COVID-19 has stretched governments and regulators but provided a rare chance to test ‘bottom drawer’ ideas in the real world.
The ANZSOG/National Regulators Community of Practice’s (NRCoP’s) first ‘facilitated conversation’ brought together a group of senior regulators from a range of sectors and jurisdictions on 25 August to discuss the challenges of the pandemic, as well as what regulators can learn from innovative approaches in volatile and unprecedented times.
The conversations are a new initiative for the NRCoP and respond to long-standing requests by NRCoP participants for the opportunity for deeper engagement with their regulatory peers on common challenges and innovations.
The first facilitated conversation focused on Windows of opportunity in a crisis and discussed the platform which regulating in a time of pandemic has provided for testing out ‘bottom drawer’ ideas, for accelerating regulators’ transition to more digital and contemporary forms of regulation, and for ceasing areas of work which have proven be low value or redundant.
Three key issues were canvassed in small groups:
Notwithstanding the spread of regulatory sectors and the diverse circumstances facing duty holders, there was a surprising degree of commonality between the responses from participants. They needed to:
The conversation format allowed participants to go into greater depth about how to do things differently. In particular, the conversation highlighted three kinds of change: new opportunities; activities that have had to be put on the backburner; and areas where things are neither better nor worse – just different.
1. New opportunities
Rapid, real time data acquisition: The rapidly unfolding consequences of the pandemic have compelled or accelerated significant change to the kinds of data regulators collect and to their collection tools, particularly digitalisation:
Partnering: The pandemic has provided a platform to expand engagement, transparency and collaboration with co-regulators and regulated sectors:
Nuanced engagement with the turmoil facing the regulated sector: For many regulators, their view of their mission as protecting the community has needed to expand to include protection of the viability of their regulated sector in the face of a global pandemic. This has included:
Risk Tolerance: Many regulators have needed to adopt a different and more pragmatic tolerance to risk. This may assist over time in realigning the mismatch between community, political and media expectations that risk will be eliminated, and the reality of regulators’ limited resources:
2. On to the backburner
Delaying routine compliance activity. The massive demands of responding to COVID-19 has meant that virtually all regulators have needed to delay, scale back or cease routine compliance activity:
3. Not better or worse, just different
Capacity of Teams: All regulators have needed to assess and address the capability of their team members to operate remotely and under changed business conditions:
As part of the conversation, participants were surveyed to determine their views on the format. ANZSOG and the NRCoP were very pleased with participants’ responses to the evaluation survey, particularly their satisfaction with the format giving them the ability to contribute, and being able to capture insights for the benefit of the broader NRCoP membership.
The next facilitated conversation will be on Compliance in a Crisis and will take place on 22 September from 11:00-12:30 AEST.