On 5th May, Professor Alistair Cole and Dr Ian Stafford* delivered a public seminar at Cardiff University linked to their WISERD Civil Society research. Their insightful and well-attended presentation outlined how, against the backdrop of a perceived decline in trust in democracy and government, transparency has frequently been identified as a potential remedy to these phenomena. Using key tools of comparative politics, their timely research will explore questions of trust and transparency in the context of the rise of multi-level governance. In other words, the situation whereby governing is shared across different tiers (central, regional, local and supra-national). This brings with it interesting institutional forms, centre-periphery dynamics, and domestic-international tensions as public decision-making takes on new forms in the reconfigured state of the twenty-first century.
The concepts of ‘trust’ and ‘transparency’ have been the subject of intense debate – and the seminar critically examined existing approaches to their measurement in research on civil society and other sectors. In particular, Professor Cole and Dr Stafford pointed to how multi-methods research may offer an effective means of exploring the interplay between trust and transparency. Those attending were told how this will inform future empirical data-gathering and analysis in a sample of six regions drawn three key European states – namely: a federal state (Germany), a predominantly unitary state modified by forms of asymmetrical devolution (United Kingdom) and a decentralised but still unitary state (France).
* Alistair Cole is Professor of European Politics at Cardiff University. He is a leading scholar of French and Comparative European Politics – and has published 18 books, 60 journal articles and 55 book chapters.
Dr Ian Stafford is lecturer in politics at Cardiff University. His research interests include devolution and territorial politics, theories of public policy analysis and research methods within political science. He has published on a wide range of topics, most recently the (co-authored) article ‘Managing complexity and uncertainty in regional governance networks: A critical analysis of state rescaling in England’ in Regional Studies.