Public Management

Trust in Zeist

April 17, 2014

A municipal plan for high-rise buildings in the city center of Zeist led to a breach of confidence between the municipality and its inhabitants and a legitimacy crisis within the municipality. The municipality considered interactive plan-making as one means to restore the trust. Arno Schepers, manager Strategy and Administration at the municipality of Zeist at the time of his study, wondered whether interactive plan-making would lead to the restoration of trust.

Image: © Nationale Beeldbank

Schepers selected two cases for his study: a house-construction plan and a plan for citizenship. Convinced that ‘the typical inhabitant of Zeist’ does not exist, he distinguished between four categories of citizens according to the degree of political and social trust.

The study showed that interactive plan-making led to the restoration of trust for the inhabitants of Zeist who participated in the study. An important aspect concerned the behavior of government representatives: the administrators and civil servants. If they appeared to be kind, honorable and skilled, then the inhabitants of Zeist were inclined to trust them. The cases varied in terms of the significance of these three conditions for trust. The cases did not vary in terms of the significance of the manner in which the participants experienced the supply of information. If the information supplied appeared to be up-to-date, transparent and valid, consistently and clearly formulated and timely supplied, then the participants in the interactive plan-making had faith in the process. These participants belonged solely to the categories of the Active and the Anticipating, the categories that put much trust in society. Interactive plan-making led to less trust on the part of the interested inhabitants of Zeist who were not involved in the interactive plan-making.

Based on the results of his study, Schepers came to the following conclusions:

  1. The result of interactive plan-making is a strengthening of the trust of citizens in the municipality among the participants and can lead to less trust on the part of interested persons who do not participate;
  2. A large number of the inhabitants of Zeist is oblivious to interactive plan-making. These participants are mainly in the categories of the Dependent and the Non-participant, categories with little trust in society. Interactive plan-making will have no effect on the trust of these inhabitants of Zeist in the municipality.
    Schepers found this second conclusion to be disturbing. Could the lack of interest and participation on the part of these groups be the seed of an even deeper legitimacy crisis?

The article ‘Trust in Zeist’ concludes the subject of ‘Trust’ in the volume, and with that the volume as a whole. This was the final article of the nine-part series on the basis of ‘Justification, change and trust’.

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