Researchers win Horizon Europe grant to explore companies’ influence on democracy

Johanna Mair and Sébastien Mena lead the Hertie School team for the REBALANCE international research consortium.

Hertie School researchers have received Horizon Europe funding from the European Commission to study if and how companies might influence, or even undermine, democratic processes. With the project, the researchers aim to create a permanent framework to monitor these issues, incubate social enterprises that promote democracy and give policy recommendations to decision-makers.

Professor of Organisation, Strategy and Leadership Johanna Mair and Professor of Organisation and Governance Sébastien Mena will lead the Hertie School team, which also includes postdoctoral researcher Ignas Bruder. REBALANCE stands for “Rebalancing disruptive business of multinational corporation and global value chains within democratic and inclusive citizenship processes” and is funded for the period 2022-2025 under an EU-wide call for research proposals on protecting and nurturing democracies.

For the next 36 months, the REBALANCE international research consortium will explore the ways through which companies – especially large and multinational companies – weaken even the most advanced democracies in Europe; influence economic, energy and industrial policy decisions; and contribute to the deterioration of the rights of the social communities that gravitate around them. At the same time, the researchers will study how companies can fight threats to democracy, such as rising levels of populism across the globe.

At the Hertie School, Mair, Mena and Bruder are researching how social enterprises can strengthen democracy by new forms of organisation along democratic principles.

“REBALANCE will allow us to explore how to re-embed democracy in the economy,” says Johanna Mair. “It is time to connect the discussion on the future of capitalism with the quest to strengthen democracy.”

The project began on 14 October 2022 and will be carried out by a consortium of eight partners: the University of Pisa, the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, the Stockholm University, the Hertie School in Berlin, the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, the Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and the NGO Source International.

Find out more about the kick-off of REBALANCE here.


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