Management strategies in response to an institutional crisis: The case of earthquakes in the Netherlands

Published date01 September 2018
Date01 September 2018
Management strategies in response to an
institutional crisis: The case of earthquakes in the
Arjen Schmidt | Kees Boersma | Peter Groenewegen
Department of Organization Sciences, Vrije
Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The
Arjen Schmidt, Department of Organization
Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De
Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam 1081 HV, The
Funding information
Nederlandse Organisatie voor
Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Grant/Award
Number: 409-14-003
When a policy sector is confronted with a rel atively strong and
steep decline in legitimacy, we speak of an institutional crisis.
We know little about the causes or consequen ces of these cri-
ses. This article explores how instit utional crises are managed. It
focuses on the effects of management strategies obs erved in a
case study of an institutional crisis in t he Netherlands. While we
found that policy elites displaye d a tendency to maintain the sta-
tus quo of a policy sector, we also found that the ef fectiveness
of their response strategies was negate d by the counter-
response it evoked among freshly energize d interest, advocacy
and citizen groups. We conclude that the resol ution of an insti-
tutional crisis is inherently contested. Based on our case study,
we develop a theoretical model and fo rmulate propositions that
may help to improve our understandin g of institutional crisis
On 16 August 2012, a small earthquake (3.6 on the Richter scale) struck the town of Huizinge in the Dutch province
of Groningen. Earthquakes rarely occur in the Netherlands, so this was a highly unusual event. The earthquake
was caused by local gas production. Several thousand households reported property damage and no people were
injured; its immediate physical consequences appeared limited
(Dutch Safety Board 2015).
The earthquake caused an enormous and unprecedented public backlash against gas production, produc-
tion policies and the actors responsible for it (Perlaviciute et al. 2017). In fact, for the first time since gas
We should note that the physical consequences appeared limited in international comparison to regulartectonic earthquakes.
Nonetheless, there has been (and continues to be) legitimate hardship for those affected by the earthquakes. Groningen residents
have experienced very real consequences from damaged houses and uncertainty about the housing market, as well as psychological
effects. In this article, however, we focus on the consequences of the earthquake crisis for the gas production policy sector.
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12516
This is an open access article under the termsof the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivsLicense, which permits use and distribution
in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
© 2018 The Authors. Public Administration published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Public Administration. 2018;96:513527. 513

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