Unraveling trust in environmental governance

Activity: Talk or presentation typesTalk or presentation (not at a conference)Academic


Trust is widely seen as a means to deal with the complexity of social-ecological systems. It facilitates long term collaboration in the context of sustainability transformations, and helps fostering cooperation and compliance by both the wider public and actors directly involved with the policies and practices of environmental governance. It is also noted that public trust in governments is under pressure, as a result of failures of governments to enact their duty towards citizens, lack of transparency and accountability of state institutions, and proliferation of knowledge controversies among competing actors. In response, governments all over the world have launched a wide range of initiatives to strengthen their relations with citizens. These include for example participatory processes, citizen councils and e-government. How and to what extent these forms of participation indeed impact trust in government is far from clear.

Understanding trust dynamics is complicated by the fact that different types of trust co-exists. Two main types are public trust and interpersonal trust. Studies focusing on public trust assess and monitor levels of trust and provide insights in the factors that explain changing levels of trust. Interpersonal trust concerns trust relations between different actors, such as individuals and groups of individuals. This type of trust is a topic that gains particular attention in the literature on participation processes, collaboration and social learning.
Period15 Nov 2023
Held atRadboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • trust
  • governance
  • sustainability
  • transformations