Knowledge Hub Security and Social Resilience

The Knowledge Hub Security and Social Resilience (in Dutch: de Kenniswerkplaats Veiligheid & Veerkracht (KVV)) assists, on a national level, the Dutch government and its ministries, as well as on a local level its municipalities, the police force and security regions in their approach to security problems.

The knowledge hub focuses on complex issues such as social friction in neighbourhoods, enforcement and surveillance management, radicalisation, citizen participation, undermining, and how security is experienced. Working collaboratively with public-private partners towards co-created and custom-made policy and practice-oriented solutions, the knowledge hub aims to retrieve and deliver useful and novel insights, frameworks and tools. The research projects shed light on the social fabric and mechanisms that enable governance and society to anticipate new challenges and 'wicked problems' adequately.

A strong multidisciplinary knowledge nucleus

The Knowledge Hub Security and Social Resilience transcends the disciplinary boundaries by utilizing and integrating a multidisciplinary approach in its focus. VU researchers and experts from the Verwey-Jonker Institute are closely connected with organizations such as the Foundation for Society and Safety, Integral Safety Science at University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and the Dutch Centre for Crime Prevention and Safety. This network strives toward finding evidence-based answers to fundamental questions on social issues:

  • Distress and social friction – security is predominantly subjective, and thus “lived”: people feel insecure, or are scared or angry. What does this mean for security policies?
  • Undermining and radicalization - criminals are infiltrating the legal domain more often, whereas citizens no longer fully accept the government’s authority. As a result, the democratic state and rule of law are under pressure. How should the government deal with this?
  • The police and its partners – special investigative officers, private security officers, public transport security teams and others cooperate with the police. How do they relate to one another, what 'best practices' are there?
  • Security networks - the police, the municipality, health care providers and housing associations are all committed to deliver a safe and secure but still a comfortable neighbourhood. How do these networks function, and how could it be advanced?
  • Citizen participation and safety - neighbourhood watch, WhatsApp groups and prevention teams are popular, which can benefit trust in governance, but might simultaneously feed into a vigilante justice as well. What are the possibilities and limitations?
  • Security through solidarity - security policies usually involve protection from each other, yet much less is known about security as protection with, by and for each other. To which extent, for instance, does restorative justice, such as volunteers accompanying ex-detainees or neighbourhood mediation initiatives, contribute to a more secure and safer society?
"Resilience comes forward from robust networks and deserves to be well-organised by grounding it in knowledge and trust in joint viability."
Prof. dr. Hans Boutellier.

Policy tools for governance and policy professionals

  • Criminogeneity measurement - behind the crime figures lie patterns of criminogeneity that comprise social causes for criminal behaviour. With existing quantitative information on criminogenic factors, preventive policy priorities can be determined
  • From back to front - a governance model that can be used to map the security field and to discuss the specific division of roles between parties
  • Security arrangements – based on of a football team metaphor, we developed a strategic model to come to collaborative agreements on concrete neighbourhood problems
  • Effectiveness of networks - most security problems require cooperation between multiple parties. We developed a yardstick in order to test the effectiveness of the process and its benefits
  • Social diagnosis / treatment combinations – based on a quantitative and qualitative diagnosis of a problem, and together with the parties involved, an action strategy is developed that is aimed at interventions; a strategy that is supported by those involved themselves
"Security is a basic need of life that requires the best possible organization."
Dr. Ronald van Steden

Research projects

What brings citizens together in 2017? Finding solidarity and connectedness especially in continuously changing neighborhoods in big cities, is a tough job: the dynamics, volatility and pluralism of metropolitan life often leads to less tangible solidarity and therefore regularly to problematic interaction among a city’s population. The erosion of connectedness is also noticeable within social dynamics in the Oude Noorden (Old North) of Rotterdam. Previous research on the context of increased experience of insecurity in this multicultural neighbourhood revealed that the local residents consider their social milieus anonymous and divided. The aim of this research project is to identify and stimulate existing feelings of solidarity between local residents in the Oude Noorden and to look for possibilities to strengthen these feelings and reduce insecurity.

Key research question
How do residents in the Oude Noorden explain feelings of solidarity in their neighbourhood and how can these feelings be realistically preserved or improved in order to, subsequently, improve residents’ sense of security in the neighbourhood?

Local governance in the Netherlands has been paying attention, predominantly, to the citizen’s sense of insecurity for a long time. Reducing ‘feelings of insecurity’, however, is certainly not an easy task. Although citizens of Amsterdam are generally quite satisfied about efforts made by local governance, vis-à-vis the municipalities and the police, there is much dissatisfaction and anger about security and safety among citizens. Still, this does not necessarily mean that according to citizens the local government is failing. Their distress and discontent seems intrinsically more complex and their causes ought be sought for in psychological processes. Previous analyses of feelings of insecurity have shown that there are multiple social concerns that lie behind citizen’s distress and anger, such as worries about job security and unemployment, individualism, extremism, migration, etc. The aim of this research is to get a better understanding of the background of local feelings of distress, anger and insecurity (and their interconnection) by identifying points of action for local governance and policy makers to understand, use and be enabled by in order to deal with these sentiments.

Key research question
How do the citizens of Amsterdam explain their feelings of discontent, anger and insecurity and how can these feelings be solved through local governance?

In recent years, Europe has been a stage for several terrorist attacks. Especially relatively 'open' spaces and places such as shopping areas and public transport in the city are vulnerable. Often referred to as vulnerable, are soft targets that have a (semi-) public character and consist of places where large groups of people come together. The aim of this research is to gain insight into relevant methods and experiences of other (Western European) countries and the Netherlands with regard to public-private partnerships that monitor and secure soft targets in times of (increasingly) diffuse threat. The knowledge obtained through this research supports the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security in their aim to make society more resilient and to strengthen self-reliant citizenship.

Key research question
Which role can non-state actors fulfil in monitoring and securing soft targets and in strengthening the resilience and self-reliance of society before, during and after a (terrorist) attack?

Sometimes the development of young people does not proceed well. Think about, for example, skipping class, dropping out of school, nuisance, radicalization and delinquency. When these youth-related issues are tackled, the focus lies on organizations and their governance, however, the young people themselves are usually left out of the scope. This research project tries to include youth people into that scope and to transform problematic behaviour of young people that isolates them from society, into inclusion and participation. The key question zooms in on the cooperation between the police, the judiciary, school attendance officers and enforcers with 'social partners' (youth care, assistance, education) and to draw lessons from (the perspective of) young people.

By enabling vulnerable young people with a problematic background to reflect on what policy means or meant for them, we can answer the following key research question: How can an optimal arrangement of different (criminal justice and corrective) bodies and positive support from future perspectives of problematic young people be realised?

Researchers at the Knowledge Hub are scrutinizing how local government, together with collaborations of civil society organizations, companies and citizens, can counterbalance (criminal) processes that undermine the democratic constitutional state and rule of law.

Organized crime, as well as anti-democratic trends, sentiments, behaviour and processes that do not transgress law (or of which it cannot be directly proven it is criminal) undermine the authority of the government. This puts the rule of law under pressure, and as a result, public administration, municipalities in particular, is struggling with this. It is a challenge for local governance to tackle problematic situations together with the police and judiciary. Municipalities often fall back on non-committal and separate projects that are supposed to bring different groups of people together. There is therefore a need for a sustainable framework for action that stimulates coalition between municipalities, social institutions, businesses and citizens, which will, eventually combat undermining.

The research project shall:

  1. Provide an exploratory scan of incidents of undermining in municipalities.
  2. Monitor projects in municipalities to advance formation and/or strengthening of coalitions that must combat undermining at a local level.
  3. Deliver a framework of action for municipalities and the Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations that delivers innovative approaches to tackle processes of undermining.
  4. Support municipalities in implementing and executing the action framework.

About the Knowledge Hub Security and Social Resilience

The Knowledge Hub Security and Social Resilience is an initiative of the Institute for Societal Resilience and the Verwey-Jonker Institute. It is linked to the Chair of Security & Resilience of VU professor Hans Boutellier, who is also director of the Verwey-Jonker Institute. We are building on the finalized VU research programme Security and Citizenship and the first conference of Security and Resilience held 13 June 2016. During this conference, security professionals and researchers developed a research agenda that, where possible, will be continued in projects undertaken by the Knowledge Hub.

"In collaboration with frontline professionals, researchers will work with contemporary problems in municipalities."
Drs. Jolijn Broekhuizen


The knowledge hub is open to research questions, knowledge development and building custom policy instruments.

Please contact
Ronald van Steden
Jolijn Broekhuizen (Verwey-Jonker Institute)
Yarin Eski