Theme 3: Communication, contestation and cooperation

Contemporary societies are increasingly pluralistic, in the sense that organisations in the private and public sector and in civil society have to communicate with a wide range of different audiences. These audiences have diverse, often contradictory professional and cultural backgrounds, identities, values and worldviews. Political, moral and epistemic authority have become increasingly contested. New media and online technologies facilitate easy and fast communication, which allows citizens to organizate themselves around themes, viewpoints and interests. This plurality fundamentally affects how societies engage with questions around food, health or the environment.

What we do

We study articulation of conflict, contestation around issues and
conditions for this contestation, and how pluralism shapes the nature of cooperation. A research area is the increasing role of civil society advocacy in international development, by focusing on questions of collaboration, inclusiveness and effectiveness. Another research area is science communication, including the integration and contestation of different knowledges.

What we aspire

Our research helps to develop a reflexive understanding of societal conflicts and cooperation around food, health and the living environment. We contribute to practical improvements to conflict management, space for contestation, development of mutual
understandings and cooperation, and the empowerment of citizens and practitioners.

We publish in journals such as: Global Environmental Change, Environmental Communication, Development Policy Review, Political Studies, Journalism Studies, Science Communication and Public Understanding of Science.


Staff members on this theme


Van Wessel, M., Hilhorst, D., Schulpen, L., & Biekart, K. (2019). Government and civil society organizations: Close but comfortable? Lessons from creating the Dutch strategic partnerships for lobby and advocacy. Development Policy Review (online first).

Van Eck, C. W., Mulder, B. C., & Dewulf, A. (2019). The truth is not in the middle: Journalistic norms of climate change bloggers. Global Environmental Change, 59, 101989.

Mogendorff, K., te Molder, H., van Woerkum, C., & Gremmen, B. (2016). Turning experts into self-reflexive speakers: The problematization of technical-scientific expertise relative to alternative forms of expertise. Science communication, 38(1), 26-50.