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Key Note Speakers

Carolyn Tuohy

Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto

Regulatory Governance and Institutional Narratives

Responding to contemporary challenges of regulation and governance requires that we “think institutionally” – and that in turn means “thinking narratively.” Institutions, in Thelen’s pithy phrase, are sets of “collectively enforced expectations.” Collective enforcement can take various forms: issuing authoritative commands, offering or imposing prices for compliance, and telling persuasive narratives of common commitment.

This presentation will focus on the latter, narrative dimension of institutions – the stories that define the roles of various players, and that tell us not just what we are required or paid to do but why we do it. Exploring the role of narratives opens up possibilities for responding to contemporary challenges to regulatory governance, especially those arising from political polarization and the recurrent rise of populist politics. In particular, it can suggest how narratives can either widen or bridge the gulf between the logico-scientific discourse of “expert” regulators and popular modes of “ordinary knowledge.”

The presentation will argue that the narrative form is uniquely capable of bridging across modes of understanding, given that it has both a causal spine and an imaginative appeal to experience. Its experiential footing, however, defines and operates within circles of empathy that may be more or less inclusive, so narratives can divide as well as bridge. The degree to which regulatory narratives bridge or divide will depend upon now they interact with their institutional contexts. First, how well do they fit with the policies that they portray? A grand epic narrative deployed to carry a complex policy design, for example, risks ridicule and parody. Second, how well do regulatory narratives accord with the deeper institutional narratives in which they are nested? A wealth of scholarship over time has studied different “styles” of regulation and compliance, across nations or even across sectors, which can be thought of as embodying distinctive narratives. Drawing on European examples, this presentation will go deeper to show how these regulatory styles are nested within underlying narratives of governance – most starkly, the portrayal of regulation as a “necessary evil” to be contained or as a collective project to be pursued.

Regulatory politics, at sub-national, national and supra-national levels, can be understood as competition among narratives, in which each episode plays into the development of institutional narratives over time. This understanding is important not only for those who study the field of regulatory governance but for policy-makers and regulators themselves. Thinking narratively from the outset of a regulatory project, not just as a way to sell a finished project, is likely to enhance the effectiveness of regulation.

Sofia Ranchordás

Full Professor of EU and Comparative Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Groningen 

Regulatory Innovation, Future-proofing, and experimental regulation: the Future of AI Regulation 

Recent EU legislative and governance initiatives aim to pave the way for flexible, innovation-friendly, and future-proof regulatory frameworks. Key examples are the adoption of the innovation principle, the EU Coordinated Plan on AI and the AI Regulation Proposal. The latter presents regulatory sandboxes as a tool with the potential to advance innovation in this field while mitigating the potential risks of novel AI systems. Originally developed in the Fintech sector, regulatory sandboxes create a test bed for a small selected number of innovative projects, by waiving otherwise applicable rules, guiding compliance, or customizing enforcement. Despite the burgeoning literature on regulatory sandboxes and the regulation of AI, the legal, methodological, and ethical challenges of anticipatory and adaptive regulatory frameworks have remained understudied. This keynote aims to address this gap. Its contribution is threefold. First, this keynote will contextualize the adoption of regulatory sandboxes in the broader discussion on regulatory innovation and experimental approaches to regulation. Second, it offers a methodological reflection on the steps ahead for the design and implementation of AI regulatory sandboxes. Third, it discusses some of the challenges of embracing an anticipatory and future-proof approach to regulation.