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20 years of research at the Hertie School of Governance

From governance to grand challenges

The Hertie School’s interdisciplinary research examines real-world public policy issues. The school’s research community work on diverse problems, like tackling corruption, the future of labour, the regulation of hate speech, public sector reform, the dynamics of migration and the future of the European Union. But admist that diversity, there are three common threads that shape our research topics. 



Governance was the foundational idea and concept driving our research. In the early 2000s, governance captured a culminating debate in academia; the concept also received with interest in the political and public spheres.

What was its essence? In a world of power diffusion (upwards, downwards, sideways) and more complex policy problems, the state cannot solve problems alone. Governments need to orchestrate policy with other government and/or societal actors in (more or less) collaborative governance arrangements. Understanding and shaping actors and institutions becomes critical for successful governing.



Our focus has evolved in the light of a series of crises – the financial crisis, eurocrisis, refugee/migration, and later the pandemic and the war and energy crises.

These crises created new challenges to governance and policymaking – and also challenged the seemingly deeply embedded liberal order. Time pressure, communication challenges and hightened public attention, as well as the demand for decisive political action are common threads of these very different crises. Crisis management as an important mode of political action shifted into focus of research at the Hertie School. But the sequence of crises has also contributed to declining trust in (democratic) governments to solve problems.


In this context of grand challenges that governments and societies across the globe need to address, the very foundations of democractic governments are being questioned.

Research at the Hertie School has on the one hand engaged with the different and specific (grand) policy challenges, i.e. through the creation of five centres of competence and a data science lab. On the other hand, we research what makes and breakes the stability of (democratic) order. The interaction of developments such as demographic change, migration and political change have shifted perspectives from (stable) governance arrangements towards dynamic and turbulent proeccess.







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