Big issues of governance today and tomorrow - Lecture Series, Fall 2013

What are the trending topics in politics? The economy, employment, energy, immigration, safety, all issues compete for attention. And this competition happens across national borders, in the EU, and on the global stage of world politics. When ‘new’ and ‘hot’ issues hit the headlines and enter the political agenda, they often push ‘old’ issues aside. How are such issues detected, what are the consequences for agenda setting, and what policy responses follow?

The lecture series organized by the Montesquieu Institute, Campus The Hague, provides a better understanding of the way in which major policy problems emerge and dissolve.

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Big governance issues

How do big issues emerge and travel to the top of the agenda? To understand this, we need a multilevel governance perspective and a long term view. This course deals with the dynamics of attention shifts from one big issue to the next and considers the conditions under which new issues may dominate the political agenda of tomorrow. Issues rise and fall not only because of alarming news headlines, but also because stakeholders from society, business and politics compete over which matters to prioritize. This is a fundamental feature of politics and policy making for which the lecture series provides an approach with much relevance to practice.

How do governments and international institutions deal with big problems of governance? When do these policy making organizations become alert, how long they ignore information about new problems, or transfer problems in some way to a different level of policy making? How do focusing events trigger attention, and how long lasting is the effect of such events? The aim of the lecture series is to explain the dynamics of agenda setting on big governance issues of today and tomorrow. The series will also address in what ways policy-making institutions can prepare themselves for detecting issues and organize an effective response.



This course will provide with an insight in the conditions promoting or hindering an issue to reach the governmental agenda and become prominent in policy making. After this series, the participants will have a better sense of the issues that will be central in attention in the time to come. This includes a better understanding of the role of old and new media, organizations lobbying for influence, and the way in which policy-making institutions process all kinds of information about policy problems. The participants will be able to identify the ways in which governments handle the infinite number of problems arriving within their scope. Further, they will engage in real-world and pluralistic discussions during the lectures, as this course is open to bachelor and master students from all universities in the Netherlands, as well as professionals and public in general interested in the topic.


Programme and Registration

The theoretical line of the course is based on the politics of attention to issues. The programme combines lectures on policy topics as well as on policy venues in order to provide a comprehensive approach.

On the one hand, policy problems have different dimensions (e.g. economic, social, etc.) that are in constant shift, which may promote in the future their linkage to other issues or to new properties of the ‘same’ problem. On the other hand, depending on the actor involved, there are different perspectives to look at a problem and at the dynamics of attention paid to it.

To illustrate this, besides the theoretical framework, three policy issues and three arenas are included in the programme. They were deliberately selected and associated in pairs for didactical reasons, but in reality all are independent of each other.

All seven lectures are on Wednesdays from 18:30 to 20:30. Please note that the lectures are in English. Location: The Hague.

The course is open to students from all Dutch universities, as well as to professionals. They may obtain a certificate from the Montesquieu Institute, provided that they attend at least 6 lectures. Students may also obtain ECTS, if they fulfill the following 3 requirements: attend at least 6 lectures and both work group sessions, as well as submit the requested assignments. Please note that the registration period is closed.






30 Oct

Policy problems contesting for attention

Arco Timmermans, Professor of Public Affairs at Leiden University and Research Director of the Montesquieu Institute


6 Nov

Media attention to problems

Marc Chavannes, Journalist and columnist of NRC Handelsblad


13 Nov

Citizenship and Energy: Towards a new paradigm in energy governance


Ulrich Mans, Researcher of Sustainability and Governance at Centre for Innovation the Hague


20 Nov

International labour market issues

Agnes Jongerius, Research Associate at Utrecht University and former Chair of the Dutch Federation Labour Movement (FNV)


27 Nov

Interest groups influencing the current agenda

Hanneke Verhelst, Senior Account Manager Public Affairs at FleishmanHillard and board member of the Professional Association for Public Affairs (BVPA) in the Netherlands


4 Dec

Institutions as regulators of multilevel-governance

Kutsal Yesilkagit, Associate Professor at Utrecht University, School of Governance


11 Dec

Cyberspace and ‘trending topics’

Gideon Shimshon, Director of the Centre for Innovation the Hague



More information

For more information, please send an email to