The ISR's research is organized around four themes, each one headed by a theme leader.

Ronald van Steden Ronald van Steden, Themeleader Resilient Governance

Which factors, from the local to the international level, influence societal and governmental resilience? To what extent do governance systems themselves influence societal resilience? Can societal resilience be controlled by governments in an effective manner?

Resilience is an important topic in turbulent times of social upheaval, due to for example the refugee crisis or the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris. To what extent are governmental authorities able to adequately respond to these types of disturbances of the social system? And to what extent and under which circumstances are societies able to bounce back, to adapt to a new reality and/or to equip themselves to deal with future changes?

The theme of Resilient Governance examines which factors influence societal and governmental resilience and to what extent governmental systems themselves have an impact on societal resilience on a local, national and international level. Our conceptual explorations focus both on the ambiguous nature of societal resilience and on the promising nature of resilient governance. We take this approach as the desirability of a resilient social system is debatable, for example if one considers the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Relevant research questions

  • What does citizenship under conditions of resilient governance entail and how should resilient citizenship be promoted?
  • Resilient governance refers to specific involvement of communities in the governance of society. Which communities are we referring to? How can this involvement be shaped? Which processes, competencies and values are important?
  • How do we arrive at a state of governance that can strengthen the resilience of societies, especially at times of transition? How do we ensure administrative power itself is resilient enough to weather the storms of change? What values and institutional arrangements are crucial?

Prof. dr. Ronald van Steden (

Halleh GhorashiHalleh Ghorashi, Theme leader Resilience, Diversity and Inclusion

What determines the societal resilience of individuals? Which factors facilitate the resilience of individuals and which do not, especially in times of increasing (polarizing) diversity and inequality? How can organizations and society contribute to inclusion? 

Recent discussions on refugees and Europe reveal several parallel processes: on the one hand there is an increased involvement of citizens with refugees, on the other hand there is a determination to keep refugees out of Europe. Resilience in this case could refer both to the ability to maintain the existing situation as well as the ability for change.

On the point where social continuity and social change meet, multiple interests, ideas and visions for the future emerge that compete with or even exclude each other. In this context ‘resilience’ offers the perspective to reflect on alternatives for the growing polarization and inequality in the world.  

Within the theme 'Resilience through Diversity and Inclusion' we study these layered processes and we investigate the conditions that can contribute to a sustainable alternative to the growing tensions and uncertainties at various levels (micro, meso and macro) .

Relevant research questions

  • What facilitates the ability of individuals to be resilient citizens? What are the life strategies to act more resiliently in an environment of growing inequality and polarization?
  • What are the social conditions in terms of institutions and organizations which promote or hinder individual resilience? Here we refer to the sustainability of new corporate images and structures of cooperation, taking into consideration the current (super) diversity of culture, religion, gender, age and class.
  • What is the role of public discourse (public space, policy) in promoting an inclusive society that is resilient enough to cope with rising tensions due to growing diversity?

Prof. dr. Halleh Ghorashi (

Tilo HartmannTilo Hartmann, Theme leader Resilience through Communication, Organization and Interconnectedness.

New media technologies are changing the world, our society is turning into a network society and our dependence on media is growing. Do these processes have a positive or a detrimental effect on our resilience? And how can we use new media technologies to enhance our resilience?

Interconnectedness, i.e. the interactions between individuals, groups and organizations, effectively contributes to societal resilience. Furthermore, 'resilient interconnectedness' gives people the ability to effectively deal with (sometimes abrupt) social change. Society is increasingly developing into a network society, and new technologies and new media have brought about major changes in communication and organizational processes.

The theme of interconnectedness focuses on the impact these new media technologies, such as the Internet and social media, have on interconnectedness. Do society and individuals benefit from these new media technologies or are they actually harmful? Can new media technologies be used to achieve desirable social goals, such as creating a better understanding of the world or to nurture more mutual trust?

Relevant research questions

  • What influence does the Internet and do emerging technologies have on individuals, organizations and society? How do communication and the way we form relationships change?
  • What does it mean for the resilience of society if we revert increasingly to online networks and virtual media?
  • How do existing organizations and organizational processes change as a result of new media technologies and new forms of interconnectedness?


Dr. Tilo Hartmann (

Bianca Beersma
Bianca Beersma, Theme leader ‘Care and Welfare in a resilient society’

Which factors relating to healthcare and welfare are important for individual resilience? How do organizations deal with the effects of healthcare and social security arrangements? Which public policies contribute to individual and community resilience in the forms of formal and informal participation?

Within the domain of care and welfare ‘societal resilience’ is being threatened by a number of factors. Our social fabric is under pressure because of a growing number of caretakers (which in turn is a result of aging, immigration, and increased poverty). The availability of assistance and care is severely under pressure, though the government perseveres in a policy of increased self-reliance. How do we achieve a social structure that preserves high levels of social solidarity as well as equal opportunities for social participation?

New technologies in healthcare
The theme Care and Welfare examines the conditions under which people can be successful in formal and informal forms of participation. To what extent do different opportunities in education, labour market participation, political and social participation influence this participation? What impact does participation have on health, well-being and quality of life? Another focus is on the use of new technologies (e.g. robots in health care) and the use of volunteers by local organizations. We also look at the actions of employers and how they enable the labour market participation of specific groups, such as older people and the disabled. Finally, we examine which social policies enable individuals and societies to optimally cope with social risks.

Relevant research questions

  • Individual differences in employment, education, social and political participation, informal care; under which individual and social conditions do citizens succeed to achieve formal and informal forms of participation?
  • What are the effects of new forms of institutional arrangements with regard to the labour market, healthcare and social security?
  • How can new governance structures and organizational forms contribute to health and welfare with a balanced division of responsibilities, financial systems and partnerships between government, the market, civil society and citizens?


Prof. dr. Bianca Beersma