Best of 2020

By Malavika Krishnan

Happy 2021 from the Corruption in Fragile States Blog and the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy (CJL) Team! Though 2020 was an unprecedented year changing so many aspects of our lives, what didn’t change was the ongoing need to stop corruption and the efforts of the anti-corruption community. Like you, CJL rolled with the punches and got on with making our small contribution to this worthy effort. In addition to a new logo to represent our methodology and values, new team members, new collaborations with CARE and Accountability Lab (with soon to be finalized new products), and our first podcast, we have also added 11 posts, with five featuring guest bloggers. Our blog posts in 2020 covered a diverse range of topics — from new research into the impact of social norms on civil servants, to a look at the kinds of corruption plaguing migrants on their journeys.

As we reflect on the (difficult) past year and think about moving forward in our efforts to improve the effectiveness of anti-corruption programming, we wanted to share with you the most read posts on our blog in 2020.

1. M&E of the Intangible: Resources on Social Norms. Since social norms are largely invisible and intangible, monitoring and evaluating (M&E) changes in social norms is incredibly challenging. In this post, our Senior Associate Dhaval Kothari offers a curated list of different M&E tools and methods adopted by various projects focusing on social norms change. From data collection methods and routine monitoring, to social norms diagnosis tools, the author succinctly collates the existing literature as part of our ongoing collaboration with Accountability Lab’s Integrity Icon initiative. The post provides a helpful starting point that can be adapted by practitioners and researchers alike as they embark on developing their own M&E frameworks and integrate social norms change into their programming.

2. Reparation for Corruption: How Corruption Enforcement Ignores Victims’ Rights. In this post, Dr. Juanita Olaya Garcia examines how corruption and bribery enforcement often leaves its victims behind, offering little in the way of compensation, and why collective reparation in cases of corruption is sorely necessary. The author adeptly argues that reparations complement the deterrence effect, communicate the importance of public goods, complete the administration of justice, offer to transform affected communities, and build trust between citizens and institutions. Dr. Garcia ends by identifying cases of reparation in practice — that are unfortunately too few and far between. Reparations for collective damages must become a central concern in corruption enforcement if citizens’ quality of life are to improve.

3. Edutainment for anti-corruption? A three-step approach based on behavioral science to make it more effective. Offering an alternative perspective to anti-corruption programming, Alexandra De Filippo and Humma Sheikh adapt “edutainment” — leveraging entertaining media for educational purposes — towards changing individual behaviors that drive systemic corruption. Their behavioral insights approach in Nigeria emphasizes the importance of framing communications in three simple points: tell people what they can do instead of engaging in corruption; give people a reason why they should change their behavior; and, help them figure out how to do it. The authors argue that organizations should adapt messages to each particular situation, correctly identify the reasons for corrupt practices, and provide concrete and realistic examples of changing behavior, to name a few. While more research is needed, this post provides a useful starting point to make edutainment campaigns in the anti-corruption space tailored and effective.

4. A Good Contagion: Social Norms Makes Its Move in Anti-Corruption Thinking. In this post, Matthew Muspratt reflects on the rise and trending nature of social norms in the current moment, evidenced by its discussion at large-scale anti-corruption events, workshops, conferences, literature, and blogs. Given that social norms — the mutual expectations held by members of a group about the right way to behave in a particular situation — underpin livelihoods in fragile contexts and act as mechanisms of influence, it is imperative that anti-corruption programming starts to integrate social norms. As the social norms field burgeons forth, academic researchers and practitioners should look towards exploiting potential synergies amongst and between their workstreams. We look forward to seeing how social norms feature in the upcoming UN General Assembly Special Session Against Corruption in 2021.

Source: Susan Walsh/AP via Washington Post

5. The Cost of Democracy: How Dark Money is Funding Democratic Backsliding. In this post, Jared Miller traces the impact of dark money, from its subverted legalization, to democratic backsliding in the United States. Dark money — “spending meant to influence political outcomes where the source of the money is not disclosed” — has permeated American political campaigns as independent groups funnel money across and between a never-ending trail of non-profits, shell companies, campaigns, and more to conceal the true donor. Not only does dark money hide who politicians are bankrolled by and contribute to gerrymandered districts, it also funds disinformation campaigns aimed at stoking tensions and undermines majority rule. The future of American democracy depends on closing the dark money loophole.

In 2021, we will continue driving the social norms agenda forward, initiate a more regular blog stream around peacebuilding and corruption, offer new tools, spur discussion, and reflect critically and transparently about our work in this field. We will also continue to feature guest authors whose work challenges the status quo. The Corruption in Fragile States Blog is a fantastic medium to gain greater readership of your work/research and start a conversation in the anti-corruption field. Do reach out to us if you think your work would be a good fit for the Blog and please subscribe here to stay up to date with CJL’s endeavors.


About the Author

Malavika Krishnan is a Research Assistant at the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Program. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she is focusing on development economics and international political economy. Malavika’s prior work experience includes stints as a Consultant at a corporate immigration law firm in Singapore and as a Litigation Paralegal at a securities and anti-trust law firm in New York City. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Government with a Certificate in International Relations from Wesleyan University.


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