In its European Policy Briefs, EnTrust addresses main findings of our research and provides evidence-based policy recommendations with regard to current policy debates relating to trust and distrust in governance, civil society, public spheres and the future of democracy in Europe. Lately, our European Policy Briefs dealt with dis/trust in direct relations between citizens and social welfare institutions and the role of democratic social movements in the formation of dis/trust in governance. All our European Policy Briefs are published in English and in the seven languages of our consortium. You may find them here.

Trust and Distrust in Governance: Exploring the Impact of Social and Political Dynamics

International Conference organised by the EU-funded EnTrust project

September 28-29, 2023 – Siena, Italy

Abstract Submission Deadline: April 07, 2023

Find the full Call for Papers here.

Trust in governance is considered a pivotal element for democracy. In light of multiple and interrelated crises of recent years an increase of distrust in governance came to the fore and became a highly debated issue, both within the public and the academic field. At the same time, however, scepticism and distrust themselves are productive elements within the democratic arena, as it is a key role of democratic citizens or social movements to critically scrutinise the actions and decisions of governmental actors. This indicates a complex interrelation between trust and distrust, the factors that are responsible for these interrelations, and the ways how trust and distrust need to be evaluated. All these issues contribute to puzzling questions that still await clarification.

The processes of the construction of dis/trust take place on different levels (such as the local, national, European) and involve the individual citizens, collective actors such as social movements and political parties, political institutions, and public spheres. To unfold the dynamics of dis/trust and their consequences for democracy it is therefore indispensable to consider a variety of factors. These include socio-economic, political, cultural, and psychological aspects on the individual level, but also reciprocal relations and practices between citizens and various governance actors, political contestations and public debates on the collective level. Likewise, the heterogenous historical legacies or cultural contexts of (European) nations and regions need to be taken into account.

The conference takes up the overarching topic of trust and distrust in democratic governments and institutions and aspires to explore it in all its various dimensions and aspects.

The Realm of Bureaucracy and the Creation of Dis/Trust 

Possible topics are, among others, the interplay between citizens and public authorities and how these shape the processes of dis/trust building, the role and the shape of the (welfare) state as well as the citizens’ perceptions and opinions about institutional services and institutions, dis/trust building in the context of vulnerable groups (such as disadvantaged families or social welfare users)

Protest, Political Contestation, and the Formation of Trust and Distrust 

The role of collective protest and social movements in the creation of dis/trust in governance can be expected to be significant. It needs to be considered in which ways democratic social movements canalise and mobilise forms of distrust within the general public in order to achieve policy changes. Those practices need to be focused that create, challenge, or reproduce trust and distrust relationships.

The Role of the Media in Dis/Trust Contestations 

The media plays a key role in the mediation between governance, scientific expertise, and citizens. Various issues can be addressed, such as dis/trust of citizens in journalism and news sources as well as the processes of how dis/trust is constructed in and through the media, the impact of different media technologies on dis/trust relations, dis/trust in times of “fake news” and “alternative facts”.

Dynamics of Individual Trust and Distrust in Governance

In order to understand processes of trust and distrust in governance, individual factors as well as underlying psychological sources and patterns need to be considered. For example, analyses might focus on the developmental changes in individual perceptions of dis/trust and the influences of everyday experiences on trust and distrust, as well as on factors responsible for the formation and change of trust related attitudes, among them political radicalisation and extremism.

Public Deliberations, Political Decision-Making, and Institutional Trust

Individual and collective trust and distrust in governance is strongly conditioned by the functioning of political institutions and the way democratic representation, accountability and participation is organised. It is thus of relevance to analyse the ways in which deliberative forums, public consultations and other participative forms of decision-making influence – next to institutional procedures of policy-making and implementation – dis/trust relationships, on the domestic or European level.

Scope and Aims

During the two-day conference two distinguished experts, Pippa Norris (Harvard University) and Tereza Capelos (University of Birmingham), will hold keynote speeches. Additionally, different panels will be held to present and discuss ongoing research on the various topics and questions identified above.

Please note, that the conference will be organised as an in-person event. After years of online-meetings and conferences because of the Covid pandemic, we very much look forward to interacting with colleagues face-to-face and to reinforce and rebuild links in the community.

We envision the conference to be an inclusive platform, where findings and discussions of the EnTrust project are brought into dialogue with the work of a variety of researchers with different backgrounds. By means of an interactive debate and lively exchange, we hope to gain further insights into different arenas of trust formation as well as into the forms, conditions and implications of trust and distrust in democratic governance. With respect to the composition and aim of the EnTrust project, the conference will strive to combine insights from sociology, psychology, political sciences, and media studies.

Paper Submissions

Researchers from all disciplines indicated above are invited to submit abstracts for talks as of now. We are particularly interested in empirical-driven proposals using a quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods approach.

To submit a paper proposal, we ask for title and abstract (300 words maximum). All abstracts must be written in English. All proposals should be submitted by April 07, 2023. Acceptance mails will be sent by May 06, 2023.

It is an option to participate in a conference poster session as well. The poster session will provide an opportunity for those authors who cannot be considered for a talk. Instead, they will be able to present and discuss the results and conclusions of their papers in small groups. Please indicate in your submission, whether you are interested in this option.

Submissions from young scholars are highly welcomed as well. We can provide a limited number of travel fellowships for (junior) scholars with lack of funding support.


Please send your submission to

For more information about the EnTrust research network and their more than 30 researchers:

How can the EU fight (partisan) Disinformation and Hate Speech and protect Media Freedom and Human Rights?

The EnTrust project invites you to online expert roundtables about trustworthy media on 9 February 2023 from 16:00 to 18:00 (CET) with selected stakeholders from European governance institutions, media organisations, civil society and academia.

In the last years, the relationship between the media and trust in democratic institutions has received increasingly attention. Media freedom and pluralism are seen in danger, sometimes caused by governmental control over media outlets. Regulations such as the European Media Freedom Act are being developed to protect editorial independence and make media ownership and concentration more transparent. At the same time, concerns over the dangers of digital platforms for human rights and democracies have become more nuanced, accompanied by instruments such as the European Democracy Action plan, the Code of Practice on Disinformation, and the Digital Services Act. Calls for a stronger regulation of social media and a human rights-based approach to content moderation have grown louder.

In two roundtables, we talk with our panellists about issues, legal instruments, and recommendations in the context of media freedom and human rights on digital platforms. Other participants will have the opportunity to contribute their own views and ask questions to the panellists. The roundtables will be preceded by the presentation of research from the EnTrust project on the role of media in the building of trust and distrust in governance.

You may find the full agenda of the online event here.



  • Welcome and introduction by:

Prof. Christian Lahusen, University of Siegen, Germany

  • Presentation of the Research Report on Trust and the Media: 

Prof. Hans-Jörg Trenz, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy

  • First Roundtable: Protecting Media Freedom and Pluralism in Europe

Barbora Bukovská, Senior Director for Law and Policy, Article 19

Artemiza-Tatiana Chisca, Head of the Media and Internet Division, Council of Europe

Audrius Perkauskas, Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission, Audiovisual and Media Services Policy (CNECT.I.1)

Renate Schroeder, Director, European Federation of Journalists

Moderated by Alexandrina Najmowicz, Secretary General, European Civic Forum

  • Second Roundtable: Digital Platforms and Human Rights: what is the Role of Regulation?

Marie-Hélène Boulanger, Head of Unit at the European Commission, Union Citizenship Rights and Free Movement (JUST.D.3)

Jan Penfrat, Senior Policy Advisor, European Digital Rights

Alberto Rabbachin, Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission, Media Convergence and Social Media (CNECT.I.4)

Moderated by Marlena Wisniak, Senior Legal Consultant, European Center for Not-for-Profit Law

  • Closing and concluding Remarks:

Prof. Christian Lahusen, University of Siegen, Germany

“Social movements as Alternative Arenas of Political participation: Mobilising Citizens in the Re-creation of Trust and Distrust”

The EnTrust project invites you to an online roundtable event on 20 June 2022 from 16:00 to 17:30 (CET) with selected stakeholders from national and EU-level governance institutions, civil society and academia. Participants will discuss findings from the EnTrust project’s Integrated Report on the Role of Democratic Social movements, dealing with the role that social movements, as alternative arenas of political participation, could have in creating and reproducing trust and distrust. The report gathered information on the interaction and possible interplay between two recent and growing trends: citizens’ withdrawal from institutional political arenas and the rise of contemporary contentious politics manifested as increased participation of citizens in new social movement practices in the following countries: Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and Serbia, covering diverse mobilisations on democracy, environment, right to housing, rights of women and of minorities. The report provides better understanding of the social movements’ alternative visions of Europe – as a political and social space – and alternative ways of (re)building trust in its institutions. We also gathered insights into the way these social movements interrelate with more established mainstream civil society organisations (CSOs) and political parties and about their understanding of democracy.

The Expert roundtable will look into the relationship between mistrust in governance and collective mobilisation through social movements, as well as on the effects of social movements on trust-building. The rise of new social movements that mistrust institutional politics, but develop critical, enlightened trust through alternative conceptions of democracy and democratic spaces, in fact could be seen as an answer to the problem of the decline of political trust found in contemporary democracies. This debate is particularly timely in the context of the rise of new social movements within the political, social and environmental crisis that Europe is facing, and in the perspective of the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe and debates on increasing citizen’s participation.

If you wish to participate in this event, please register directly here.



  • Welcome and introduction to the roundtable  by:

Prof. Christian Lahusen, University of Siegen, Germany

  • Presentation of the report on the role of democratic social movements in the formation of trust and distrust:  

Irena Fiket, Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory of the University of Belgrade, Serbia

  • Panel Discussion with:

Helmut Scholz, Member of the European Parliament, Observer to the Executive Board of the Conference on the Future of Europe

Anelia Stefanova, Energy Transformation Strategic Leader, CEE Bankwatch Network, Bankwatch CEE

Gordana Rammert, Council Member of the City of Bielefeld, CoR Young Elected Politicians Programme

Adrien Licha, Coordinator of the Brussels Office of ALDA, the European Association for Local Democracy

Alexandrina Najmowicz, Secretary General of the European Civic Forum

Gazela Pudar Draško, Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory of the University of Belgrade, Serbia

Moderated by Carlotta Besozzi, Coordinator of Civil Society Europe

  • Closing and final discussion on lessons to be drawn:

Prof. Christian Lahusen, University of Siegen, Germany

On 10 December 2021, EnTrust will hold an online expert meeting with selected stakeholders from public services, civil society and academia. Participants will discuss first findings from the EnTrust project on the mechanisms of building trust and distrust in relations between citizens and street-level bureaucracy in the area of support to disadvantaged families. In particular, they will address fresh insights from EnTrust research about how both public administration representatives and citizens who contact them when applying for family benefits or services establish their mutual attitudes of trust and distrust, and the reciprocal perceptions of un/trustworthiness at play. A special focus will be on practical and policy recommendations from the practitioners’ perspective. The debate will be opened with an introduction by the work package leader Maria Theiss, who will present key results from the analysis of individual in-depth interviews with frontline workers of social welfare institutions and citizens receiving social assistance in diverse countries such as the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and Serbia.

Maria Theiss, University of Warsaw,
Institute of Social Policy

On 30 November 2020, the University of Siegen and Civil Society Europe are organising an interactive online roundtable discussion with more than 30 participants (stakeholders from civil society, politicians, governance actors, journalists, media representatives and scientists) who discuss first findings from the EnTrust project and their implications, identify policy responses, ascertain remedial measures and practices, as well as potential implementation perspectives in the current policy context, including the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The EnTrust project has published its first European Policy Brief on the theoretical and normative underpinnings of trust and distrust in governance.

Based on the findings of its preliminary research on the state of scientific research on trust and distrust in governance and a policy dialogue organised last June on trust and distrust at EU level, the policy brief explores current challenges and perspectives on EU Governance. These include: a decline in the rule of law and increased corruption in some EU countries affecting the freedom of the media and the capacity of civil society organisations to hold their government accountable, the impact of Covid 19 pandemic on governance, increased polarisation in our societies, spreading of fake news and unethical behaviour in science.

In order to respond to the challenges that our society faces, which undermine trust in governance, we believe that the European Union has to build a new narrative of ownership and civic participation grounded in fundamental rights. Europe needs to nurture and develop a culture of participation where citizens are recognised as equal partners of institutions, and an effective civil dialogue is promoted in all the different areas of policy and legislative action, and at transversal level. Being able to express concerns and proposals, as well as learning from the perspectives of policy makers and other stakeholders, also contributes to a sense of ownership and responsibility, and ultimately a sense of trust.

Critical citizenship, free and independent media, effective rule of law are an essential prerequisite of fully-functioning democracies. What is thus required is a narrative that highlights the complementarity of enlightened trust and distrust, which are based on principles of active and critical citizenship, political deliberation and decision-making.

The new narrative has to stress that enlightened forms of trust involve reciprocal involvement of both citizens and political institutions, which in turn become the subject and object of trust. Additionally, other actors such as the media, social partners, civil society, experts and science contribute as mediators in the development of trust and distrust relations.

Furthering enlightened forms of trust implies advocating for a participatory and critical approach from the grassroots level up to the arena of the European Union. This is ever more relevant in the context of the upcoming conference on the Future of Europe and of the adoption of a European Democracy Action Plan.

The Policy Brief identifies 6 key steps in order to promote and implement participation and ownership in political governance.

Read here our first European Policy Brief.

To learn more about the project, we invite you to have a look at the project presentation by coordinator Christian Lahusen on the occasion of the online round table debate “Trust and Distrust in Governance: What is at Stake” on 15 June 2020.

Our online round table debate on Trust and Distrust in Governance: What is at Stake? is now published in full lenght on our EnTrust project YouTube channel.

The event was hosted by Katarina Barley, Vice President of the European Parliament, and included a high level panel with the Director General of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, Jean Eric Paquet, the following members of the European Parliament: Domenec Ruiz Devesa, Anna Donath and Sergey Lagodinski, and EnTrust project coordinator Christian Lahusen. The event was moderated by Brikena Xhomaqi, Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform.

For more information, please visit the following websites: EnTrust events and Civil Society Europe events.