Research Projects

Donors do not usually compensate government budget cuts

When policy makers expect a lot of private initiatives, they need to be careful with budget cuts. It is unlikely that donors will just jump into the gap that the government leaves behind. Two recent studies show that.

Arjen de Wit and René Bekkers analyzed a large number of previous studies to shed light on the relationship between government spending and donations, demonstrating that the strongest evidence of a 'expulsion effect' is found in behavioral experiments. In such experiments, participants receive a small amount that they may (partly) give away for a charity of their choice. Some are obliged to give a portion of their money to a charity, others can decide themselves how they spend the money. It turns out that in this setting the first group donates less than the second. "From this we can conclude that people are giving less to charity if they have to pay taxes," said De Wit. However, this finding cannot immediately translated into practice. "In reality, you do not usually know exactly what the government is funding."

A follow-up study, with Marjolein Broese van Groenou, shows that media coverage is often not related to the actual changes in government funding. But there are exceptions. De Wit: "There was a lot of news about the major cuts in development aid when an organization like Oxfam Novib was in trouble. But instead of donors trying to compensate for this budget cut, the donated amounts went down too. "

Better cooperation in health care

If you live in difficult circumstances, it's extra hard to use one’s "own power" that is being asked of people today. Take "Henk" as an example. Henk has a limited network and little knowledge about healthy behavior. He reports repeatedly to his general practitioner and urgent care, but his health remains bad. His GP would like Henk to take care of himself better. But that calls for better cooperation with other healthcare organizations, such as the municipality, the hospital and home care.

Duco Bannink of Public Administration and Sierk Ybema of Organizational Science work together in the Talma Institute around various projects that address the integration and innovation of care. Bannink: "We wonder, what does a better care look like? And how can actors work better together to make this possible? " The researchers share their gained insights, for example, with the 'The Ben Sajet Center' in Amsterdam.

People-Centred Development Approaches in Practical and Learning Environments

Understanding people should become an indispensable part of industrial development processes, as a means to achieve new categories of products and that truly address people’s needs and lead to sustainable innovation. That idea is the core of the project PEOPLE. 

There is a the mismatch between qualifications gained by humanities and social science students and skills expected from graduates by employers in industry. The project brings together interdisciplinary groups of students, academic staff and industry professionals to solve real-life business challenges. New learning modules will be embedded in master’s degree programmes, enabling students to gain valuable practical skills alongside their theoretical education, while demonstrating the value of that education for industry.  The project will have long-lasting impact on higher education institutions and society at large by improving the relevance of social science teaching and research. 

Reinventing democracy

"Now we want democracy for us". That said a poor, native Bolivian, following a question about the new native government that took office in 2006. It is an inspiring contradiction: democracy is there for all - or it's not  a democracy. But the quote reveals something very important: apparently, this Bolivian has not felt part of a democracy. That sound sounds familiar to us in the Netherlands and Europe in the ears.

At present, Bolivia is looking for new forms of representation and deliberation, more appropriate, more culture-sensitive government institutions and new forms of collective-democratic participation. Anthropologist Ton Salman: "It is sometimes accompanied by a lot of bickering and political struggle, but it is a process that may also be relevant to our problems surrounding democratic legitimacy. This is because of the central question: how do you build a democracy which a) does justice to local culture / cultures; b) guarantees the liberal (individual) freedoms; and (c) can also provide a place of the rights of minorities."

Resilient Care Professionals

‘So much is taken from us. […]I feel we’re being ignored and under-valued’ [Vocationally trained nurse, home care]  

Due to recent reforms of the long-term care sector, the work of vocationally trained nurses has changed significantly. They not only show discontent with this change, they also feel incompetent to exert influence or solve work-related issues. This is problematic, because vocationally trained nurses have been and will continue to be the largest occupational group providing home care. Only when these nurses are resilient and satisfied in their work, they will be able to contribute to the self-reliance and resilience of clients and their environment – the overarching goal of current Dutch government policy. The Dutch Nursing Association therefore organizes a  Leadership trajectory, an educational program aimed at empowering vocationally trained nurses, and increase their influence, visibility and recognition. A multidisciplinary team of VU-researchers studies the outcomes of this trajectory. “This research will yield insight into the factors that contribute to the resilience of this professional group which’ work is essential to society” according to principal investigator Marieke van Wieringen. 

 The following researchers are currently involved this project: 

• Marieke van Wieringen, PhD student, Dept. of Organization Sciences  

• Bianca Beersma, professor in Institutions and Identity, Dept. of Organization Sciences 

• Henk Nies, professor in Organization & Policy in Long-term Care, Dept. of Organization Sciences 

• Peter Groenewegen, professor in Organization Sciences, Dept. of Organization Sciences 

• Duco Bannink, associate professor, Dept. of Political Science and Public Administration

Gossip at work: The role of informal information exchange for team performance and organizational change.

Gossip, the informal exchange of evaluative information about absent third parties, is a ubiquitous phenomenon in many organizations. What consequences does this have? On the one hand, previous studies have demonstrated that gossip is related to reduced trust and psychological safety. On the other hand, it has been shown to create clear group norms and enhance cooperation. Organization- and communication scientists at VU University therefore examine when gossip at work has negative or positive effects for organizational teams. According to Bianca Beersma: "We study the intentions behind gossip and whether these are recognized by team members, or in contrast, misinterpreted. Our results can create more insight into the consequences of gossip. This is not to prohibit gossip, which is likely an illusion, but to enable distinguishing positive from negative gossip in order to enable more effective management of gossip" 

The researchers involved in this project are: 

• Bianca Beersma, Organization Sciences 

• Maria Dijkstra, Organization Sciences 

• Jaap Ouwerkerk, Communication Science

Aging while staying healthy

An increasing proportion of the population is over 65 years old. And everyone wants to stay healthy and active for as long as possible. How do we deal with this and what do we need?

Researchers of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) of the VU and the Vumc have been studying the functioning of Dutch elderly in physical, social, cognitive and emotional fields for 25 years commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. In this context, the independence and quality of life of the elderly are central. What is the influence of the social network of older people on their physical and mental health?

LASA also investigates the social consequences of aging, such as the elderly's care needs. Because LASA regularly asks the same questions to the same group of people, researchers can look at pathways of aging in a changing social context. Epidemiologists, sociologists, health scientists and doctors work closely together to capture the many aspects of aging.

Making Islam Work in the Netherlands

Sunier (VU) 

Buskens (RUL) 

There are many indications that the authoritative and institutional frames of Islam in European countries, which have been developed under migratory conditions, are under pressure. Initiatives to set up institutes of religious learning in the Netherlands or to develop organizational structures beyond ethnic dividing lines point in this direction. Also the rapidly increasing numbers of ‘new’ independent preachers who are particularly popular among young Muslims are an indication of change. And there are all kinds of local initiatives to see how certain elements of Islamic law could be applied in the Dutch society. This project aims to answer how these changes evolve and how the agency of ordinary Muslims is applied in the development of the doctrinal dimensions of Islam.  The project seeks to analyze these developments explicitly from the perspective of ‘ordinary Muslims’. The point of departure is the shift of Muslims from a (temporal) migrant community into an integral part of Dutch society.