Agile Regulation in a Changing World

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Experts extol the virtues of applying agile thinking to regulatory policymaking and implementation.

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The world has always been changing. It was the ancient Greek thinker Heraclitus, after all, who remarked that we could never step into the same river twice.

Today, the rivers confronting regulators are moving more swiftly than ever before. A changing climate as well as rapidly changing technologies, such as artificial intelligence, pose new challenges. Regulators try to keep pace with these changes while still providing needed protections for the public.

Seeking to address regulation’s “pacing problem,” organizations such as the World Economic Forum, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the National Academy of Public Administration have over the past several years advocated that regulators pursue “agile regulation.”

What is agile regulation? How can it be implemented in ways that allow regulators to continue to seek to shape private sector behavior in socially optimal ways?

In February, the Penn Program on Regulation organized a panel discussion of leading experts about agile regulation to discuss these questions. Afterwards, we invited the panel participants to share their ideas about agile regulation in essay form. This series is the result.

The Regulatory Review is pleased and honored to publish the five essays in this series. Together, these essays make the case for agile regulation—explaining what it is, and where it comes from. They also illuminate the challenges that regulators face when trying to make regulation more agile, and they offer ideas for how to overcome these challenges to achieve positive results.

The contributors to this series are: G. Edward DeSeve, National Academy of Public Administration and IBM Center for the Business of Government; Yael Kariv-Teitelbaum, University of Pennsylvania; Heidi R. King, formerly National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Larry A. Rosenthal, University of California, Berkeley; Paul R. Verkuil, Administrative Conference of the United States.

To Be Agile, Think Pragmatically

July 31, 2023 | Paul R. Verkuil, Administrative Conference of the United States

Recent efforts to promote agile governance have deep roots in American pragmatism.

Agile Government is a Gateway to the Future

August 1, 2023 | G. Edward DeSeve, NAPA/IBM Center for the Business of Government

Successful governing today—and in the future—depends on officials adopting an agile mindset.

Regulation Must Become Agile to Remain Relevant

August 2, 2023 | Heidi R. King, formerly National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

By applying principles from software development, regulators can improve regulatory performance in a fast-changing world.

Building Agile Regulatory “Muscles”

August 3, 2023 | Yael Kariv-Teitelbaum, University of Pennsylvania

A robust institutional capacity and a supportive legislative framework are needed to ensure agile regulation succeeds.

But Forbearance Can Be Agile, Too

August 4, 2023 | Larry A. Rosenthal, University of California, Berkeley

“Move fast and break things” is not always the best, or even most agile, approach to governance.