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Participatory Leadership

The rise of participatory culture in contemporary society has led to a lowering of barriers to civic engagement and also firm support for distributing creativity through online and interpersonal networks. According to the French philosopher, cultural theorist and media scholar Pierre Lévy our participatory culture completely transforms the world where people work together to collectively classify and organise information and knowledge which he coined as collective intelligence that functionally extends our nervous system by creating a virtual property.

Social psychology research provides substantial evidence that participation and deliberation can lead to individual and collective benefits. Driven by collective and intrinsic motives, people feel empowered and act in a more collaborative fashion when they are working towards shared goals. Joint decisions imply that the social commitment to one another is greater and this increases commitment to the decision. Also, deciding together results in better quality decisions than deciding alone.

From the leadership angle, organisational studies and management science have for a long time been concerned with how different (hierarchical or non-hierarchical) arrangements can enhance performance, engender commitment, organisational and team effectiveness. Different leadership styles exhibit different kinds of action logic and react completely differently when their power or safety is challenged.

Seven leadership styles

Source: Rooke - Torbert (2005)

According to one definition (Rooke - Torbert, 2005) the Participative Leadership (PL) paradigm is based on respect and engagement:

It constructively focuses energy in every human to human encounter. A more advanced, more democratic and more effective model of leadership, it harnesses diversity, builds community, and creates shared responsibility for action. It deepens individual and collective learning yielding real development and growth.

The theory of PL points out that the ideal leadership style is one that encourages active involvement by taking the input of others into account. Through participation, group members feel more relevant and committed to the decision-making process. In participative theories the leader is functioning as a facilitator rather than simply issuing orders or allocating assignments. A main benefit of participative leadership is that the process allows people to express their creativity and demonstrate abilities and talents that would not be made apparent otherwise.

Through the involvement in decision-making of those who must carry out the decisions, PL improves the understanding of the issues and the commitment to actions. Depending on the type of decision-making, the level of participation may also substantially vary.

Proper (psycho-)metrics for PL is a blind spot in the literature: practically there are no instruments to measure the degree of PL. The metrics being developed by the SciCafe2.0, necessarily build on the following evidence base:

  • PL usually leads to satisfaction with the decision-making, but only rarely leads to increased motivation, performance or productivity
  • PL proves to be effective when the task is more complex and viewed as more important for the participants

See also:

Delwiche, A – Jakobs Henderson J. (2013) What is participatory culture? In:
Delwiche, A., (ed.) The participatory cultures handbook. New York Routledge, 2013.

Andriessen, E. J., - Drenth, P. J. (2013). Leadership: Theories and models. In: Charles De Wolff, P J D Drenth, Thierry Henk, Charles Johannes Wolff. A

Handbook of Work and Organizational Psychology: Volume 4: Organizational Psychology. 321.

Rooke D. - Torbert W. R. Seven Transformations of Leadership. Harvard Business Review, 2005 April. 66-76.

Leadership Theories in Five Minutes –