Project outline: Regulation is a fundamental component part of public policies that aim to tackle the issues that afflict contemporary society and economy. From climate change to product safety, and from financial derivatives to water service provision, regulation enables policy-makers to influence the conduct of public and private actors in a way that is consonant with the attainment of intended public objectives. Over time, regulation scholars and practitioners have refined their understanding of the design principles and working practices of regulatory systems, and various institutional and organizational arrangements have assisted the diffusion and fine-tuning of regulatory regimes worldwide. Trans- national collaboration on regulatory issues has resulted in more effective ways of tackling public policy issues in ways that would be beyond the reach of single nation states. Yet, our policy capacity to design and administer regulatory systems is far from perfected. Issues arise, for example, with respect to the information asymmetry between the regulators and the regulated, to the lack of regulatory capacity of public administration, and to the exposure of regulatory authorities to practices of corruption and collusion with the regulated. In part, these issues have been effectively tackled by especially subjecting regulatory regimes to tighter accountability standards and greater exposure to public scrutiny. Solutions to these (and other) problems of regulation, however, are not easily accessible especially when regulatory systems are installed at the sub-national, rather than at the national or super-national, levels. Yet, the local level is the one where individuals receive much of everyday public services, such as water service provision, gas distribution, heating, local public transport, and urban waste collection. Generally, municipalities have always been entrusted with the task of providing local public services to residents, although they often lacked effective regulatory tools and administrative capacity. At the sub-national level, features of the local political economy pose special impediments to the design and administration of regulatory systems that make them fundamentally different from the regulation of large network services at the national level. At the local level, clients of regulated services are typically very sensitive to quality and price and can express their discontent in vociferous ways. Additionally, at the local level the regulated firms can often enjoy relatively close ties that management teams develop with the local public authorities, with the effect that boundaries between the regulators and the regulated are blurred (e.g., ‘revolving doors’ mechanisms). Finally, at the local level the regulators may lack the capacity to deal with complex regulatory systems and techniques, which could be acquired through various forms of direct or vicarious learning or policy transfer programmes. The local level, therefore, poses some special issues that especially originate from the deep intertwining of social relations between local actors that entails various sources of resistance to enforce the ‘hardest’ parts of regulation, e.g., administering tender offer competitions for the award of franchises, monitoring investments, costs and tariffs, and inflicting sanctions for poor performance or contract breach. These issues (and, relatedly, the ‘improper costs’ that they impose on the working of regulatory agencies and regulated actors) can potentially undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of regulatory systems in ways that are relatively uncharted for national or super-national regulators. These features of regulation at the local level call for new scholarly efforts to theorise what explains the effectiveness of local regulation, who benefits most from regulatory regimes installed at the local level, and what could be done in order to improve the performance of local regulation. Academic and policy- oriented research have long addressed issues related to regulation of nation-wide services such as provision of natural gas, electricity, transport and telecommunication systems, especially since the diffusion of neo-liberal market policies in the 1980’s. In part, admittedly much of the knowledge accumulated in such areas as industrial organisation, game theory, and information theory is relevant for tackling positive and policy issues at both the central and local level. However, the importance of local social networks and the weakness of local regulatory institutions induce to devote additional attention to understanding the special issues posed by the local dimension on the provision of public services. Strengthening the capacity to regulate local public services, moreover, would result in a more effective decentralisation of competences to sub-national level and, on some occasions, would help counteract the take-over of regulatory powers by central government authorities. Submission of chapter proposals: Along these lines, we invite to submit proposals for chapters that would fit into any of two sections: A) A Section on theories and methodologies for the study of local regulation. We aim to receive contributions that present and discuss ways to tackle research issues that are relevant to the area of local regulation. Contributions may originate from various disciplinary fields, e.g., economics, political science, public administration, laws, sociology, etc. Contributions should especially clarify what kind of questions we can pose about local regulation, what theoretical frameworks help us framing and orienting our inquiry into these questions, and – most importantly – what kind of research methods can assist us in addressing the questions posed (e.g., qualitative and quantitative methods for data collection and analysis, experimental research designs, agent-based simulations, etc.). Contributions are expected to clarify what kind of research questions are possible to tackle with each methodology, also in relation to (a) different stages of the policy cycle, (b) different knowledge interests (e.g., information extraction, policy design, policy evaluation), and (c) kinds of regulatory policy tools that are used. B) A Section on original empirical works on local regulation. We aim to receive contributions that present and discuss case studies and/or other empirical works on various kinds of research questions related to local regulation and across a variety of national contexts in both industrialised and developing countries. Contribution may address any among various topics related to local regulation, such as, for instance, information asymmetries between the regulator and the regulated, performance management and performance audit of local public service providers, local infrastructure development and financing, tariff setting, etc. Deadline:
Please send us a chapter proposal of about 150-300 words by 7 January, 2015 to Alberto Asquer ( and Franco Becchis ( and in copy Proposals should indicate to which of the two sections above it is intended to contribute. Selection of the proposed chapters will be communicated by 23 January, 2015. Submission of chapter drafts is expected by 30 April, 2015. Following some feedback from reviewers, we expect to run a “writers’ workshop” to help coordinating the contributions to the project and assisting in the review of the chapter drafts. Final submission of chapters is expected by 31 September 2015.

Contacts: For any information, please feel free to contact: Alberto Asquer,
Franco Becchis,