New Podcast, Featuring Diana Chigas and Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, I interview Diana Chigas and Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, who are Professors of Practice at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and affiliated with Tuft’s Henry J. Leir Institute. After describing how they came to a focus on corruption from a background in conflict resolution and peace-building, Professors Chigas and Scharbatke-Church describe the “systems analysis” approach that they use when evaluating and planning anticorruption interventions. That approach stresses understanding the social forces and social norms that sustain corrupt practices as a system, and focuses on identifying useful entry points for policy interventions. The interview moves from this general high-level analytical framework to a discussion of concrete examples of how this methodology can be used to design concrete interventions and support local efforts to promote integrity and change systems. You can also find both this episode and an archive of prior episodes at the following locations: KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the ICRN. If you like it, please subscribe/follow, and tell all your friends! And if you have suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the podcast, just send me a message and let me know.

Guest Post: How Tendering Practices By Anticorruption Research Funders Undermine Research Quality and Credibility

Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Diana Chigas, of the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, contribute the following guest post:

Early last week, the Transparency International (TI) Secretariat in Berlin circulated an Invitation to Tender with a title that grabbed our attention. Framed as part of a commitment to “the highest standards of accountability, organizational effectiveness and learning,” this tender described a “Research Review and Evaluation of Anti-Corruption Work Assumptions: Grievance as a key determinant of people’s anti-corruption behavior.” The email that accompanied the tender suggested an exciting and needed inquiry into assumptions that drive anticorruption programs funded by the international community—on a topic that is closely related to some of our research team’s work on corruption in fragile states  (see here and here). That TI was interested in funding a project of this sort was encouraging: Testing core assumptions, after all, is central to learning and should be a fundamental element of effective programming. We were also heartened by the fact that TI sought comparative analysis, and would give preference to counterfactual analysis over experimental designs—suggesting an interest in the type of qualitative inquiry that is necessary to penetrate the dynamics of corruption as a complex system.

Our initial enthusiasm turned to dismay, however, by the time we finished reading the Tender. The reason may seem prosaic, even banal: The time-frame for submitting proposals and for the work itself. To our knowledge the Tender was circulated the first week of July, applications are due August 5th, work is to start August 29th and be finished by October 31—with a budget for 30-35 working days. At first, that may not seem like such a big deal—and we recognize that it might seem like we are merely griping about our team’s inability to meet the application and project deadlines for this tender. But this is not about any one tender or any one research team. Rather, the practices embodied in—but by no means limited to—this particular tender are in fact representative of larger problems in the world of anticorruption and development evaluation research, one that we suspect may be familiar to other researchers. In particular, two problems in particular stand out. Continue reading