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Keywords:

  • enforced self-regulation;
  • management-based regulation;
  • meta-regulation;
  • principles-based regulation;
  • process-oriented regulation;
  • regulatory governance;
  • self-regulation

Abstract

Regulators in different countries and domains experiment with regulatory tools that allow organizations to adapt regulation to their individual circumstances, while holding them accountable for their self-regulation systems. Several labels have been coined for this type of regulation, including systems-based regulation, enforced self-regulation, management-based regulation, principles-based regulation, and meta-regulation. In this article, these forms of regulatory governance are classified as belonging to one family of “process-oriented regulation.” Based on a review of diverse empirical and theoretical research, it is suggested that the family of process-oriented regulation tends to have a positive, albeit varied, impact on organizations' performance, and the factors that shape this inconsistent effect are analyzed. Building on aspects of Parker's normative construct of “meta-regulation,” the article explores the extent to which her innovative notion of a learning-oriented approach to regulation might overcome some of the weaknesses of prevalent process-oriented approaches. It is proposed that under conditions of regulatory uncertainty or entrenched and prevalent non-compliance or both, meta-regulation is likely to have many advantages over other forms of process-oriented regulation. Yet realizing these advantages requires a rare combination of high regulatory capacity, a stable regulatory agenda, and a supportive political environment.