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Trust in Governance and Regulation in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TiGRE (Trust in Governance and Regulation in Europe)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2020-12-31

The demands of citizens and public authorities for data and privacy protection, security and reliability of data and information, financial stability and food safety are increasing. In such a context, trust needs to exist between actors in regulatory regimes, such as political, administrative and judicial bodies, regulators, interest organisations, consumers, and the regulated industries, among others. In this framework, trust operates across different levels of governance. An adequate level of trust is a precondition and at the same time a consequence of well-functioning regulatory policies. This is exemplified by recent scandals, such as major data breaches and privacy-threatening behaviour by information technology companies, which allegedly affected citizens’ trust in regulatory regimes. Therefore, the analysis of trust relationships in and among the multiple actors involved in these regulatory regimes is essential to draw a more encompassing picture of trust dynamics and understand their drivers as well as their political and socio-economic effects.

The TiGRE project is built upon the assumption that trust is crucial for flourishing democracies. For this reason, one of the main goals of the TiGRE project is to identify and to fill in the main gaps in the existing concepts and measurements of trust, so as to provide a broader and fine-grained overview of the level of trust in our democracies. In fact, in TiGRE we believe that trust is not just a matter of relations between citizens and elected politicians. Instead, trust relationships should also be scrutinized between actors that take part to the regulatory process, such as regulatory agencies and courts, among other actors. In addition, in TiGRE we argue that being aware of these less visible trust relationships is a prerequisite for enhancing policy making and developing appropriate policy design. To achieve these goals, the TiGRE project partners will target and be in regular contact with national and European stakeholders, representing a broad range of actors in regulatory regimes.

At the heart of the TiGRE project is the ambition to explore trust relationships in three high-value sectors: finance, food safety, and communication and data protection. The project will analyse the conditions under which their regulatory regimes are trusted at different levels of governance, i.e. the regional, national and European levels. To that effect, TiGRE examines how actors involved in the regulatory process (such as administrative bodies, politicians, regulatory agencies, courts, firms, business, consumer groups and citizens at large) interact with each other. To achieve these goals and provide a comprehensive understanding of these relationships, a variety of methods is employed, such as questionnaires for large-scale surveys, case studies, and media content analysis. In addition, comparisons between countries are key to detect and explain similarities but also differences in terms of trust dynamics and trust relationships. The TiGRE project also aims to measure levels of trust between actors composing the above-mentioned regulatory regimes. Each step of the project includes examining the opinions of a wide range of actors so as to explore how the current regulatory framework creates, or, conversely, jeopardizes trust between different categories of actors populating these regimes.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the timeline of the project, the work performed from the start of the project is sizeable thanks to a truly collaborative endeavour and extensive work by all TiGRE partners.

We provide a comprehensive review of the literature on trust and regulation, with an overview of the concepts of trust and distrust; their relationship, drivers and positive and negative consequences; as well as the main theories of regulation. Our literature review also focuses on trust and distrust in government, and the relations between trust and regulation. We present and discuss the procedure and results of this systematic analysis, pointing to the main limitations and gaps in existing empirical work.

Another crucial piece of our work is a systematic synthesis of the most recent comparative empirical studies on trust and regulation, whose goal is to enhance knowledge accumulation and to develop a theory-based approach to trust in regulation. Therefore, we appraised and analysed available cross-country survey data and empirical studies on citizens’ trust in governments, in public institutions and private actors. We examined data from existing surveys on trust and found that they show mixed and sometimes even contradicting findings on which actor citizens trust the most.

One of the largest endeavours of this first period was the design and testing of our cross-country cross-sectoral survey, including both the questionnaire and the survey experiment. Once ready, the reference questionnaire has been translated into nine different languages: German, Polish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, French, Spanish, Catalan, and Hebrew.

We developed a comprehensive strategy to identify the relevant respondents for each sector. This strategy differentiates between: (i) actors within the regulatory regime and regulatees; (ii) actors mainly operating in the sectors under scrutiny, and (iii) actors which only partially operate in these sectors.

For additional information, please visit our project’s website at https://www.tigre-project.eu where press releases, infosheets, media kit and webinars’ supporting information are available for download. You may also wish to have a look at our introductory video at https://vimeo.com/474668277.
TiGRE feeds into various initiatives to restore and improve trust in governance and enhance the quality of democracy. First, the wide knowledge base provided by TiGRE helps to offer innovative governance solutions around trust issues. Second, TiGRE identifies the factors, specifically related to the policy and institutional design of regulatory regimes that are capable of altering particular configurations of trust and distrust within governance arrangements. Third, TiGRE provides indicators and scenarios on trust-enhancing and trust-depleting mechanisms and processes that could have a great impact on how trust in governance is analysed. Fourth, TiGRE’s key recommendations will identify good trust-related practices that can be used to improve trust in and within regulatory regimes.

Importantly, TiGRE follows a participatory research approach, whereby the findings are discussed, fine-tuned, validated and interpreted with practitioners in a dedicated stakeholder forum and with external scientific advisors. This allows TiGRE to act as a platform for debate and to reach out to the various third-parties and end users, such as policy makers, through the dissemination of our results. TiGRE is also building a stable, long-term network of academics and practitioners to foster debates about the future of trust and trust-enhancing policies in EU regulatory governance (see our webinar series at https://www.tigre-project.eu/webinars/regulatory_governance/).
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