Islands of integrity: funding award for DLP corruption research

DLP research on how to effectively fight corruption has won funding from the British Academy's Sustainable Development Programme, part of the UK government's £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund.

The Islands of Integrity project is co-led by DLP Director Heather Marquette and Research Fellow Caryn Peiffer and builds on work begun by Caryn in collaboration with Transparency International. Using statistical analysis of TI’s Global Corruption Barometer database, the project will identify specific services or institutions which, despite endemic corruption all around them, had significantly reduced corruption in their own organisation. Governance research tends to focus on the failures of systemically corrupt countries in their efforts to combat corruption. This DLP project instead focuses on the ‘positive outliers’ that have bucked the trend in such countries – the ‘islands of integrity’.

After the success story cases have been statistically identified, the research will pull out five cases for in-depth and qualitative research, with fieldwork further drilling down into two of these cases in order to develop a ‘deep dive’ understanding of how positive change happened. The project aims to find out what these success stories can tell us about how corruption can be reduced against the odds, and how these lessons might inspire new and effective anti-corruption interventions in other countries.

The research asks whether successful corruption reduction can be attributed to improved institutional operation or better enforcement, to key individuals or coalitions of willing actors, or a combination of all these. It also considers what the international community can do to support these processes.

This emphasis on empirical and policy-relevant research speaks to the British Academy/GCRF’s Sustainable Development Programme’s aim to build a stronger evidence base on what encourages sustainable governance patterns in a range of developing country contexts. It is hoped that the lessons learned can be more widely applied by governments, aid donors and civil society to the control of corruption. The project will maintain the researchers' already close connections with experts from Transparency International, Global Integrity and the British Academy/DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence Partnership.

Islands of Integrity is one of 16 major research projects from a range of disciplines selected by the British Academy for grants from the UK government’s £1.5bn Global Challenges Research Fund. The findings will feed into the UK’s Aid Strategy and its contribution to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The aim of the programme, said British Academy Foreign Secretary and Vice President Professor Ash Amin, is to combine outstanding research with ‘real-world impact’, gathering hard evidence about how the lives of people in developing communities can be improved. 

Image: Windward Islands (dany13)

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