Adopting a systemic perspective appears to offer a useful way think about regulatory challenges and problems. This may explain the increasing call for ‘systems thinking’ in regulatory reform.

Systems thinking, systems science and systems theory are a broad class of theoretical and practical tools that aim to map, explore and interrogate the behaviour and outcomes of (complex and/or adaptive) systems. But how do we bring these theoretical and practical tools and approaches into a context in which they can be applied to regulatory problems? What results have we observed where these tools and approaches have been applied in regulatory scholarship?

To assist executives, managers and frontline workers in regulatory organisations and units who are interested in systems thinking and systems science, the Chair in Regulatory Practice at the Victoria University of Wellington has carried out a systematic review of a broad range of international academic literature on the use of these theoretical and practical tools and approaches to regulation.

The fourth State of the Art in Regulatory Governance Research Paper is an outcome of this review. It addresses five themes: (1) the evolution of systems thinking, (2) examples of systems thinking from the regulatory literature, (3) evidence of how systems thinking helps improving regulatory governance, and (4) the epistemic challenges and (5) ethical challenges that come with applying systems thinking to regulatory governance and practice.

The paper is available as open access publication:

van der Heijden, Jeroen (2019). Systems thinking and regulatory governance: A review of the international academic literature. State of the Art in Regulatory Governance Research Paper – 2020.04. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington/Government Regulatory Practice Initiative.

Available for download here.