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Governance and Accountability through a Behavioral Lens

9-10 May 2022


IDHEAP Université de Lausanne, Switzerland

Sjors Overman, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, Course director  Mail
Guest lecturers:  
Eva Thomann, University of Constanz, Germany 
Sebastian Jilke, Georgetown University, USA 
Amandine Lerusse, Leiden University, the Netherlands

Course fees

  • Free for NIG members

Do public managers have personal biases when contracting out public services? Do health care providers (unconsciously) discriminate between clients? Do individual police officers feel that they are accountable for their behavior when using force?

Choices of individual civil servants have a great impact on the governance of cities, regions, and nations. The individual sense of accountability, individual preferences for target groups, or biases in the acquisitions of goods and services can have major consequences. Many questions of governance and coordination require the understanding of microprocesses in the bureaucracy.

This course places an innovative micro-perspective on key concepts of governance: coordination, collaboration, and accountability. Scholars of public administration and political science have long focused on the institutional side of governance questions. This course will take a behavioral and psychological perspective on the matter.

After this course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the implications of behavioral theories for public governance
  • Translate and apply behavioral theories to questions in public administration and political science


To achieve these goals, we focus on concrete instances of public organizations. We discuss the social psychology of felt accountability among museum directors and police officers. We discuss the expectations and role conflicts of veterinarian inspectors. And we analyze potential biases in the behavior of employees in health care.




A list of readings will be provided before the start of the course. A tentative list includes:

  • Jilke, S., W. Van Dooren, S. Rys. 2018. Discrimination and Administrative Burden in Public Service Markets: Does a Public–Private Difference Exist?Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 28(3): 423–439.
  • Overman, S. and Schillemans, T. (2022), Toward a Public Administration Theory of Felt Accountability. Public Administration Review, 82: 12-22.
  • Thomann, E, Hupe, P, Sager, F. Serving many masters: Public accountability in private policy implementation. 2018; 31: 299– 319.



Participants will prepare an essay based on the literature and their own PhD topic. This essay will involve the application of the literature and the discussions during the workshop to (a part of) the participants’ dissertation topic.