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To Index or Not To Index

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

Here’s an interesting twist on advocacy around anti-corruption: Global Integrity, which publishes the Global Integrity Report on governance and anti-corruption in 107 countries around the world, has stopped publishing its Global Integrity Index, which ranks countries according to their overall scores. While the report still contains quantitative data and qualitative reporting on the health of individual countries’ anti-corruption frameworks, the organization made a conscious decision to discontinue the index aspect of the report.

Why? Apparently, Global Integrity found that while the index generated good publicity for Global Integrity, it was less effective as an advocacy tool. (It also notes that it has scaled down the number of countries it covers, which gives the index less utility.) “Indices rarely change things,” notes Nathaniel Heller on the Global Integrity blog. “Country rankings are too blunt and generalized to be ‘actionable’ and inform real rebate and policy choices.”

This is clearly a debatable point, as Heller acknowledges. After all, other organizations, such as Transparency International and Freedom House, also publish well-known governance-related indices that attract attention to such issues as corruption, press freedom, and democratic governance. One wonders what their argument for continuing such indices might be.

While it may seem minor, the disappearance of the Global Integrity index speaks to both the difficulties of monitoring and evaluation, and the difficulties of effective advocacy around governance issues. It is extremely challenging to make the case for democratic governance – or even plain good enough governance – to the general public. Indices such as those run by the organizations mentioned here help reporters and the general public digest and easily assimilate information related to these topics. Moreover, such indices increasingly affect the work of international development institutions. Whether this is a good thing is another topic open to debate.

Global Integrity clearly feels that indices are not sufficient to lead to real change on anti-corruption. Perhaps what we can glean from this is the need to pair generalized advocacy – such as an index – with targeted advocacy based on a real understanding of stakeholders, obstacles, and coalitions. Here’s hoping others join and shed additional light on the to-index-or-not-to-index debate.

Photo Credit: Global Integrity

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Comments

Submitted by Vance on
As you rightly demonstrated, indexes are very good at raising awareness of the issues facing a few key states. However, as I think Global Integrity is pointing out, the indexes alone provide researchers and practitioners little actionable data- in fact; it has the possibility of the public or policy makers pushing for policy that is misguided. I hope that your blog posting can raise awareness of Global Integrity's decision and shed light on the potential dangers of heavy reliance on indexes. Bravo for highlighting their decision.

Thanks for these reflections, most interesting. As a user of the Global Integrity Index, I feel this a little as a personal loss. But besides the legitimate technical and methodological concerns, I think we may be witnessing a more general trend of disenchantment with composite indexes - in particular governance-related - linked with global political and economic developments. I posted myself a brief piece on this at http://europeandcis.undp.org/blog/2011/05/17/simple-or-simplistic-bumpy-road-ahead-for-composite-governance-indexes/

Submitted by Finn Heinrich on
Similarly to Global Integrity, the question whether to index or not is one we at Transparency International grapple with, as we continue to review and reflect on the relevance and impact of all of our corruption measurement tools. We find that, by and large, our annually published Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI), serves its purpose of raising awareness on corruption and spurring governments into action on corruption issues. We would agree with Global Integrity and others whose concern is that global indices, such as the CPI, do not offer actionable insights for policy-making. That’s not what they are designed to do. They do however open up crucial windows of opportunity to put the issue of corruption on the public and policy agenda. The broad picture provided by indexes such as the CPI should then be complemented by much more fine-grained country-led diagnostic initiatives, which Global Integrity, Transparency International and many others have developed. The new frontier however seem to be tools that examine specific sectors, institutions or governance processes in individual countries. The best of these creatively combine state-of-the-art methodologies with extensive stakeholder engagement and thereby ensure uptake of results in policy and advocacy. At TI, we are engaged in a major mapping and sense-making exercise of this ever-expanding universe of assessment approaches, which we have coined GATEway We hope GATEway will help anti-corruption practitioners choose and apply those tools which are the best fit for their purpose. For more info, see http://www.transparency.org/tools/gateway.

Submitted by Finn Heinrich on
Similarly to Global Integrity, the question whether to index or not is one we at Transparency International grapple with, as we continue to review and reflect on the relevance and impact of all of our corruption measurement tools. We find that, by and large, our annually published Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI), serves its purpose of raising awareness on corruption and spurring governments into action on corruption issues. We would agree with Global Integrity and others whose concern is that global indices, such as the CPI, do not offer actionable insights for policy-making. That’s not what they are designed to do. They do however open up crucial windows of opportunity to put the issue of corruption on the public and policy agenda. The broad picture provided by indexes such as the CPI should then be complemented by much more fine-grained country-led diagnostic initiatives, which Global Integrity, Transparency International and many others have developed. The new frontier however seem to be tools that examine specific sectors, institutions or governance processes in individual countries. The best of these creatively combine state-of-the-art methodologies with extensive stakeholder engagement and thereby ensure uptake of results in policy and advocacy. At TI, we are engaged in a major mapping and sense-making exercise of this ever-expanding universe of assessment approaches, which we have coined GATEway We hope GATEway will help anti-corruption practitioners choose and apply those tools which are the best fit for their purpose. For more info, see http://www.transparency.org/tools/gateway.

@Shanti Kalathil: It was an interesting read, thanks for the post! @Finn Heinrich: "The new frontier however seem to be tools that examine specific sectors, institutions or governance processes in individual countries. The best of these creatively combine state-of-the-art methodologies with extensive stakeholder engagement and thereby ensure uptake of results in policy and advocacy." This is what ipaidabribe.com in India is aiming to do. As of today we have a crowdsourced database of over 10,000 bribe reports filed anonymously by citizens. Citizens can share any bribe-related experience on the site. Would you believe that there are 3326 bribes reported against the Police department and Rs. 6 crores was paid for registration of property!

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