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What Makes Regular Folk Become Anti-Corruption Advocates?

Fumiko Nagano's picture

CommGAP believes that social norms transformation is key to fighting petty corruption; we believe that one of the biggest impediments to anti-corruption efforts from the perspective of ordinary citizens is when corruption and bribery become so institutionalized in society that people view corruption as the fixed and incontestable norm. To break down such a system, 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 importantly, the efficacy challenge needs to be addressed—people need to believe that they can actually do something about corruption so that they can act on that belief.

In an effort to shed some light on potential approaches to confront this challenge, we have begun to collect and document real-life case examples where citizens came together to speak up against corruption, or where social norms vis-à-vis corruption or public services affected by corrupt practices changed in some way. By the end of this exercise, we plan to produce an online compendium: a list of practical examples from around the world with links to in-depth descriptions of the cases. Our hope is that this compendium can serve as a useful resource for the global anti-corruption community.

As we continue to work on this project, we have a request: if you know of any cases that we should look into, we would like to hear from you. Please contact us.

Beyond the compilation of an online resource, reviewing various cases will, down the road, allow us to examine the factors that can bring citizens together to stand up against something as daunting of a phenomenon as corruption. Was it a certain event that triggered a reaction from the people? Was it that a society had reached a “tipping point” with respect to corruption? Was it a series of well-run awareness raising campaigns or training geared towards citizens? Was it an effective leader or group who could engage a critical mass of people in the fight? Was it an especially compelling idea diffused by well-implemented communication efforts? What conditions are critical for anti-corruption campaigns to take root and succeed? As a follow-up to the compendium, we hope to extract lessons learned from the cases on how to generate will to combat corruption among the citizens—without whose support the fight against corruption, we are afraid, will continue to face an uphill battle.

Photo Credit: Flickr user jbracken


Fumiko, Interesting question! You might find some insights in the TED Talk below where Shaffi Mather explains why he decided to take on corruption and the drivers behind his new enterprise Shaffi Mather: A new way to fight corruption Hope this helps Giulio

Submitted by Robert de Quelen on
Dear Fumiko, This is indirectly connected with your topic but I hope you wil the story interesting. Back in 2002, I joined a PR company in the Philppines, called EON. This event-organizer agency had decided to venture into PR but one of their problems was that journalists were so accustomed to taking bribes that no agency would dare propose a story without the accompanying enelope, for fear it would never get published. Well, we decided to do otherwise. My core belief was that a good, well documented story would eventually get published, even if it did not come out the following day in the cover page as was expected by cliens. it was a hard fight, and the first difficulty was to convince a scared staff that we could still be successful without betraying our values. the fantastic news is that it worked. We started cultivating personal relations with selected journalists who were all to happy to be respected and courted for their professionalism and integrity. The staff started believing it could work after all, and big international clients came to us because of our fiercely defended set of values. A virtuous cycle started. A few years later, the company had grown tenfold to become one of the most sucesful in the country, and young compeetitor firms appeared who operated on the same principles as we did. of course corruption still exists, but a space has been created where honest work pays off and a young generation of extremely talented professionals can take pride in their work. Since then I have come back to Europe but I akeep in touch with them regularly, only to find out they keep doing things the way we decided to do with ever greater sucess. Sometimes, change is a matter of getting started and just doing it, trusting the people, and demonstrating success is a possibility.

Dear Giulio, Thanks! Really appreciate your insightful suggestions as always. All best, Fumiko

Submitted by Conrad on
Dear Fumiko: This is a great initiative - I absolutely agree that citizens themselves are probably the most important agents of change in the fight against corurption. I work at Transparency International, suporting the work of the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs, operated by TI's National Chapters in about 40 countries now - from Argentina to Zambia. These centres basically offer free legal advice to citizens to pursue their corruption complaints with the relevant authorities, and use the statistical information gained in the process to advocate systemic change. We've seen some quite remarkable cases come out these centres, with stories speaking about how people can overturn corrupt decisions that affect their daily lives, halting and reissuing large scale public tenders, all the way to changing the regulations that faciliated corruption in the first place on the basis of citizen complaints. We're only really at the beginning of the process of gathering these stories more systematically, but Developments recently published one story that came out of the ALAC in Palestine: (pull down all the way to ""CUTTING OUT BACKHANDERS IN PALESTINE". As I said, we're hoping to get many more of these stories collected and told in the future, and we'd be thrilled to work with you guys on this. All the best, and hopefully people will add many more stories. Again, a great initiatve. Conrad

Submitted by Nancy Swan on
Thank you for this article which I will post on my website. I was injured by toxins while teaching at a public school in the United States. I became whistleblower that sparked a high profile judicial bribery investigation, an author and writer of my memoir, Toxic Justice, and activist for judicial reform, healthy schools, and whistleblower protection. I also give host meetings and give presentations to urge others to become activists. My story, Toxic Justice,, is the answer to your question - What Makes Regular Folk Become Anti-Corruption Advocates? I've been told I am courageous, but I do not feel courageous. Most of the time I am afraid that I or my family will be harmed for my advocacy against corruption. Courage is not being fearless; Courage is doing the right thing despite your fears. See the anti corruption news I post daily on my website Follow me on Twitter at and join me on Facebook at

Dear Conrad, Nancy, Thank you for your comments and suggestions. I've looked at the sites you mentioned which provide a wealth of information - many thanks! Will contact you separately to explore opportunities for collaboration. Best regards, Fumiko

Fumiko, just came across another example that might be of interest for your research. "The West Africa Trade Hub, a USAID funded project did an interesting project. They questioned truck drivers in Western Africa about their experiences with checkpoints. The results were long delays and high bribes at region’s worst checkpoints (mapped below)" Cheers, Giulio

Submitted by James on
With due measure of caution, I'm seeing anti-corruption material on a web site of the worldbank, which makes me curious. Is the worldbank free of corruption itself ? who runs the world bank and does money there fall into the hands of private banking families for profit ? We heard in San Francisco that many private banks lend money to 3rd world countries at outrageous interest rates which just sink poor countries deeper into poverty and economic slavery only because corrupte banks and governments horde national reserves, resources, food stocks, etc. to maximize monetary profit, while innocent citizens suffer, starve and die prematurely.

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