Creating secure societies

Two universities. One ambition. More social impact.

Security is a basic need for people and societies but, nowadays, anything but self-evident. Rapid developments in technology and digitalization are changing the nature and extent of threats in our society. Think of cybercrime, the financial intertwining of the upper and underworld, and the role of social media in tensions and conflicts. As a result, our society is increasingly subject to dynamics that we hardly understand, if at all. This leads to increasing distrust, uncertainty, social unrest and feelings of insecurity.   

Complex societal security issues, police field central

Social security issues are now so complex that they can no longer be solved by one single party. Therefore, citizens, social parties, business, government and science need to join forces. This requires a centrally driven network. This is where we see a role for the VU-UT impact coalition Creating Secure Societies, to gather, develop and provide access to knowledge on societal security issues. For this purpose, a joint effort by players in the field of policing and science is crucial.

Our ambitions


Current focus areas

As VU Amsterdam and UT, we combine our social, technical, legal and ethical knowledge and expertise around societal security issues. Through the A1 line Amsterdam-Apeldoorn-Twente, we see opportunities for innovative, substantive and physical connections on essential security themes such as undermining, crisis management, polarization and the future of policing.

  • Focus areas

    Crisis management

    We speak of a crisis when society is disrupted by an emergency. The further course of the crisis partly depends on how the government responds to it. Within this theme we therefore investigate the interaction between the authorities, involved parties and affected communities. We want to better understand them and improve them as much as possible. To this end, we are studying the various methods and organisational forms that play a role. We assess them not only for their effectiveness but also for their intended and unintended consequences. In addition, we think about improving policy interventions, for example with early warning systems.

    Subversive crime

    When criminals make use of the services of legal parties, the underworld and the upper world become increasingly intertwined. This leads to intimidation, extreme violence and corruption, is subversive of society. Our aim is to gain a better understanding of the complexity of this undermining effect, so that we can develop sustainable interventions. Within this theme, we therefore take a close look at social, economic and legal consequences. For example, we are investigating how we can detect drug labs as quickly as possible with the help of sniffer drones.


    is a more visible consequence of crises. Growing contrast between groups is disruptive for a society that benefits from cooperation, trust and empathy. We want to understand the underlying processes of polarisation so that we can better prevent and counter social unrest. To this end, we study the psychological, sociological, technological and political factors that can influence it. In addition, we are experimenting with ways of generating empathy, for example with virtual reality. 

    The future of the police profession

    We look at how (new) technologies affect policing and vice versa. This includes how the police professional of the future will respond to social media/big data but also how they can make optimal use of these technologies themselves.

  • More information

    Would you like to know more about this impact programme? Please contact us. We would be happy to help you.

    or take a look at our staff page.