Governance capacity in times of polarization

Good (executive) governance requires two broad type of qualities. First, governments need to be able to analyse policy challenges, coordinate policymaking across organisational boundaries and implement policies effectively and in an unbiased way, i.e. they need ‘executive capacities’. Second, societal actors should be able to exercise control over government activity, which requires transparency and participation opportunities fostering ‘executive accountability’. The recent rise of political polarization and populism raises the question about how both qualities – executive capacity and accountability – are affected by these trends.
In this project course, we work with Bertelsmann Foundation’s Sustainable Governance Indicator (SGI) project to explore the impact of political polarization on governing capacity. The SGI is one of the most developed international comparative data sets capturing a range of governance capacity and accountability dimensions (alongside policy performance and quality of democracy). The data set may
also be used to study the impact of (party) political polarization on executive capacity and
accountability over time. We will work with the Bertelsmann Foundation to explore in-depth the
relation between political polarization and selected dimensions of governance capacity (such as
implementation capacity, regulatory capacity, the use of evidence etc.). Students will engage in
targeted cross-national comparisons, combining SGI data with other data and carry out individual
country case studies to explore the link between political polarization and governance capacity.

This course is for 1st year MPP students only.


  • Kai Wegrich , Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy