One year on the job

Time really flies! Around this time last year, I was preparing my move to Aotearoa/New Zealand to take up the position as Chair in Regulatory Practice at the Victoria University of Wellington. Now the first year on the job is done. I will very soon release the first Annual Report of the Chair in Regulatory Practice, but let me talk you through a few of the highlights of the first year in this post.

If you are keen to have a more in-depth insight already, please read the quarterly newsletters that I have published throughout the year to keep you up to date about the progress. Thank you for your ongoing interest in the work of the Chair in Regulatory Practice.

State of the Art in Regulatory Practice Research Papers

Each year two topics have central attention in the Chair’s research programme. Through broad and systematic reviews of the international academic, regulatory literature, the Chair seeks to transfer state-of-the-art knowledge on regulatory governance to executives, managers and frontline workers. In this first year of the Chair, the focus was on behavioural insights and risk:

  • Insights from behavioural economics and the behavioural sciences have rapidly entered regulatory policy and practice—an approach to regulation colloquially known as ‘nudging’. There remains a question, however, about the opportunities and constraints encountered by regulatory practitioners—including street-level bureaucrats and regulatory front-office workers—when implementing regulatory regimes that build on nudging-type incentives, and, particularly, about how these practitioners can overcome the constraints they experience.

The paper is available as an open-access publication: van der Heijden, Jeroen (2019). Behavioural insights and regulatory practice: A review of the international academic literature. State of the Art in Regulatory Governance Research Paper – 2019.01. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington/Government Regulatory Practice Initiative. Available online here.

  • In regulatory governance and regulatory practice, ‘risk’ is probably one of the topics most talked about and least understood. The notion of risk is like the notion of time or happiness: we all know perfectly well what it is until we try to explain it to others (or to ourselves, for that matter). Risk is intangible. It becomes somewhat unreal when we try to discuss and unpack it.

The paper is available as an open-access publication: van der Heijden, Jeroen (2019). Risk governance and risk-based regulation: A review of the international academic literature. State of the Art in Regulatory Governance Research Paper – 2019.02. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington/Government Regulatory Practice Initiative. Available online here.

Review topics for next year are (complex adaptive) systems theory and regulatory governance, and responsive regulation.

Engagement activities

Besides research activities, I undertake a range of engagement activities. Central to these are regulatory clinics and workshops, this blog, and ongoing engagement with the broader public through invited lectures, key-notes and different media outlets.

The mission of the regulatory clinics and workshops is to improve the regulatory literacy of those involved in regulatory issues. To fulfil this mission, I have organised a series of 12 half-day meetings at the sponsoring agencies, with discussions and workshops on regulatory practice topics and question sessions with government staff involved in regulatory activities.

These clinics have attracted approximately 400 participants, predominantly from the sponsoring agencies.

The Chair in Regulatory Practice has quickly gained interest beyond the initial engagement activities agreed on with its sponsoring agencies. In the first year, the Chair has received a broad range of requests to speak at policy and practitioner conferences and seminars and to provide workshops on regulatory practice.

Over the last year, I have given a total of nine invited lectures and key-notes and have publicised the work of the Chair to an audience of approximately 1,400 people.

Education activities

Through regulatory clinics and workshops, I actively engage in professional and executive education and teaching. Other educational activities related to the Chair’s engagement with the Aotearoa/New Zealand Certificate in Regulatory Compliance, and PhD and MSc student supervision.

In this first year, I have begun setting up an evaluation of the Certificate in Regulatory Compliance with the Skills Organisation and the G-REG community. I will continue this evaluation in the second year of the Chair (July 2019 – June 2020).

Overall experience

I have managed to carry out most of the research programme laid out in an earlier blog post. The research on the state-of-the-art in regulatory governance, as well as the research on regulatory stewardship,  have progressed exceptionally well. This research also provides an excellent basis for engagement and education activities. Research activities, engagement activities, and education activities strengthen each other, I have learnt, and the whole of these activities is larger than the sum of its parts.

Of course, there were challenges also. With 11 external sponsors to the Chair (10 G-REG agencies and the Treasury), as well as the Victoria University of Wellington, it took some time for everyone involved to understand what the Chair can do and, more importantly, what the Chair cannot. This has resulted in a slight change in the original research programme. That is, a move away from novel empirical research of regulatory governance in Aotearoa/New Zealand, towards more meta-level type research as published in the State of the Art in Regulatory Governance Research Papers.

A second challenge has been to continue my work on urban climate governance. Setting up the Chair has taken quite some time away from my earlier research activities, and, to be honest, Aotearoa/New Zealand isn’t much of a frontrunner when it comes to urban climate governance and urban climate actions. This requires a slight change in my empirical research in this area as well. That said, given some new collaborations with scholars outside of Aotearoa/New Zealand that have emerged over the last year, I am convinced that in the next year of the Chair, I will be able to accelerate my work in this area again.

A final challenge was getting used to the Aotearoa/New Zealand work culture. There are some differences, I’ve come to experience, between working in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand that I had not expected before moving here. But that being said, the transition has overall been a very easy one, and the first year as Chair in Regulatory Practice has been a fantastic experience.

I’m looking forward to my second year as Chair in Regulatory Practice.

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