Charles Sabel

Experimentalist governance in social services transitions in the Netherlands
Between June 2015 and July 2016

Charles SabelWho is Charles Sabel?

Charles Frederick Sabel is the world’s leading expert on capacitating social services, pragmatism and experimentalist governance. He is the Maurice T. Moore Professor of Law and Social Science at Columbia Law School in New York City, a post he has held since 1995. Formerly he was the Ford International Professor of Social Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At Radboud University, Charles Sabel will join the Nijmegen School of Management research group Governance and Innovations in Social Services (GAINS), coordinated by his nominator Dr Jan-Kees Helderman.

What is his research project about?

The transition of social services such as youth care, long term care and job re-integration constitutes a reform unprecedented in the post-war Dutch welfare state with much strategic uncertainty for all stakeholders involved. The basic challenge that Sabel addresses in his research is the lack of social service responsiveness to the changing demands and needs of citizens during their life course.

Social services need collaborative relationships to successfully innovate. With intensified competition and performance contract regimes have led to uncertainty and distrust, eroding these relationships. Sabel’s experimentalist governance ideas offer a promising alternative to these governance failures. Experimentalist governance means that “local” service providers are authorized to exercise discretion in pursuing policy goals in particular contexts under the condition that they report their results according to jointly agreed metrics. This encourages local experimentation while allowing for rapid correction of failure and the generalization of success. The current transition of social services appears to be an excellent and timely opportunity to investigate the variety of (local) conditions for experimental governance and their consequences.

Why was he nominated?

Professor Rob van der Heijden, dean of the Nijmegen School of Management says that Charles Sabel has an internationally significant impact on almost all disciplines the Nijmegen School of Management is engaged in. ‘Among the leading policy scientists in the world, Sabel stands out for challenging conventional academic wisdom about ‘negative’ dualization drift on the one hand, while at the same time keeping an eye on pragmatic policy concerns of real life policymakers, engaged in a quest for the adjustment and improvement of governance by learning.’

‘We are not only extremely proud that Sabel has chosen us to collaborate with us on the further development and elaboration of his experimentalist governance theory, but we also expect that his stay at our institute may have significant societal impact as well, given the current transitions in social services.

If you want to know more

ViewProf. Sabel's personal website