Society's perspective must become focus for regulators

Batterij foto en filmcamera's bij persconferentie

NWO has awarded a National Science Agenda grant to the second phase of the research project ‘Vernieuwing van Toezicht’ (Innovating Regulation). Researchers from Erasmus University Rotterdam, Tilburg University, VU University Amsterdam and Utrecht University will work together with regulatory authorities to develop a new vision on regulation and translate it into regulatory practice. Society has changed and regulatory authority must therefore change too, says project leader Judith van Erp of Utrecht University. Regulation should focus more on people's needs.

Phase II of the NWO/NWA programme ‘Innovating Regulation: Towards more responsive regulatory practices' has been awarded a grant of over 700,000 euros that will allow Utrecht University, together with Tilburg University and Erasmus University, to develop a knowledge utilisation programme over the next five years in collaboration with TIAS and the Inspection Council and other public regulators.

Please read the NWO press release (website NWO)


The aim of the project is, through joint knowledge development with regulatory authorities, to gain insight into what responsive regulation is, how responsive regulation can be organised and how it can take shape in interactions at strategic, organisational and operational levels of regulatory directors, managers and professionals. Responsiveness in this context stands for dealing with developments in the outside world, with the reguators assuming an equal relationship with citizens and service providers.

There are more conflicts of interest in society. Citizens have become more articulate and the number of non-public regulators his risen, says Judith van Erp. Regulatory authorities are at a distance from society and intervene by enforcing. But society has become much more 'horizontal'. Citizens have all kinds of different desires. So regulation must also change, can no longer be so 'top-down', must move more among citizens, focus on people's needs.

Regulators are drawn into addressing social issues

Focusing on individuals is increasingly a quality requirement of services such as healthcare. To determine whether services are focused on the individual ‘customer’, users are the touchstone - not the regulator - in dialogue with the service provider, Anne Margriet Pot of Erasmus University argues.

In addition, there are increasing demands on regulators. Political issues such as the energy transition, for example, are also on their plate. They are drawn into addressing social issues. Patrick Kenis of Tilburg University: How regulators engage in these networks of parties is an important question.

Conducting research with practice

Due to persistent criticism from regulated organisations, citizens, media and politicians, there are calls to innovate supervision. The NWA programme Innovating Regulation aims to answer the question of what that change should look like and organises the process of change in a Community of Practice and in learning courses.

Science and practice needs come together very nicely here, Patrick Kenis continues. We are going to develop new practices together with supervisors in continuous interaction, by sharing common needs and interests in a Community of Practice and also organising mutual knowledge transfer in education programmes, in cooperation with TIAS.

It's about recalibrating the vision of regulatory organisations

The inspections have created the opportunity to come to a fundamental recalibration of the regulatory role in society, says Judith van Erp. We will now bring together the knowledge gained by the three consortia in the first phase of the research project, and work on a new vision for regulation. Not only to see what we can learn from that at a higher level, but also to translate that to the shop floor, make it manageable. Anne Margriet Pot: 'So that all parties involved, regulators but also service providers and clients will benefit.

We can learn a lot from doing research together with practioners. The inspectorates help us with data collection but also to think about research designs, for example. Although we remain independent, as researchers of course. They see things just a little differently and sometimes come up with interesting suggestions, also to make things work better in practice by making minor adjustments.

That makes it really useful to work with them. This is different from doing research into practice, this is really doing research with practice. I find it very instructive, says Van Erp. This is really science in action.

More information

Would you like to know more? Please contact the project leader, Judith van Erp:

Please read the NWO press release about the grant award (website NWO)