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Changing Norms is Key to Fighting Everyday Corruption

Author: Sabina Panth

One of the biggest impediments to anti-corruption efforts is the fact that corrupt practices have become so institutionalized in everyday society that citizens view it as a fixed and incontestable. To break down such an entrenched mindset, the public’s ignorance of their rights, cynicism, fear of reprisal, and mentality of submission to the status quo must first be defeated.  Perhaps most important, the efficacy challenge needs to be addressed. Citizens generally must believe that they can actually do something about corruption in order to summon the courage to act upon that belief.

Based on CommGAP’s interactions with the global anticorruption community as well as earlier research, we were able to collate 18 representative instances (case studies) from around the world, with real-life examples of citizens coming together to speak up against corruption and social norms vis-à-vis corruption or to change public services affected by corrupt practices. 
This report is a ‘one-step- up’ analysis of the collated case studies, which is intended to shed light on practical approaches, tools, and techniques that have been successful in bringing citizens together to stand against the daunting phenomenon as corruption.  

We have structured our analysis based on the following components:

Established norms: Entrenched norm, apathy, or tolerance of everyday corruption.  For example, what were the prevailing public opinions and accepted norms regarding petty corruption and why were they problematic?

Instigating factors provoking bottom-up intervention: Did a certain event trigger a reaction from the people? Had society reached a “tipping point” with respect to corruption?  Who are the change agents?

Objectives/strategies for Actions: How did change agents go about transforming these norms?  What were the strategies developed to achieve this end?  Was it an organic, spontaneous movement or an intervention from external agencies? Did a national or a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) or an international instrument play a part in instigating the changes?

Tools and techniques used: What tools and techniques were employed? Was it a series of well-run awareness-raising campaigns or training geared toward citizens? An effective leader or group who could engage a critical mass of people in the fight?  An especially compelling idea diffused by well-implemented communication efforts?

Outcomes/Impact of the interventions: What were the results achieved? What were the immediate and long term outcomes and impact? (e.g., actions taken, policy intervention/amendment, level of corruption reduced, change in social norms about corruption?

Conclusion: What general lessons/conclusions can be drawn from the experiences?  What conditions are critical for anticorruption campaigns to take root and succeed?

To view the publication (Analysis Paper with Annexed Case Studies), click here.  

For a separate page with links to each of the 18 Case Studies, click here.

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