EnTrust | Enlightened trust: An examination of trust and distrust in governance - conditions, effects and remedies

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 06 April 2021
Last modified on 07 April 2021



From 01/02/2020 to 31/01/2024

The project´s main goals are to deepen our understanding of the dynamics of trust and distrust in governance and to help establish a starting point for citizens and governance actors to improve trust relations.

Based on this twofold ambition, the project has the following objectives:

  • Develop an interdisciplinary and multidimensional theoretical framework on the dynamic relationship between trust and distrust in democratic governance - In EnTrust, we scrutinise existing definitions, theories and empirical evidence of trust and distrust from sociology, political science, media and communication studies, psychology, ethics and philosophy, thereby gaining new understandings of the analytical, empirical and normative underpinnings of their relationship in the European context.
  • Present a comprehensive dataset that measures trust and distrust in governance at various levels and with regard to different governance actors - We collect systematic empirical data about trust and distrust in governance at the levels of individual citizens, organisations, the mass media and the public sphere(s) with regard to distinct targets of trust and distrust (namely political governance actors, economic and financial governance actors, experts and scientists) at the different levels of governance (local, national, European). This comprehensive set of data allows us to gather profound knowledge about trust and distrust in governance as highly conditional and dynamic phenomena, and identify core challenges, access points and remedial actions.
  • Mapping different cultures of trust and distrust and their development and interlinkages over time - Using a rigorous comparative research design capturing the diverse local and national experiences and contexts in different European countries and at the EU-level, EnTrust aims to provide a better understanding of the causes, interrelations and dynamics of trust and distrust in governance in specific national contexts and at the European level. This includes elucidating different constellations and trends of trust and distrust over time, and identifying critical junctures and scenarios that may positively or negatively influence the well-functioning of democracy and effective governance.
  • Identify and develop best practices of trust building and dealing with distrust - EnTrust identifies best practices of trust building and dealing with distrust, and generates new role models, for instance, by offering advice for dealing with misinformation, providing in-depth insights into new and alternative democratic citizens’ movements and participatory practices in online deliberations fora, and by developing a train-the-trainer module for policymakers. Based on best practices and role models, our project presents evidence-based and practice-oriented recommendations that enable policymakers, public authorities, civil society actors and other stakeholders to improve existing initiatives and practices.
  • Engage in dissemination, exploitation and communication activities - EnTrust disseminates and exploits its findings and insights, and communicates and deliberates with various target groups, namely policymakers, practitioners and civil society, the general public, as well as the scientific community in order to promote the uptake of the project’s outcomes, increase the knowledge and performance of various actors, and help citizens and governance actors to promote a well-functioning democracy.

EnTrust implements its research design by means of a research methodology that combines various data sets:

  • a multi-disciplinary reanalysis and synthesis of existing data
  • a mapping of new democratic social movements as alternative arenas for creating and reproducing trust and distrust
  • interviews and focus groups with citizens, activists and social movement representatives, street-level bureaucrats, policy-makers, media representatives and experts at local, national and/or European level/s
  • a representative individual survey among European citizens in the seven countries under analysis
  • psychological survey-based experiments with children, youth and adults
  • content analyses of national mainstream mass-media, social media and alternative media
  • an organisational survey about good practice examples of national and EU institutions’ engagement with citizens and civil society

EnTrust 1st Policy Brief on the theoretical and normative underpinnings of trust and distrust in governance.

  • Based on the findings of its preliminary research on the state of scientific research on trust and distrust in governance and a policy dialogue organised in June 2020 on trust and distrust at EU level, the policy brief explores current challenges and perspectives on EU Governance. These include: a decline in the rule of law and increased corruption in some EU countries affecting the freedom of the media and the capacity of civil society organisations to hold their government accountable, the impact of Covid 19 pandemic on governance, increased polarisation in our societies, spreading of fake news and unethical behaviour in science.
  • The Policy Brief identifies 6 key steps in order to promote and implement participation and ownership in political governance.
  • Civil Society Europe (Brüssel, Belgien)
  • Masaryk University (Brno, Czech Republic)
  • Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences (Athens, Greece)
  • University of Belgrade, Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory (Serbia)
  • University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • University of Siegen (Germany)
  • University of Siena (Italy)
  • University of Warsaw (Poland)

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