Theme 1: Communication, organization and change

When it comes to solving life science problems we are used to consider change as an organized activity of choosing a set of instruments – rules, subsidies, communication – in order to reach a specific effect that is defined beforehand. However, change normally does not take place in such a linear means-end way. Instead, most changes in society are the result of the interplay between events, practices and interactions of actors involved. Through the construction of meaning in interaction, communication plays a decisive role in this process by connecting, partially connecting or disconnecting people. These numerous interactions create a certain order, which in turn influences the interactions, thereby organising and re-organising social networks in society.

What we do

We study the interplay between the construction of meaning in interaction in situated practices-  including discourses, conversations, stories, dialogues and frames - and the social networks that emerge out of these interactions. We study how people and organizations come together, organize and re-organise themselves, and engage in collective process by means of their interactions. This involves the analysis of communication between different actors engaging with societal issues from different perspectives and interests, in networks, partnerships and multi-stakeholder processes in life science domains. Examples of topics we study from this perspective are the circulation and shaping of meaning in the development and implementation of standards in natural resource management, and the development of trust and connection in interaction for systemic change in water governance and climate change policy.

What we aspire

Studying change from this perspective enriches our understanding of the way communication contributes to differentiated and collective understandings of societal issues and solutions in life science domains, and how communication can be improved in order to advance inclusive and constructive interaction on such issues.

Leading staff members

Recent publications

de Vries, J. R.; van Bommel, Severine; Blackmore, C. and Asano, Y. (2017). ‘Where There Is No History: How to Create Trust and Connection in Learning for Transformation in Water Governance’. In: Water 9(2) p. 130. Online version

van Bommel, S., Turnhout, E., Wiersum, F. Zeiss, R. and Cook, W. (under review). Traveling standards: friction and alignment in Forest Stewardship Council certification.  In: Agriculture and Human Values