only after questions were raised in
parliament and by the national Court of Audit (2010)
that the provinces produced reliable numbers. An
official of the ministry said about the annual reports:
‘If, after such a time of discussion you [provinces in
general] come up with half numbers then, of course,
you build distrust.’ Consequently, the discussions
about the numbers recurred time after time in
meetings about the annual reports, in parliament, and
in the Midterm Review.
The second issue mentioned as worsening the distrust
was the discussion on the amount of money available
for provinces taking over national obligations and
projects. This began right after the start of the ILG in
2007. At this time, the ministry had already presented
budget cuts for the ILG which would affect the ability
of the provinces to stick to the measures agreed upon.
These cuts were cancelled after protest from the
provinces. However, the discussion about the finances
kept coming up time after time. First, there was
disagreement on the baseline situation of the projects
the provinces took over (and thus on what still
needed to be done and the amount of money needed
for that). Secondly, there was disagreement about
financial compensation for additional objectives and
tasks assigned to the provinces after the agreements
were signed. A provincial official explained: ‘If I take
over national obligations, I have to trust that enough
money comes with it, if it turns out that they [the
ministry] have given me tens of millions short, then I
just don’t have trust anymore.’
In addition to these large issues, which were
mentioned by many of the interviewees, many smaller
incidents and circumstances were mentioned as
negative experiences. An example told and retold
many times to illustrate the situation of distrust in the
ILG was a letter which the minister sent to parliament
without notifying the provinces. In this letter, she
stated that she was not satisfied with the provincial
efforts made within the ILG. A provincial official
explained: ‘well, when you are talking about trust then
of course such a letter is not clever from her side.’ It
was the accumulation of incidents in their daily work
with other officials that, according to them, showed,
created, or worsened the distrust. (Figure 1
Performances of trust and distrust in the ILG)
The story unfolding
On the various sites, there were two very different
performances of trust and distrust. The performances
at different sites are strongly connected. What
happened in on one site influenced other
interactions, and the other way round. This
connection becomes visible in the results of the
attempts to improve trust.
Figure 1. Main events and main performances of trust and
distrust in the ILG
As mentioned, there were several reports that
suggested how to improve trust without saying there
was a lack of trust. These expressions were met with
scepticism by officials from both the ministry and the
provinces as they regarded building trust as a
‘mission impossible.’ This resulted in various ideas on
how trust should be created. One of the provinces
decided to invite members of parliament for a tour
around successful ILG projects; he argued: ‘You have
to share the successes, and allow others their part in
these successes’ and ‘you should write that down, this
creates trust!’ Still, mentioning it seemed easier than
working on trust. A provincial official felt that, after
different annual reports, the focus on numbers was
hindering them from creating trust: ‘We are not able
to tell the story behind the numbers, to show the
successes and thus build trust.’ Other provinces had
opposite ideas on how to create trust, as a provincial
official tells us: ‘You should underpin your story with
numbers, that creates trust.’ Parliament and the
ministry at the same time seemed to go along with
this focus on numbers. By enlarging the monitoring
and control system, they clearly signalled that
numbers were the principal way for the provinces to
create trust. Here, sites which were more regarded as
public, such as parliament and letters from the
ministry (we need to create trust), and sites which
were regarded more as non-public (detailed numbers
are a sign of distrust) clashed. On various sites such as
meetings of government officials, the focus on
numbers was interpreted from a sphere of distrust,
and as a sign of distrust. These stories of distrust then
started to take on a life of their own. This was
contrary to the idea in other sites such as parliament
that the numbers would lead to trust development.
Over the years, distrust became the dominant story of
the ILG. Many civil servants described how the ILG
became a synonym for distrust. As mentioned in the
introduction, one of the interviewees stated: ‘The ILG
is congealed distrust!’ The story of distrust was very
strong. Interviewees stressed that their growing
feeling of distrust based on many experiences and
stories was focussed on the organizations (e.g. the
ministry and the provinces) and not on individuals
working in these organizations, with whom they
worked closely. At the same time, the distrust did
have an effect on personal communication between
officials from the two tiers and consequently on
cooperation in the ILG. An official from the ministry
explained the situation near the end of the ILG (2011),
with an example: ‘You sense that there is some
hesitance in speaking about certain strategic issues’;
this is acknowledged by a provincial official in 2011,
who said: ‘before, we discussed things with the
national officials in confidence, but in this atmosphere
that is no longer possible, that would put my
colleagues at the national level into a difficult
situation, when I tell them things that are
confidential.’ This shows that, because of the general
feeling of distrust, personal relations changed and not
everything was discussed as openly as before.
The discrepancy between the continued expression of
trust and the experienced distrust was thus clearly
felt by the officials working with the ILG. A provincial
official suggested that the large amount of trust-
related talk and writing in itself points to its absence:
‘If we need to talk about trust so much, then maybe
that is a sign that there is no trust.’ In discussions
about the relationship between the ministry and the
provinces, the topic was regularly raised by them. The
word trust itself or expressions of trust in relation to
the ILG were seldom uttered by officials in public
without a sigh, a sarcastic grin, or even a light growl
(for the timeline of events and performances of trust
and distrust in the ILG see Figure 1).
The many expressions of trust and distrust influenced
the cooperation between the ministry and the
provinces within the ILG. In this section, we analyse
and discuss the effects of these expressions by using
the theories about stories, performance, and
performativity as presented at the beginning of this
paper. In our discussion, we focus on what happened
on the various sites of the ILG and relation between
Throughout the whole ILG process, trust was
considered important, heavily discussed, and
performed on various sites. From the beginning of the
ILG process and in the following years, distrust was
constantly performed on various sites. These
performances were not merely repetitions but built
upon one another. The distrust started with the
discussions about the detailed agreements before the
official start of the ILG. During these discussions, the
first feelings of distrust were expressed by officials
both from the ministry and from the provinces.
These initial discussions were followed by the debates
about the correctness of the numbers in the annual
reports. These reports then resulted in questions
about accountability and control by the ministry over
the provinces. This in turn resulted in the
involvement of the National Court of Audit, after
which the discussions continued on the path towards
the MTR. Under the influence of these constant
discussions, new light was shed on the initial process
of contract design. The then performed distrust was
now felt more strongly as it became part of a larger
story of distrust.
Over time, the various performances of distrust
started to form a story of distrust. In this story, the
distrust became stronger and stronger under the
influence of new events, creating a tension, as it was
unclear what could be expected next. Moreover, in the
story, the other party was the bad-guy character
against whom one could team up. This story spread
through the ILG as it was recognizable for other civil
servants. While the story was being told, new
experiences, large and small, were added to the
general story of distrust. Thus, the general story of
distrust diverged more and more from the original
performer and situation. Although this created a set of
stories with a certain degree of variation, they all had
distrust at their core. Consequently, the distrust story
became the general story within the ILG, becoming
stronger with every retelling, and gradually being
accepted as ‘true.’
In addition to the performance of distrust, we
distinguished regular performances of trust on other
sites. However, the nature of these performances of
trust seemed to differ from the distrust performances.
In contrast to the performances of distrust, the
performances of trust were merely repetitive. They
did not build on earlier stories or experiences of trust,
but were expressed because of the existing distrust.
Thus, these performances built upon performances of
distrust. These performances of trust could be seen as
performances that were not taken over by the
audience (Lloyd, 1999). It was a process of constantly
re-emphasizing trust instead of re-significations
building upon one another. Despite the emphasis on
trust, on other sites these performances became
embedded in the distrust stories, which suggested
that the expressions were fake or a way to force trust,
and thus anyway implied the absence of trust.
Through the interpretation and retelling of the story,
the meaning of trust performances shifted through
various sites (Ford, 1999). As a result, the
performance of trust were explained as faking and
forcing, and became part of the dominant story of
The stories of distrust were thus strengthened by the
interpretation of trust performances as expressions of
distrust on other sites. The feeling of distrust became
the dominant story of the ILG on which people based
their actions; the distrust performances became
performative. These actions included the design of
detailed agreements, the complex monitoring and
control system, and the termination to the sharing of
sensitive information. Although these actions were
not portrayed as the result of distrust, from the
perspective of the dominant distrust story, these
actions were interpreted as signs of distrust. In this
way, the actions taken as a result of the performativity
of distrust further strengthened the dominant distrust
Despite the dominant story of distrust, and the fact
that performances of trust were interpreted as signs
of distrust, the performance of trust continued on
other sites. There are various possible explanations
for this apparent contradiction. First, the constant
performance of trust in public situations can be
regarded as performing according to a script or ritual,
in line with what is the norm in this setting (Hajer,
2005; Czarniawska, 1997) and which must be
adhered to. On these sites, certain rules, strategic
assets and expectations were hold in relation to, for
instance, the audience and the potential for
performativity. The minister was, for example,
expected not to criticize a lower tier of government or
civil servants publicly, by expressing distrust.
Simultaneously in other sites, there were other rules,
assets and expectations in which distrust was
accepted and actively performed. In this case,
parliament acted upon the dominant story of distrust
by enforcing more monitoring and control, while not
expressing this distrust publicly. Thus, various sites
should not only be viewed as separate entities with
their own rules, assets, expectations and audience, but
rather as mutually influencing and shaping one
another and their performances (Van Assche et al.,
A second explanation is that the performance of trust
can be seen as a way to safeguard the future of the
project (Van Assche et al., 2012a; Spicer et al., 2009).
The ILG was seen as an experiment to redesign
relations between the national government and the
provinces. Trust was a precondition for success. In the
ILG case, there was a high interdependence between
the ministry and the provinces. Both the provinces
and the ministry faced a critical discussion regarding
their role, tasks, and authority in future governmental
structures. The provinces faced abolishment, and the
ministry faced a merger. A successful ILG was
perceived as a strong argument against these threats.
As trust was portrayed as a precondition for the
success of the ILG, openly expressing distrust would
mean admitting the failure of the ILG policy
experiment. This was simply too risky for both sides
and therefore unaccepted.
This study shows that trust should not be considered
as ‘given’ in interaction, inter-governmental
cooperation, and policy processes. On the contrary,
both trust and distrust are actively performed on
various sites of interaction. In our search to
understand the influence of expressions of trust and
distrust on cooperation processes, we distinguished
and studied various sites of a policy process. In these
places, trust and distrust towards the other
governmental organization were performed. These
performances were given meaning and gained
substance in interaction through interpretation. In
this, the performances were retold and spread as
stories, reshaped, and explained as faking and forcing.
In this spreading process, performances of distrust
became the dominant and performative story, widely
accepted as ‘true’ and thus leading to action in the ILG.
The performances of trust remained a repetition in
this case, not leading to a feeling of trust as it gained
another meaning in the interaction in backstage
settings. Here, a strong and often positively associated
concept like trust was interpreted differently, mainly
in a negative ways, therewith strengthening the
distrust discourse. Consequently, the function of the
performance of trust and distrust was determined by
the meaning it was given through subsequent action
of others.
In relation to the ILG policy process, we can also
conclude that the performances of trust and distrust
negatively influenced the cooperation between the
governmental organizations. Many people involved in
the intergovernmental cooperation played a role on
more than one site of interaction, and this made the
performances of trust at different stages strongly
interrelated in shaping the evolution of the ILG. The
effect of performing trust and distrust in ‘faking and
forcing’ was that issues like honesty and openness,
concepts strongly related to trust, become
questionable (Eshuis, 2006). Questioning openness
and honesty, and thus trust, makes cooperation less
easy and slows down the process, as many extra
checks and balances have to be put in place. From this
perspective, the constant emphasis on trust was not
interpreted as a sign of trust. The expressions of trust
were looked at through a magnifying glass from other
sites in the ILG. This resulted in stories roaming
around. These stories suggested that these
expressions were there as a result of distrust.
This study shows that trust is often performed
strategically and is not always the hoped-for
cooperation-enhancing concept or social lubricant. It
also shows that performing trust does not have to
lead to trust paradoxically, the expression of trust
can also imply that it is absent. Moreover, it shows
that, and how, (strategic) communication on various
sites, e.g. written sources, interviews, public debates,
all contribute to the way public policy is carried out
and interpreted. These sites should all be taken into
account in order to gain an in-depth understanding of
the mechanisms in a policy processes. This opens the
door for new studies on trust in public administration
and governance. It shows that studying trust as a
performance is a promising way forward to study
trust-related phenomena.
Despite the growing emphasis on trust in public
policy and governance, actual practices do not show
that trust within administrative organizations and
institutions is growing. The ILG ran into various
problems and delays because of overoptimistic
expectation about using trust and output steering, as
well as a lack of critical reflections on the state of
affairs. Our analyses shows that it was precisely the
quest for control in terms of what to realise that
created tensions between the actors, simultaneously
undermining trust relations. This engineering type of
planning, focussed on output steering and control,
largely ignores the uncertainties experienced by
people involved in regional planning. In a failed
attempt to uphold this planning myth, trust was faked
and forced. Moreover, it shows the importance of the
constant managing of expectations through for
instance reflection, in dealing with uncertainties and
the dynamics of trust relations over a longer time.
This is especially important for planning due to the
long time span of most planning processes and the
consequent and inevitable uncertainties that
characterise planning.
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which meaning is given to it in interaction, and
subsequently through the actions based on this
meaning. This perspective helps us to understand the
complexities, limitations, possibilities, and effects that
come with public reform. This is becoming
increasingly important, as traditional strongholds of
government are being abandoned and parties are
together exploring new paths of governance. The
success of this endeavour largely depends on the way
these parties can develop and maintain mutual trust.
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... Reed et al., 2014;Marshall et al., 2017;Norström et al., 2020;Cvitanovic et al., 2018aCvitanovic et al., , 2018b, including research into trust and transparency (e.g. Glenn et al., 2012;de Vries et al., 2014;Gilmour et al., 2015). Interviews were structured using an interview guide which was designed to directly explore the perceptions of participants against each of the three study objectives. ...
Trust is a critical precondition underpinning successful knowledge exchange among environmental scientists and decision-makers, and thus, evidence-informed decision-making processes. While the importance of trust is well established, however, specific approaches to building, managing and maintaining trust at the interface of environmental science and policy are lacking. Here, we seek to address this gap empirically via in-depth qualitative analysis, using the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) as a case study. Specifically, through interviews with members of the ICES secretariat and scientific community, this study aims to (i) explore the importance of trust for organisations working at the interface of environmental science and policy, (ii) identify a range of strategies that are available for building trust at the interface of science and policy, and (iii) identify specific mechanisms for trust repair in situations where trust has been compromised. Our results show that trust is an essential component of a successful relationship between environmental science and policy, although highly dynamic and fragile. For example, while considerable time and effort is required to build trust, it can be lost in only a matter of days. Further, our results show that for successful knowledge exchange, and the attainment of research impact, trust is needed on three levels: (i) trust in individuals, (ii) trust in the organisation, and (iii) trust in the process by which knowledge is generated and exchanged. We identify 14 strategies to building trust, including the need for transparency, the importance of not advocating for a specific outcome, having a clear process for developing and providing knowledge/advice, having regular contact (preferably face to face) and being able to demonstrate independence. Finally, we identify five steps to repair trust: (i) Do not become defensive, be honest that a mistake has occurred, (ii) identify, and explain, why the mistake occurred, (iii) implement measures to ensure that the mistake does not happen again, (iv) correct the mistake (e.g. by providing updated knowledge/advice), and (v) give the trust re-building process time, and ensure ongoing face to face contact throughout that time. In presenting these insights from ICES, this study seeks to provide practical and implementable strategies that can be used by environmental scientists and/or research institutions to help them foster trust with decision-makers, enable improved knowledge exchange and build capacity for evidence-informed decision-making processes.
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This paper explores the selection and implementation of planning strategies and land use instruments for dealing with population decline in three different regions in the Netherlands. The study shows that each region developed very specific responses that can be explained by the different discourses that dominated planning and policymaking in that region. Although the perceptions about population decline, its consequences and suitable responses are strongly context specific, in all three regions responsible governments deemed it necessary to adapt existing policies and plans and to tailor strategies to a situation with population decline. The study also shows that ideas about using planning as a tool to stimulate economic growth prevail in the studied regions, but that it are precisely these ideas that hamper the development and implementation of policies for dealing with population decline. The paper also illustrates how Evolutionary Governance Theory can be useful for explaining why regions take different routes in dealing with population decline and for analysing the different dependencies that influence the selection of strategies.
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As a consequence of its performative turn, the critical literature on populism has dedicated increasing attention to its sociocultural and stylistic features. Among the most prominent concepts underpinning this approach is the notion that populism relies on the “flaunting of the low” or the use of “bad manners.” This article engages in an extensive discussion of the way this concept is used in the literature and showcases its main limitations. In replacement, I then suggest the alternative concept of transgression, understood as the violation of a norm, which has the substantial advantages of being more flexible and versatile as well as less reliant on a normative binary. I then develop an associated typology of transgressive performances depending on which type of norms is being disrupted: transgressions of interactional norms, transgressions of rhetoric norms, and transgressions of theatrical norms. Following this, I showcase how this typology contributes to the IR literature by emphasizing the importance of agency and embodied performances in global politics. This article concludes on the potential of considering transgression beyond populism.
In this introduction to the themed issue, “Behavioural Land Use Policy Studies”, we firstly provide a brief review of the current state of behavioural studies in land use policy, followed by a discussion of behavioural biases that are most relevant to land use policymaking. Next, we summarise the seven papers included in this themed issue. The behavioural topics explored by these papers include endowment effect, prospect theory, nudge, trust, social norms, time preference, and loss aversion. Our review of the literature examines the role played by Land Use Policy in applications of behavioural insights in environmental studies in general and land use policy studies in particular. The papers included in this themed issue push this research frontier by using large survey datasets from the field, and by investigating some under-researched behavioural tools (e.g., nudge). We conclude by suggesting research gaps to be filled by future behavioural land use policy studies.
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Scientists and scientific institutions alike are under increased pressure to demonstrate the tangible ‘impacts’ arising from their research. However, current conceptualisations of impact are largely instrumental and do not recognise the full diversity of forms that impacts can take across the spectrum of activities that comprise the ‘science-policy interface’. Moving beyond such instrumental definitions is critical for developing indicators that can monitor and measure research impact, and to guide impact planning activities to maximise the value that science can have on policy and management. This study sought to contribute towards filling this gap, not by seeking to understand what impacts have been achieved within a certain context, but rather by asking what ‘success’ would like in its broadest sense for an organisation working at the marine science-policy interface. We do so via an in-depth qualitative evaluation of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Specifically, we aim to develop a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes success for organisations working at the marine science-policy interface, and in doing so elucidate and articulate a range of metrics and approaches that can be used to evidence success. We also seek to identify the barriers and enablers to the attainment of success. Results show that successes can take a range of forms across five different scales; (i) impacts on the organisation, (ii) impacts on policy, (iii) impacts on science, (iv) impacts on people and (v) impacts on ecosystems and society. Metrics to quantify and evidence these successes are also identified, and whilst quantitative measures were most common, it was evident that quantitative measures alone could not capture the full range of impacts and that they would need to be supplemented with qualitative indicators. Enablers of success took many forms, but most commonly related to the process of knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers (e.g. the process must engender trust, be transparent and free from political influence), the individuals involved in the process (e.g. teams should be composed of diverse individuals across disciplines, career stages, geographic locations and gender, who are capable of developing strong relationships with diverse stakeholders), and the organisation itself (e.g. the organisation should have a clear mission and strategy to guide their activities, and a positive and inclusive culture). We discuss these findings, with particular focus on the implications of our results for how marine scientists and scientific institutions can plan, achieve and evidence a broader range of successes from their research on marine policy and management.
As a consequence of its performative turn, the critical literature on populism has dedicated increasing attention to its socio-cultural and stylistic features. Among the most prominent concepts underpinning this approach is the notion that populism relies on the "flaunting of the low" or the use of "bad manners". This article engages in an extensive discussion of the way this concept is used in the literature and showcases its main limitations. In replacement, I then suggest the alternative concept of transgression, understood as the violation of a norm, which has the substantial advantages of being more flexible and versatile, as well as less reliant on a normative binary. I then develop an associated typology of transgressive performances depending on which type of norms is being disrupted: transgressions of interactional norms, transgressions of rhetoric norms and transgressions of theatrical norms. This article then concludes on the potential of considering transgression beyond populism.
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As an essentially contested concept, populism has yet to reach an academic consensus regarding its definition. Following Moffitt’s approach and enriching it with the insights of performance studies, this chapter will develop the concept of performances of urgency and apply it to the concept of crisis. While many scholars assume that populist parties thrive especially in times of crisis, this chapter argues instead that it is one of the defining features of populist leaders to perform a sense of crisis, in order to spread a general perception of threat. In the case of right-wing populist leaders, migration is the key culprit at the heart of these performances of urgency and crisis. To develop this empirical case, this chapter will analyse Marine Le Pen as a performer of urgency by analysing two complementary sources: one of her most important speeches at a political rally in Paris and her official campaign video clip. By doing so, this paper intends to emphasise the strengths of this alternative approach to populism as well as showcasing the potential for productive interdisciplinary collaboration between political science and performance studies.
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We present an analytical framework for analyzing the functions of failure and success ascriptions in public administration. The framework incorporates concepts and insights from Michel Foucault, Mieke Bal, and other discourse theorists, enriched with notions derived from Niklas Luhmann's theory of social systems. The Dutch system of spatial planning serves as a context to investigate the rhetorical functions, performance, discursive configurations, and consequences of success and failure. Two cases nested in the Dutch context are used to elaborate on the performance and performativity of success and failure. We discuss the performance of success and failure in terms of productive competition between discourses and organizations, and emphasize the self-reinforcing nature of success and failure ascriptions in the creation of developmental pathways of the governance system.
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Trust, Power and Control in Trans-Organizational Relations. In: Organization Studies 22 (2001), 2. pp. 341-369
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This paper investigated how and why the issue of trust building between the park direction and the local communities gave way to a hidden conflict in the participatory management of the Pendjari national park (PNP) in Benin, and how it was managed. The findings revealed that calculus-based trust was built at the beginning of the process and enabled an improved relationship and collaboration between the park direction and local communities, and a subsequent raise of wildlife in the park. However, dysfunctional use of the trust built led to the emergence of distrust, which evolved into conflict. This conflict was hidden by the illusion of peaceful relationships between the stakeholders as pursued in common meetings. It was noticeable only through accusations on each other, including the shift of responsibility for solving the conflict when discussing the management separately with the different stakeholders. We conclude that (dis)trust should not be looked as a static/cognitive state, but as a dynamic frame that may be strategically used in interaction.
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To organize new governance arrangements and to restore trust in spatial planning, contracts are often seen as vital policy instruments. The relations between contracts and trust are regularly studied from various perspectives. In this article, we add to the existing knowledge by exploring a dynamic perspective on the use of contracts over time and the influence thereof on trust dynamics. We conclude that, longitudinally, the use of contracts can play a pivotal role in trust dynamics by influencing the construction of, and actors’ perspective on, the common history of the parties involved and their future expectations in close relation to the changing context. This perspective might help planners to deal with the inevitable dynamics of planning processes and trust.
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According to various observers, global forest governance has largely failed. Deforestation is continuing and there is no legally binding international treaty on forests. Although these observations seem truisms, another reading of the performance of global forest governance is possible, as this chapter shows, via two lines of reasoning. Firstly, the deforestation narrative is replaced by one on country-specific forest dynamics, since forest transitions—shifts from forest loss to forest expansion—are taking place in several countries around the world. Secondly, the role of global ideas, norms and rules in national policies and local practices is analysed. Two case studies, one on participatory forest management and one on forest certification, both from Tanzania, are presented. It is shown that voluntary ideas, norms and rules on participation and certification travel from the global to the local—through policy makers, donors, NGOs, companies, etc.—and together shape the management of forests in specific sites. It is also shown that this global–local nexus can yield positive results for both forests and people. This chapter builds upon discursive institutionalism and practice theory.
Ideas about control are enriched by attending to cultural performances taking place in everyday organizational life. While much literature conflates culture with control, purists try to exclude control devices altogether, as if these artefacts cannot be expressive of real forms of culture. This view overlooks how managers make an 'exhibition' of such artefacts on a daily basis in order to cut a figure of being 'in' control. By closely examining which material is made visible and available, and when, the paper also challenges assumptions about the 'performed order' being hegemonic. The paper illustrates how everyday 'exhibitions' of membership overlap into 'displays' of self as the successful, or charismatic manager. In that cultural performances set a performer apart (as different) at the same time as figuring them as members (as the same), the paper argues that the performed order is always motile to the precise artefacts being made visible and available.
This paper analyzes trust and power as means of co-ordinating trans-organizational relationships. It is argued that, depending on the institutional environment, there are two distinct patterns of controlling relationships, where trust and power are interrelated in quite different ways. First, both mechanisms are generated at the inter-personal level and either trust or power dominates the relationship. Second, power occurs at the level of the structural framework of relationships and is highly conducive to developing trust between individual organizations. Thus, specific forms of trust and power are identified and the institutional environment is viewed as playing a crucial role in shaping the quality of trans-organizational relations. The theoretical background of the paper mainly draws on conceptual ideas of Systems Theory, Structuration Theory and New Institutionalism.
Social research that informs the implementation of natural resource policies is frequently driven by the logic of the policy system itself. A prevailing concern with achieving policy outcomes can lead, however, to lack of attention to equally important aspects, for example the challenges the policy instruments present to those they are targeting and the consequences this might have for government–citizen relationships. To help guide research into these issues we have developed a situational–interactional approach to interpretive policy analysis that seeks to examine the processes involved when people collectively make sense of government instruments. The theoretical basis is provided to a large extent by Luhmann’s theory of self-referential social systems. In addition, we operationalise the concepts of interactional framing and resemiotisation to capture the active work of the citizens in sense-making processes. We then apply our situational–interactional analysis to small-scale forest ownership in Flanders. Analysis of data from focus groups with forest owners reveals how interactions build on each other in the co-development of particular strategies to cope with government intervention. Finally, we discuss two future directions for research. First, the forest owners find themselves in an inescapable relationship with the government, and feel their autonomy is threatened. Government intervention, therefore, will almost necessarily lead to resistance. Second, forest groups enhance compatibility between the government system and the forest owners, but rather than narrowing the gap between the two worlds they tend to emphasise it.