Building a UNified theory for the development and resilience of Institutions for Collective Action for Europe in the past millennium (UNICA)


UNICA aims at building a unified theory that explains the factors behind the development and spread of institutions for collective action (ICAs) across Europe over the past millennium, and that identifies which elements have contributed to the claim they would be more resilient than top-down, share-holder types of organisations. The project will allow us to connect micro-changes to macro-results, and to reflect on the potential outcomes of the current new “wave” of institutions for collective action. These results will be transferred to CollectieveKracht, a self-governing platform for self-governing ICAs today, which will be developed on the basis of the principles of Extreme Citizen Science, in cooperation with and co-funded by several external parties.


The UNICA-project is funded by a VICI-grant awarded by the Dutch Research Council to prof. Tine De Moor.


> Click here for more info




The Knowledge Platform CollectieveKracht facilitates the mutual exchange of knowledge and expertise taht may help citizens' collectivities to become dynamic and reilient organizations. The Knowledge Platform CollectieveKracht links citizens' collectivities from a wide range of sectors, regardless of their stage of development. The platform is primarily based on the need for knowledge as indicated by the citizens' collectivities themselves.


The Knowledge Platform CollectieveKracht is based on the existing cooperation between the Research Team Institutions for Collective Action, led by prof. Tine De Moor and a firm base of  citizens' collectivities from a wide range of societal sectors.


Succesfull citizens'collectivities are often burdened by questionnaires and press. However, there is no universal solution. The Knowledge Platform CollectieveKracht offers citizens' collectivities a unique opportunity to address specific issues to three ‘Expert-labs’, networks comprising acadmics as well as representatives of both financial and governmental institutions.


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> Click here for the 'Krachtiger als Collectief' research report

Nature or Nurture?


The project 'Nature or nurture? A search for the  institutional and biological determinants of life expectancy in Europe during the early modern period', supervised by Tine De Moor has received a VIDI Grant (800 k€) from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). In literature it has been suggested that the rapid loosening of family ties in Northwestern-Europe – due to the emergence of the European Marriage Pattern (EMP) from the late medieval period onwards – would lead to hardship for the elderly, but the (limitedly available) data suggest otherwise. In this project we test two potential explanations for this conundrum, by comparing Northwestern- and Southern-Europe between 1500 and 1900 by (a.o.) testing the Disposable Soma Theory by obtaining and analyzing different types of sources and datasets (such as genealogical trees and location-specific family reconstitutions, and data on religious communities) will be used.


Also, we examine whether the diversity in institutional solutions (state-provided, collective, market-based) to be found in early modern Northwestern-Europe could have increased the welfare of the elderly. A third subproject inestigates the impact of (biological) life-cycle events and socio-economic behaviour on life-expectancy, with regard to household structures and saving behaviour, thus bringing the insights from the other subprojects together on the household level. The project will start in Fall 2013 and will collaborate intensively with the CLIO-INFRA-project.


> Click here for an overview of the features of this project

> Click here for an extended description of this project

> Click here for a short Powerpoint-presentation on this project


Modelling institutional dynamics in historical commons (MIDI)


The Modelling institutional dynamics in historical commons (MIDI) project adopts an interdisciplinary perspective to contribute empirically-grounded and systematic knowledge of the mechanisms driving the process of institutional change. Its starting point is a dataset of European commons-management institutions composed by the Research Team Institutions for Collective Action of Utrecht University in the Common Rules-project.


The goal of the project is to exploit our interdisciplinary competences to recode the dataset on the basis of a systematic institutional analysis framework, to fully exploit its potential through the use of data mining and evolutionary analysis techniques, and to embed the resulting knowledge in an agent-based model capturing the essential dynamics of institutional change.


The project involves researchers from various research disciplines from Linnaeus University (Sweden), Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), and Tine De Moor and René van Weeren from the Institutions for Collective Action Research Team (Utrecht University , The Netherlands). The project is funded by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and runs from 1 January 2018 until the end of 2019.


> More info

> Project website


United We Stand 


This project aims at using the datasets from the completed project 'Data Infrastructures for the Study of Guilds and Other Forms of Collective Action'  – and others – to study the long term dynamics of institutions for collective action in pre-industrial Europe, and this in relationship with changes in marriage patterns and economic development. This project, entitled '“United We Stand”. The Dynamics and Consequences of Institutions for Collective Action in Pre-Industrial Europe', is funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant of 1.2 million €, awarded to Tine De Moor, and runs from 1 January 2010 until 31 December 2014. 


> Click here for more information on the project "United We Stand" 

> Click here for an extended description of this project


Common Rules


The project '"Common Rules". The regulation of institutions for managing commons in Europe, 1100 - 1800', co-ordinated by dr. Tine de Moor, has been awarded an Internationalisation Grant of 45,597 € by The Netherlands Scientific Organisation (NWO). The project will run from September 2011 until August 2014. This project aims to understand how efficient and effective regulation can be developed, executed by well-functioning institutions. The main objective of the internationalization project is to initiate a European-wide comparison of bodies of rules by studying commons in Western and Southern Europe, using the regulations that can be found in various historical records, for several centuries in each case.


Participants of this project are the research group of Economic and social history of Utrecht University, the research group UPNA-315 "Historia y Economía" of the Public University of Navarra (led by dr. José Miguel Lana Berasain) and a research group of the Department of History from Lancaster University, led by dr. Angus Winchester. Also involved in this project is Claudio Tagliapietra of the University of Bologna.


> Click here for more information on the project "Common Rules"  


Citizens' collectivities 


The Collective Action-team is currently preparing a new internship project after having organized a first version of this project  in early 2013. In this project, a group of students from the Master’s programme Politics and Society in Historical Perspective at Utrecht University will be selected to be placed with four Dutch organizations that are active in researching and promoting present-day collective action, in the form of civil initiatives. The students are going to research several civil initiatives – mainly in the care sector –  by means of a questionnaire that was developed by the Collective Action-team with input of the organizations, on specific topics related to the institutional design and functioning of these organizations. During their research the students will be supported by both the hosting organizations and by Principal Investigator Tine de Moor. The students will conduct this research in benefit of all parties involved: the civil initiatives, the organizations, the collective action team, and, of course, themselves. Since the students will write their master thesis on a specific aspect of collective action in self-governing and bottom-up initiatives as part of this project, the research will be of great importance for them as well.


For the Collective Action-team this project will be the first implementation of present-day case studies into the research of institutions for collective action. We assume that the knowledge we have gathered by investigating historical cases of institutions for collective action will be of great help in understanding and dealing with problems that arise in the initiatives of citizens today.


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A multidisciplinary approach to understand successful collective action: The case of Dutch mutuals


On September 1, 2016, Eva Vriens  (supervised by Vincent Buskens  and Tine de Moor) started her PhD project on sustainable cooperation in citizen collectives. Over the past ten years the number of citizen initiatives increased rapidly in Europe, and in the Netherlands in particular. The PhD project, funded by a Talent Grant of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), aims to uncover how these initiatives can generate conditions for sustainable cooperation. By focusing on the interplay between the individuals involved and properties of the social and institutional environment, it will be investigated what aspects reinforce cooperative efforts and which combinations of individual, social, and/or institutional factors are instead detrimental for fruitful cooperation. To answer these questions, data will be collected in lab experiments and through surveys distributed among members of Dutch Broodfondsen (mutual insurance associations).


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The future of village and neigborhood councils


The Research team Institutions for Collective Action, based at Utrecht University, has been asked by Landelijke Vereniging voor Kleine Kernen (LVKK) [National Association of Small Villages] to perform research on the changing role of village councils and neigborhood councils within the so-called 'participation society'.


Will these councils act mainly as a formal institution in negotiations between local governements and citizens? Or will these also be able to function as liaison between local governments and new citizens' collectivities in a wide range of social fields, varying from health care to energy production, and if so, how should this role take form?


In this project, the research will focus on how societal developments ragrding citizens' participation will affect the role and function of citizens' councils throughout the Netherlands. The research aims to provide the councils the proper tools to discover and explore which roles they can fulfill and to offer the councils an overview of opportunities and potential pittfalls of the various functions citizens' councils may fulfill.


> Click here for more info [in Dutch]


Overview of projects


Underneath you will see an impression of how the various project relate to each other (please note that the VIDI-project and the project 'A multidisciplinary approach to understand succesful cooperation' have not yet been added). Clicking on one of the circles will direct you to the information page of that specific project.


  ERC-Project, click for project info ERC-Project, click for project info Dynamics of Collective Action and Women's Agency, click for project info Common Rules-project, click for project info Internship Project 'Citizens' Collectivities', click for project info Project Social Entrepreneurship and Citizenshipt, click for project info

Related projects


For related projects related to the projects mentioned above, please consult the related projects-page.


Projects completed


Click here for an overview of completed projects.