Dr Koen P.R. Bartels

Dr Koen P.R. Bartels

Institute of Local Government Studies
Senior Lecturer in Public Management

Contact details

INLOGOV - School of Government
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Koen Bartels is Senior Lecturer in Public Management at INLOGOV. His research focuses on relationships between citizens and government in an urban context. His key research interests are public encounters, social and democratic innovation, relationality, practice theory, action research, and interpretive policy analysis. His research has been published in leading international journals, including Urban Studies, Environment & Planning C, Public Administration, Public Administration Review, and International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. He has also published 'Communicative Capacity: Public Encounters in Participatory Theory and Practice' (The Policy Press) and co-edited ‘Action Research in Policy Analysis: Critical and Relational Approaches to Sustainability Transitions’ (Routledge).

Koen is INLOGOV’s Director of Postgraduate Research and teaches modules in public leadership, democracy and participation, managing in a political environment, and research design and practice. He is also chair of the ECPR Standing Group ‘Theoretical Perspectives on Policy Analysis’ and editorial board member for Administrative Theory & Praxis.


  • PhD in Politics, University of Glasgow, 2012
  • MPhil in Public Administration, Leiden University, 2008
  • BSc in Public Administration, Leiden University, 2006
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


Koen holds a BSc and MPhil in Public Administration from Leiden University (the Netherlands) and a PhD in Politics from the University of Glasgow. 

At Leiden University, Koen developed an interdisciplinary outlook on public policy and administration and a specific interest in local governance and interpretive research. 

At the University of Glasgow, Koen conducted a PhD project on public encounters in participatory democracy. He conducted an interpretive comparison of community participation projects in three European cities. By analysing encounters between public professionals and citizens, he developed a novel theory of communicative capacity that explains how they communicate, why this is so difficult, and what could lead to more productive conversations. 

Koen worked as Lecturer in Management at Bangor Business School. Here he started to study social innovation, specialised in action research, and advanced the study of public encounters, practice theory and relationality in public policy and administration. He taught courses in public sector management and innovation, comparative public administration, and research methods. He was also responsible for organising PhD seminars and ran a discussion group on qualitative research.


  • MSc - Leadership in Public Services
  • MPA - Leadership in Public Services
  • MPA - Democracy, Governance and Participation
  • MPA - Managing in a Political Environment
  • MA Social Research - Research Design, Practice and Ethics

Postgraduate supervision

  • Ms Sally Ward – Community self-organisation to mitigate wider mechanisms of social injustice and inequality

  • Ms Mega Waty – Co-existing modes of governance and street-level bureaucrats’ practices: the implementation of the CCT programme in Indonesia

  • Mr Kevin Harris – Town and Parish Councils, democratic voice and community action

  • Mr Tangang Andrew Tangang - Collaborative localism: community governments in the decentralisation process in Cameroon

  • Ms. Elizabeth Woodcock – Cross-Sector Collaboration for Wales’ National Wellbeing (external supervisor at Bangor University)


Koen’s research has theoretically and empirically advanced understanding of public encounters. He approaches public encounters in terms of the relational dynamics ‘in-between’ and around citizens and public professionals as they interact. Koen has studied communicative practices and patterns of resistance and change in the context of community participation, neighbourhood governance and community organising.

Koen is an action researcher who co-produces knowledge and actions with local actors to generate learning and change. He has conducted grant-funded research projects involving co-production, knowledge exchange and impact generation in the UK and abroad. He has taken a leading role in developing action research in the field of policy studies. 

Koen’s research is at the forefront of conceptual efforts at understanding policy as practice and promoting relational thinking in public administration and policy analysis. He has also been involved in recent efforts at reinvigorating the approach of deliberative policy analysis and improving understanding of what is involved in learning and teaching the practice of interpretive and qualitative research. 

Current projects 

Koen’s current research explores the relational dynamics of sustaining social innovation in local governance. It aims to understand and improve the paradoxical situation in which innovative ways addressing local needs are simultaneously encouraged and resisted. He conducts action research with social innovations and local governance stakeholders to help sustain fundamental transformations in underlying relationships and values. He is currently leading the development of a major grant proposal for examining how asset-based approaches to social prescribing can transform wellbeing relationships.


  • ESCR Impact Acceleration Account Knowledge Exchange Fellowship. October 2016              
  • ESCR Impact Acceleration Account Small Grant. October 2015
  • Research grant from Municipality of Amsterdam. July 2013
  • University of Glasgow Social Sciences Faculty Scholarship. April 2008 


  • ‘Jan van Hout’ Thesis Award for best Master thesis academic year 2008-2009. Awarded by the Institute of Public Administration, Leiden University.
  • Sage Prize for best postgraduate paper at the Annual Public Administration Committee Conference. Awarded by the Editors of Public Policy and Administration.

Other activities

External roles

  • Chair ECPR Standing Group ‘Theoretical Perspectives on Policy Analysis’
  • Editorial board member of ‘Administrative Theory & Practice’
  • Advisory board member for Interpretive Policy Analysis conference 2021
  • Peer reviewer for
    • Academic funders: Dutch Research Council (NWO), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
    • Publishers: Oxford University Press, Edward Elgar, The Policy Press, Emerald, Century Process Press.
Journals: Urban Studies, Public Administration, Public Management Review, Public Administration Review, American Review of Public Administration, Local Government Studies, Urban Planning, Voluntary Sector Review, Social Policy & Administration, International Review of Administrative Sciences, Politics, Evidence & Policy, Administration & Society, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, Perspectives on Public Management and Governance, BMC Health Services Research


Recent publications


Bartels, K & Wittmayer, J (eds) 2018, Action Research in Policy Analysis: Critical and Relational Approaches to Sustainability Transitions. Routledge Advances in Research Methods, 1st edn, Routledge, London. <https://www.routledge.com/Action-Research-in-Policy-Analysis-Critical-and-Relational-Approaches/Bartels-Wittmayer/p/book/9781138553828>


Bartels, K 2022, 'Experiential learning: a relational approach to sustaining community-led social innovation', Innovation: the European Journal of Social Science Research. https://doi.org/10.1080/13511610.2022.2121268

Bartels, K & Friedman, V 2022, 'Shining light on the dark side of action research: power, relationality and transformation', Action Research, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 99-104. https://doi.org/10.1177/14767503221098033

Bartels, K, Wittmayer, J & Larrea, M 2021, 'Introduction: Action Research, Policy and Politics', International Journal of Action Research, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 3-17. https://doi.org/10.3224/ijar.v17i1.01

Closs-Davies, S, Merkl-Davies, D & Bartels, K 2021, 'Tax Credits as an accounting technology of government: “Showing my boys they have to work, because that is what happens”', Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAJ-12-2018-3798

Bartels, K, Greenwood, DJ & Wittmayer, J 2020, 'How Action Research Can Make Deliberative Policy Analysis More Transformative', Policy Studies, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 392-410. https://doi.org/10.1080/01442872.2020.1724927

Bartels, K, Wagenaar, H & Li, Y 2020, 'Introduction: Towards deliberative policy analysis 2.0', Policy Studies, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 295-306. https://doi.org/10.1080/01442872.2020.1772219

Bartels, K 2020, 'Transforming the relational dynamics of urban governance: how social innovation research can create a trajectory for learning and change', Urban Studies, pp. 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098019889290

Closs-Davies, S, Bartels, K & Merkl-Davies, DM 2020, '“The frog in the pan”: Relational transformation of public values in the UK tax authority', Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, pp. 1-29. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-11-2019-4280

Bartels, K & Turnbull, N 2019, 'Relational public administration: a synthesis and heuristic classification of relational approaches', Public Management Review. https://doi.org/10.1080/14719037.2019.1632921

Bartels, K 2018, 'Collaborative dynamics in street level work: Working in and with communities to improve relationships and reduce deprivation', Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, vol. 36, no. 7, pp. 1319-1337. https://doi.org/10.1177/2399654418754387

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Bartels, K 2020, Fitting In: The Double-Sided Work of Intermediating Social Innovation in Local Governance. in H Sullivan & H Dickinson (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant. Palgrave.

Bartels, K 2019, Connecting: a relational approach to re-rooting communities, public services and politics. in M Stout (ed.), The future of progressivism: applying Follettian thinking to Contemporary Issues. Process Century Press, Anoka, MN, pp. 317-354.

Stout, M, Bartels, K & Love, JM 2018, Clarifying Collaborative Dynamics in Governance Networks. in M Stout (ed.), From Austerity to Abundance?: Creative Approaches to Coordinating the Common Good. Emerald, Bingley, pp. 91-115. <https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/S2045-794420180000006005>

Wittmayer, J & Bartels, K 2018, Conclusion: Critical and Relational Action Research for Policy Change and Sustainability Transitions. in K Bartels & J Wittmayer (eds), Action Research in Policy Analysis: Critical and Relational Approaches to Sustainability Transitions. Routledge, London, pp. 247-259.

View all publications in research portal