Chair of Public Administration & Public Policy

Research Projects

InnoLoK Project

Following on from the success of the HybOrg project, the InnoLoK research project again focuses on local administrative crisis management. The collaborative research project is being coordinated by Prof. Dr. Steffen Eckhard and involves partners from Zeppelin University, Fraunhofer ISI as well as Hochschule Kehl. It is part of the funding line "Social Impact of the Corona Pandemic - Research for Integration, Participation and Renewal" of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


Focusing on the Covid-19-Pandemic, the project addresses the question of the impact of the crisis on social cohesion in Germany. On the one hand, the project examines how groups were affected and how they interacted with each other in society. On the other hand, it focuses on the role of administrative action in managing the pandemic. The extent to which innovations emerged during the crisis and how variation in administrative action in German counties affected communities is explored both theoretically and empirically.


Funding: German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) (2022-2025).

Project Team:


  • Prof. Dr. Steffen Eckhard (Zeppelin University)
  • Prof. Dr. Christian Adam, Zeppelin (Zeppelin University)
  • Alexa Lenz, (Zeppelin University)
  • Franziska Graf (Zeppelin University)
  • Pauline Hoffmann (Zeppelin University)
  • Dr. Florian Roth (Fraunhofer ISI)
  • Dr. Andrea Zenker (Fraunhofer ISI)
  • Prof. Dr. Emmanuel Muller (Hochschule Kehl)

Linguistic Analysis of Public Service Encounters

The project “Linguistic Analysis of Public Service Encounters“ systematically studies face-to-face interactions between public administrators and citizens. It aims to develop a procedure for measuring linguistic communication processes in the interaction of public administration with citizens.


The research project builds upon the current state of knowledge on addressing societal diversity in the provision of public services. This topic has long attracted the interest of empirical administrative research and is highly relevant in everyday public administration practice. Nevertheless, there is still very little scientific knowledge about the demands on civil servants due to dealing with people from a wide range of cultural and social backgrounds in the provision of services. The role of administrative language in direct encounters with citizens has remained completely unaddressed in this context.


The interdisciplinary project combines computer-based linguistic analysis on the one hand and political science and public administration analytical methods on the other. Researchers from the University of Konstanz, the University of Passau and the Chair of Public Administration and Public Policy at Zeppelin University are involved.


Funding: Cluster of Excellence „The Politics ofInequality” at the University of Konstanz.



More details

Related Publications:


Eckhard, S., Friedrich, L., Hautli-Janisz, A., Mueden, V., & Espinoza, I. (2022). A taxonomy of administrative language in public service encounters. International Public Management Journal. doi.org/10.1080/10967494.2022.2075062 (1.72).

Project Team:


  • Prof. Dr. Steffen Eckhard (Zeppelin University)
  • Prof. Dr. Annette Hautli-Janisz (University of Passau)
  • Ingrid Espinoza (University of Konstanz)
  • Laurin Friedrich (University Duisburg-Essen)
  • Wassiliki Siskou (University of Konstanz)
  • Karim Saleh (University of Konstanz)
  • Vanessa Müden (University of Konstanz)
  • Steffen Frenzel (University of Konstanz)

The Politics of Evaluation in International Organizations

Evaluation has experienced spectacular proliferation at the international level. Today, the vast majority of international organizations (IOs) have institutionalized evaluation as an integral part of their organizational practices. More than 160 full time evaluators with several thousand expert consultants are now working in the UN system as compared to only 60 officers in the 1980s. Hundreds of reports are produced annually by major IOs and the number is growing. In the UN system, around 700 reports are produced each year which should lead to annual IO-evaluation expenses of up to half a billion Euros (about the entire annual budget of UNESCO or ILO).


Essentially, evaluation has become the ‘mantra of modernity’. Its main strength, as seen by the UN, is the ability “to provide evidence that is robust, valid, reliable and credible and can be used with confidence in decision-making” (JIU 2014a, p. 2). This is how policy makers typically conceive of evaluation – as a functional tool in the final phase of a cyclical policy process.


Yet, does evaluation really deliver on its promise of scientific evidence and policy adjustment? Contributing to such broader questions about the (in-)effectiveness of evidence-based policymaking, the project challenges the conventional understanding of evaluation as a value-free activity and demonstrates how a seemingly neutral technocratic tool can serve as an instrument for power in international governance.


While the first phase of the project (2017-2020) analysed the political use of evaluation in IOs, the second phase (2021-2023) delves into evaluation reports themselves, scrutinizing their content and potential political biases.


Following a mixed-method research design, we conducted field research with over 70 interviews at 19 international organizations, and even participated in training exercises for professional evaluators, to gain qualitative insights into evaluation processes. At the same time, creation of an original databank with 2,000 evaluation reports for the first time allowed to quantitatively scrutinize the actual content of IO evaluation reports, aiming at the identification of systematic political biases.


The project is associated to the DFG Research Unit "International Public Administration".


Research grant: Phase I: 223.644 Euro, Phase II: 237.292 Euro, funded by DFG (2017-2023).

Related Publications:


Eckhard, S., Jankauskas, V. (2022): The Politics of Evaluation in International Organizations. Oxford University Press. Forthcoming.


Eckhard, S., Jankauskas, V. (2020): Explaining the political use of evaluation in international organizations. Policy Sciences 53, 667–695, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-020-09402-2.


Jankauskas, V., Eckhard, S. (2019): International Bureaucracies as Strategic Actors: How the Better Regulation Reform Strengthens the European Commission. Politische Vierteljahresschrift. 60, 681–699, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11615-019-00189-3.


Eckhard, S., Jankauskas, V. (2019): The Politics of Evaluation in International Organizations: A comparative Study of Stakeholder Influence Potential. Evaluation. 25(1), https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1356389018803967.

Project Team:


  • Prof. Dr. Steffen Eckhard (Zepplin University)
  • Dr. Vytautas Jankauskas (Zepplin University)
  • Elena Leuschner (University of Gothenburg)
  • Ian Burton (University of Exeter)

Local knowledge in international intervention

International interventions are common in today's world. States, intergovernmental organizations and non-state actors routinely engage in a wide range of activities - development aid, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and peace operations - that aim to change political, economic and/or social conditions in sovereign states other than their own. The effectiveness of these interventions depends crucially on how well intervening actors understand local realities, perspectives, and priorities.


Yet while there is near universal agreement among scholars and practitioners about the importance of local knowledge in peacebuilding - and in other international interventions - there is no consensus on what local knowledge is, much less how best to access it. In practice, moreover, intervenors not only struggle to integrate local knowledge in their decision-making but also face incentives not to do so. In short, while local knowledge is vital to the success of international interventions, it is notoriously difficult for outsiders to acquire and intervenors are inconsistent in whether, how and why they seek to access it.


The essential task of this project is to theorize and empirically study the mechanisms by which international interveners can gain local knowledge about the societies in which they operate.


The Peacebuilding and Local Knowledge Network (PLKN) brings together a diverse group of scholars and practitioners to foster more informed public discussions about local peacebuilding interventions, with the aim of contributing evidence-based recommendations to influence the development of more effective and responsible local peacebuilding policies and practices.


Funding: The Peacebuilding and Local Knowledge Network (PLKN) is funded by the Canadian Research foundation SSHRC for a period of three years.

Related Publications:

 

Eckhard, S. (2020). Bridging the citizen gap: Bureaucratic representation and knowledge linkage in (international) public administration. Governance, online first. doi:doi:10.1111/gove.12494


Eckhard, S. (2019). Comparing how peace operations enable or restrict the influence of national staff: Contestation from within? Cooperation and Conflict, 54(4), 488–505. doi:10.1177/0010836718815528


Eckhard, S. (2014). Bureaucratic Representation and Ethnic Bureaucratic Drift: A Case Study of United Nations Minority Policy Implementation in Kosovo. American Review of Public Administration, 44(5), 600-621.

Project Team:


  • Prof. Dr. Sarah von Billerbeck (The University of Reading)
  • Prof. Dr. Katharina Coleman, (The University of British Columbia)
  • Prof. Dr. Steffen Eckhard (Zeppelin University)
  • Prof. Dr. Benjamin Zyla (University of Ottawa)

Text as data: The Evolution of the UN Security Council Debates (1995-2020)

The research project created a dataset of 65,000 speeches from UN Security Council meetings taking place between 1995-2020. The team extracted the speech data from 6,000 meeting transcripts, and the dataset includes metadata regarding each speakers’ affiliation, the position of the speech in a sequence of speeches in a meeting, and the date of the speech.


Schönfeld, M., Eckhard, S., Patz, R., & van Meegdenburg, H. (2019). The UN Security Council Debates Dataset. Harvard dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/KGVSYH (V5, 2020)

Related Publications:


Eckhard, S., Patz, R., Schönfeld, M., & van Meegdenburg, H. (2021). International bureaucrats in the UN Security Council debates: A speaker-topic network analysis. Journal of European Public Policy , 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2021.1998194


Our article combines natural language processing and network analysis to study the role of UN-bureaucracy in UNSC focusing on the debates on Afghanistan (1995-2017). We observed speaker position, topic introduction, and topic evolution and complemented the analysis with an illustrative case study on one “bureaucratic topic”. Our findings show that despite their general impartiality, UN Secretariat members sometimes acted as autonomous speechmakers, shaping the debate even in venues such as the UNSC where bureaucratic agency seems unlikely.


The authors also published an online tool that enables users to navigate the speech corpus used for the analysis: https://shiny.mircoschoenfeld.de/unsc_afg/



Schönfeld, M., Eckhard, S., Patz, R., & van Meegdenburg, H. (2019). The UN Security Council debates 1995-2017. https://arxiv.org/abs/1906.10969.


The dataset introduction paper offers a detailed description of the creation of the dataset as well as some basic statistics. After contextualizing the dataset in recent research on the UNSC, the paper presents descriptive statistics on UNSC meetings and speeches that characterize the period covered by the dataset. Data highlight the extensive presence of the UN bureaucracy in UNSC meetings as well as an emerging trend towards more lengthy open UNSC debates. These open debates cover key issues that have emerged only during the period that is covered by the dataset, for example the debates relating to Women, Peace and Security or Climate-related Disasters.

Project Team:


  • Steffen Eckhard (Zeppelin University)
  • Mirco Schönfeld (Bayreuth University),
  • Ronny Patz (Hertie School of Governance)
  • Hilde van Meegdenburg (Leiden University)

Completed Projects

HybOrg Project

During its duration between 2018 and 2021, the HybOrg research project focused on the administrative management of the so-called refugee crisis in Germany between 2015 and 2016, asking about the societal effect of variation in local crisis management (Landkreise and kreisfreie Städte). Supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the three-year project aimed to create a systematic record of administrative action within the realm of crisis management, analyze its effects on social cohesion, and formulate a set of concrete recommendations for relevant stakeholders.


HybOrg was a collaborative research project which was coordinated by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Seibel (University Konstanz) and involved researchers at ETH Zurich, LMU Munich, and University of Konstanz.


Research grant: 634.339 Euro, funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) (2018-2021).


More Details

Related Publications:


Eckhard, S., Lenz, A., Seibel, W., Roth, F., & Fatke, M. (2021). Latent hybridity in administrative crisis management: The German refugee crisis of 2015/16. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 31(2), 416-433.


Eckhard, Steffen & Behnke, Nathalie (2022), A systemic perspective on crisis management and resilience in Germany. dms – der moderne staat – Zeitschrift für Public Policy, Recht und Management, 15(1), 3-19. https://doi.org/10.3224/dms.v15i1.11


Lenz, Alexa (2021). Trust in Times of Crisis: The Pitfalls of cooperation between Volunteers and Local Government. dms – der moderne staat – Zeitschrift für Public Policy, Recht und Management. 15(1), 130-148. https://doi.org/10.3224/dms.v15i1.09

Global Survey on Staff Diversity in International Public Administration (SDIPA)

The SDIPA project was an international research collaboration project administered by Universität Konstanz (Steffen Eckhard) and Charles University (Michal Parizek), that studied the administrations of international organizations.


The aim of the SDIPA project was to understand the challenges and opportunities linked to the geographical diversity in international organizations with a focus on the interaction between international and national staff in country offices. The project sought to understand how each staff group contributes to the success of country operations, how teams in international organizations should ideally be composed, and how country offices can manage and leverage diversity.


In the summer of 2019, the SDIPA survey was implemented (306 replies). The survey included a participant lottery for 5 Amazon vouchers which was conducted in December 2020. Remaining participants received a copy of the results. The data analysis was conducted in autumn 2019, manuscript submission and revision took place between spring 2020 and summer 2020, the project findings are now published in the Journal of Comparative Public Policy.

Related publications:


Eckhard, S., & Parizek, M. (2020). Policy implementation by international organizations: A comparative analysis of strengths and weaknesses of national and international staff. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice. doi:10.1080/13876988.2020.1813032


Download the SDIPA survey report here (pdf).

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