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Project ‘Revitalized Democracy’ receives €1.7 million from National Research Agenda

Published: 25th November 2020 Last updated: 24th October 2023

How can ‘hybrid democratic innovation’, which combines forms of deliberation (e.g. citizens' assemblies) and voting (e.g. corrective referendums), strengthen our representative democracy? That is the key question underlying the project ‘Revitalized Democracy for Resilient Societies’ that has received a grant of 1.7 million euros from the Dutch Research Council NWO. With additional contributions from participating societal partners the research budget will be nearly 2 million euros. Professor of Comparative Governance Frank Hendriks of Tilburg University will lead the project.
Tilburg University researchers will also participate in two other projects that have received a grant by NWO: eHealth Junior (TSB) and on Deep Learning (TSHD). 

National Research Agenda

On behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science NWO has granted a total of 81 million euros to fund a new round of research addressing questions of the National Research Agenda. The research projects will be carried out by consortiums of researchers and societal partners from the public, semipublic and private sectors. Another 12 million euros will be contributed by project partners in a total of 21 consortiums. The overall aim of the NWO funding program is to enforce scientific as well as societal breakthroughs by means of interdisciplinary cooperation within various knowledge networks in cooperation with societal partners.

Revitalized Democracy for Resilient Societies   

The research project REDRESS (‘Revitalized Democracy for Resilient Societies’) looks at whether and how ‘hybrid democracy innovations’ combining plebiscitary instruments (vote-centred) and deliberative instruments (talk-centred) can strengthen representative democracy, under which conditions, and with what effects. For this purpose, field experts, valorization specialists, international and Dutch knowledge leaders in this field closely cooperate.

More information: REDRESS Project Summary

There is a widespread feeling of discontent with the functioning of modern representative democracies. Dutch citizens still believe in the democratic ideal, but feel that politicians do not listen to them, and demand more meaningful influence on public policymaking. It is increasingly acknowledged that improved citizen participation in an effective combination of plebiscitary (e.g. corrective referendums) and deliberative instruments (e.g. citizen assemblies) is needed. However, pressing knowledge gaps about the intelligent combination of such instruments remain.

The REDRESS Project aspires to redress this. It systematically investigates and tests how hybrid democratic innovations can advance democratic responsiveness, citizens’ trust, and politicians' support in a representative democracy with a tradition of consensus politics ('polder model'). In the past, the few democratic innovations that took place were often hastily discontinued (e.g. advisory referendum, citizen's assembly electoral system). They were said to be at odds with representative institutions or malfunctioning in practice. Because crucial knowledge and implementation gaps still exist - and thus any future democratic innovation risks the same fate - REDRESS aims to close such gaps and map out more fruitful roads ahead.

Through a process of design thinking, involving a broad coalition of stakeholders, REDRESS fleshes out which hybrid democratic innovations are most promising and how these innovations can be most effectively combined with representative democracy. The consortium brings together multiple sources of crucial expertise: leading academic researchers, field-knowledgeable practitioners, international experts, and specialists in knowledge dissemination. Alongside, four newly recruited Ph.D. candidates and two Postdocs will carry out cutting-edge research following a multi-method design.

Consortium REDRESS:

Tilburg University, Utrecht University, Radboud University, University of Twente, Netherlands Institute for Social Research, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Society of Dutch Municipalities, ProDemos, Rathenau Institute, The Broker, The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), LSA Residents.       

Scientific project lead: Prof. Frank Hendriks – Department of Public Law and Governance, Tilburg Law School

Two more projects

Tilburg University researchers will also participate in two other projects that have received a grant by NWO:

eHealth Junior 

Project lead:  Prof. Manon Hillegers – Erasmus MC; co-applicants:  Prof. Eveline Wouters and Prof. Inge Bongers, Tranzo; also dr. Eeske van Roekel, Department Developmental Psychology, Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences 

Within eHealth junior, care professionals, patients, business partners, and government collaborate to develop high quality eHealth tools for one million chronically ill children. These tools allow personalized and trans-diagnostic prevention of psychological problems and optimal participation. eHealth tools will be made widely available through accessible, user-friendly, safe, and sustainable platforms.

Opening the Black Box of Deep Learning for Language, Speech and Music

Project lead: Dr. Jelle Zuidema – University of Amsterdam; with (among others) Dr. Afra Alishahi and Dr. Grzegorz Chrupala, Department of Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence, Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences

Deep learning is producing AI models so accurate that they are significantly affecting individuals, businesses and society. New responsibilities and questions are arising, and the poor interpretability of deep learning is a serious limitation. The consortium studies how to make deep learning transparent and ‘explainable’ for speech, language, and music applications.         

Note to editors

For more information please contact Prof. Frank Hendriks via, or the Tilburg University press office: +31 (0)13 466 4000 /