Fundamentals of Regulatory Design

fundamentals of regulatory design
fundamentals of regulatory design--Thai translation

Publisher's Description:

The modern regulatory world is crowded with ideas about different regulatory approaches including, among others: performance-based regulation, self-regulation, light-touch regulation, right-touch regulation, safety management systems, 3rd party regulation, co-regulation, prescriptive regulation, risk-based regulation, a harm-reduction approach, problem-solving, and responsive regulation.

Are these various terms merely rhetorical, or aspirational? Do they signal the political preferences of the times? Which of them actually affect operations?

Professional regulators—along with everyone else in the risk-control business—face a complex array of choices when they design (or redesign) their strategies and structures, programs, work-flows, relationships, and day-to-day operations. What regulators choose to do, and how they choose to do it, greatly affects their effectiveness, as well as the quality of life in a democracy.

This book tackles five major design issues that affect all regulators (and can be applied by anyone else in the risk-control business). It demystifies the various labels and vogue prescriptions for regulatory conduct, clarifies the options, and generates a range of distinct ideas about what it might mean to be a "risk-based regulator."

Audience:  This book is designed primarily for regulatory practitioners, but will be relevant for other professionals whose roles include risk-management and harm-reduction. In the public sector, this includes law-enforcement and public-safety organizations, as well as security and intelligence agencies. In the private sector it includes compliance managers, safety officers and risk-managers. In the not-for-profit sector this includes any organization that takes on, or contributes to, harm-reduction missions.

Author: Professor Malcolm K. Sparrow, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has been working with senior officials in regulatory and enforcement agencies for over 30 years. Prior to joining Harvard's faculty in 1988, he served ten years with the British Police Service, rising to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector. He has authored eight other books, including The Regulatory Craft (Brookings, 2000) and The Character of Harms (Cambridge University Press, 2008). He chairs Harvard's Executive Program: "Strategic Management of Regulatory & Enforcement Agencies."

Contents:  This book is designed, in the context of a pandemic, to substitute for five core lectures/discussions that would normally be delivered face-to-face in executive-level courses and workshops. Professor Sparrow offers these lectures here in a comfortably accessible and conversational style.

Each chapter describes a different dimension of choice, inviting readers to assess their own organization's history and habits as a precursor to figuring out whether, looking forward, some adjustment is warranted or desirable.

Each chapter contains a collection of "Frequently Asked Questions" reflecting practitioners' common queries about the concepts presented, and ends with a "Diagnostic Exercise" (a set of probing questions) that readers can use, perhaps with colleagues in a book-group, to apply the analysis in their own setting.

Online Teaching:  Individual chapters can be assigned as “asynchronous study assignments” for courses on regulatory practice. Students, feeling “all screened out,” may appreciate the availability of printed editions.

Diagnostic Exercises:  The complete set of Diagnostic Exercises, covering all chapters, is available here for download as a word.docx file.

Webinars: Professor Sparrow described his book in an online webinar hosted by the Australian Regulators' Community of Practice (RCoP), first broadcast live on 27th October 2020.  An edited version is available through the RCoP YouTube channel.

Professor Sparrow made a similar presentation for the HKS Center for Business & Government's Regulatory Policy Program, on 17th September 2020, which is now available on the HKS RPP YouTube channel.
Thai language translation: "หลักคิดพื้นฐานในการออกแบบการกำกับดูแล" released November 2021

Fundamentals of Regulatory Design has now been translated into the (Central) Thai language at the request of Thai regulators. The translation work was done by Pongpit Pinsai, Assistant Director of Thailand's Securities & Exchange Commission. Produced by Skybooks Co., Ltd., the translation is now available through the Khon Kahn University Bookshop in electronic and printed form. A high-resolution image of the (wrap) cover is available here.

Fundamentals of Regulatory Design (2020, English Language Version): Purchase Options

United States Hardcover, Paperback & Kindle
Australia Hardcover, Paperback & Kindle
Brazil Paperback & Kindle
Canada Hardcover, Paperback & Kindle
France Hardcover, Paperback & Kindle
Germany Hardcover, Paperback & Kindle
India Kindle only
Italy Hardcover, Paperback & Kindle
Japan Paperback & Kindle
Mexico Kindle only
Netherlands Paperback & Kindle
Spain Hardcover, Paperback & Kindle
United Kingdom Hardcover, Paperback & Kindle

Preview: (frontmatter & first few pages): Sample

View high-resolution image of the book's Front Cover

Table of Contents:

Ch 1. Setting the Mission
Ch 2. Promoting Goods or Controlling Bads?
Ch 3. The Emergence of Regulatory Craftsmanship
Ch 4. Program-Centric & Problem-Centric Work
Ch 5. Alternative Regulatory Structures
Closing Remarks

Recent Reviews:

From New Zealand:  26th September, 2020: "From the Regulatory Frontlines" (Blog).  Review by Professor Jeroen Van Der Heijden, Chair of Regulatory Practice, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

From the UK: by Michael Hanton, May 5, 2021
"Practical, insightful, empathetic - relevant for everyone that works in and around regulation.
I work in regulation in the UK and recently read Fundamentals of Regulatory Design. What a fantastic book it is. It is the most straight-forward, directly relevant, insightful and empathetic text I’ve ever read on regulation. I think those involved in both frontline regulation and the policy of regulation will find it useful. It's not a long book and it's engaging and very readable." [5 star review on]

From Canada: November 27, 2021
"This book is FANTASTIC. I’m a subject-matter expert with no background in regulatory work, who has recently become involved with efforts to design a new regulatory body. To get up to speed, during the last six months I’ve read about a dozen books on regulation. This one is BY FAR the most accessible and useful. It's exactly on point for what I need, and I have filled pretty much every page with highlights and notes and post-its. It has massively accelerated my thinking. The book is only 138 pages long, and reads like the distillation of a life’s work. It provides a crisp high-level framework for how to think about regulation, including the pros and cons of various approaches, and also practical advice rooted in Sparrow's decades of on-the-ground experience. Sparrow is a master of the regulatory craft, and he is candid and fun to read. I’m deeply grateful he wrote this book, and I recommend it unreservedly." [5 star review on]

From Australia: by Mark Stone, February 16, 2021
"Excellent - a must read for regulators. As the head of a regulatory agency, I've found this book to be most valuable in contrasting regulatory models and approaches. The text is relevant to any agency involved in regulatory compliance and enforcement; offering lived experience and real-life examples. Professor Sparrow's books remain an important reference for my agency - as do his professional development courses." [5 star review on]

From the United States: October 2, 2020
"A 'Must Read' for regulatory professionals.The author, Malcolm Sparrow, is an international expert on regulatory practice and teaches this topic at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. This book provides essential insight into the core concepts of regulatory practice along with diagnostic questions and exercises that are extremely relevant for professionals in regulatory enforcement or protection, government agencies, and professional Boards. I consider this book to be the "missing manual" to professional regulatory practice. Highly recommended along with The Character of Harms." [5 star review on]

From the United States: by Kirk Shook, February 25, 2021
"Very accessible.  As a high level regulator, this book was very accessible and thought provoking to me, which is not always the case in my experience with academic literature. For those who work in the trenches of regulation, this will be even more meaningful. I highly recommend it. I found myself highlighting many passages and sending to staff members for future discussion to the point of one staff member buying the book to read for herself. How many textbooks can you say that about? Good job Dr. Sparrow!" [5 star review on]