Corruption as a System

The Corruption as a System Project offers technical assistance to implementers and donors as they integrate corruption analysis into their program development or evaluation process. Our original work, with its roots in the Central Africa Accountability in Service Delivery Initiative at CDA, developed a new approach to analyzing corruption in fragile states that reflected its inherent complexity. This methodology is derived from causal loop mapping, as it more accurately reflects corruption as the system that it is in these contexts.

Over the years, we were puzzled by most anti-corruption programming, which often employed technocratic and formulaic approaches, without robust corruption analysis. Our observation aligned with much of the research being published at the time, challenging the effectiveness of classic anti-corruption programming and questioning the assumptions informing it. We believe the mismatch lies in the analysis that served as the basis for such programming—analysis of the “gaps” in accountability, transparency, or monopoly, for example. This did not consider the drivers, but instead focused largely on the enablers of corrupt behavior. We felt to be effective in anti-corruption, we needed an approach that was reflective of the dynamic, adaptive system we had observed corruption to be in fragile states.

Our approach was tested through original research in the criminal justice sectors in Central African Republic, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It ultimately creates actionable analyses that enable policymakers and practitioners to identify leverage points, develop strategic collaborations, test theories of change, and avoid unintentional harm. This was tested in the DRC with the successful Kuleta Haki program, implemented in partnership with RCN. Through this collective action effort, members of the criminal justice sector, who were known for their commitment to integrity, worked together to challenge the established norms surrounding corrupt patterns of behavior.

This clip provides a brief explanation of how causal loop mapping is an effective means to visually depict corruption as a system. Learn more about how to read a causal loop map.

We also invite you to subscribe to our Corruption in Fragile States Blog, which outlines our journey and learning points through this phase of our research.


Featured Publication

Understanding Corruption in Criminal Justice as a Robust and Resilient System

Understanding Corruption in Criminal Justice as a Robust and Resilient System

This paper seeks to contribute to the field of criminal justice reform by sharing a systems-based analytic process to understand corruption in the CJS in fragile states. It explains what was done; why; the benefits and, of course, draw-backs of this process; as well as the lessons learnt. …



All Project Publications

Understanding the Underlying Values, Norms and Behaviors Constraining the Implementation of Administrative Sanction in the Ugandan Public Service

Understanding the Underlying Values, Norms and Behaviors Constraining the Implementation of Administrative Sanction in the Ugandan Public Service

This report inquires into the underlying norms and values that drive the resistance to the removal of public servants convicted …
Understanding Corruption in Criminal Justice as a Robust and Resilient System

Understanding Corruption in Criminal Justice as a Robust and Resilient System

This paper seeks to contribute to the field of criminal justice reform by sharing a systems-based analytic process to understand corruption in the CJS in fragile states. It explains what was done; why; the benefits and, of course, draw-backs of this process; as well as the lessons learnt. …
Collective Action Against Corruption in the Criminal Justice System

Collective Action Against Corruption in the Criminal Justice System

Too often, when the Criminal Justice System is riddled with corruption, a system meant to be a protector becomes a predator, giving rise to systematic use of extortion/bribery, sexual favors, political interference, and/or favoritism. This innovative practice brief describes CJL’s experimental effort to combat these forces within the CJS of Lubumbashi, DRC. …
Pity the Man Who Is Alone: Corruption in the Criminal Justice System in Bangui, Central African Republic

Pity the Man Who Is Alone: Corruption in the Criminal Justice System in Bangui, Central African Republic

Criminal justice sector reform programming in the Central African Republic (CAR) ignores the role corruption plays in distorting justice, making their goals unattainable. Using a new methodology derived from systems analysis and over one hundred key informant interviews with criminal justice actors, citizens, and members of the international community, CJL seeks to contribute to more effective anti-corruption programming. …
“Justice Without Corruption, It’s Possible – I’m Committed”

“Justice Without Corruption, It’s Possible – I’m Committed”

Final evaluation report of the Kuleta Haki pilot project, by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, Kiely Barnard-Webster, Sandra Sjogren, and Noel Twagiramungu. …
Facilitation in the Criminal Justice System

Facilitation in the Criminal Justice System

Despite extensive work and resources on corruption in Northern Uganda, the enablers and drivers of corruption, and the reasons corruption has been so resistant to efforts to combat it, have received little attention. This paper is the first in a two-part analysis of these drivers, based on qualitative research conducted on the criminal justice elements of the police and courts in Northern Uganda. It explores how corruption functions in the police and courts, why it persists, and the impact it has on the legitimacy of these institutions. …
Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy

Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy

The Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) program advances innovative approaches to corruption analysis in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Read our preliminary findings across several projects here. …
Taking the Blinders Off: Questioning How Development Assistance is Used to Combat Corruption

Taking the Blinders Off: Questioning How Development Assistance is Used to Combat Corruption

Recognizing the limited set of tools for anti-corruption, this paper suggests that the limited effectiveness of programming in FCAS stems from a problem-strategy mismatch, wherein a simple response is being applied to a complex, systemic problem. Instead, we need a broader, more systemic analysis; strategic, emergent design and adaptive monitoring; and more multi-dimensional strategies. …