Corruption: Black and white or fifty shades?

Social Sciences
Thursday 10th November 2016 (09:30-16:45)
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ESRC Festival of Social Science 2016

Few challenges in international development ignite as much passion and debate as corruption.

But what is corruption? Is it as easy to define and detect as we tend to think? And even if it is, does that mean it is easy to combat? Can corruption simply be eliminated without generating unintended consequences or collateral damage?

How can we get better at tackling corruption, and why might we need to reassess common assumptions to do so? 

Join us for lively discussions and interactive sessions to explore what the latest research can tell us about this key international issue and the way forward for anti-corruption work. 

This free public event is organised by the University of Birmingham (Developmental Leadership Program) in collaboration with the Overseas Development Institute, the British Academy and ANTICORRP. 

It will bring together those with a general interest in the topic and researchers and others working in this field. It is part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Festival of Social Science, a week-long celebration of the social sciences and social science research that is taking place from 5-12 November 2016 across the UK.


Impact Hub Birmingham, Walker Building, 58 Oxford Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B5 5NR

Programme summary

9:30-9:45 Welcome and introductions. 
Alina Rocha Menocal (Research Fellow, ODI/Research Associate, Developmental Leadership Program, University of Birmingham) and Dr Caryn Peiffer (Research Fellow, DLP, University of Birmingham)

9.45-10:45 Understanding corruption: looking beyond common assumptions

  • What do we mean by ‘corruption’? Scenarios for discussio with Dr Caryn Peiffer
  • Corruption: black and white or fifty shades? Presentation by Alina Rocha Menocal
  • Q&A

10:45-11:45 How can we get better at combatting corruption?
Interactive session with Dr Finn Heinrich (Research Director, Transparency International) and Nils Taxell (Senior Adviser, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre)

11:45-12:00 Coffee break

12:00-13:15 Debate ‒ Do we need rules or can people be trusted to ‘do the right thing’?
Prof Paul Heywood (University of Nottingham) will argue for the need for rules and institutional monitoring.
Dr Nieves Zuñiga (University of Nottingham) will argue for the key role played by norms and values in keeping corruption at bay.

Moderator: Dr David Hudson (DLP, University College London)
Reflections on the debate: Dr Heather Marquette (DLP Director, University of Birmingham)

13:15 – 14:15 Lunch 

14:15-16:15 Research café: Conversations with researchers on innovative anti-corruption work

A range of current innovative research on corruption will be presented in informal 20-minute sessions as researchers discuss their work with the audience in small groups. Audience members will be able to join all the sessions, moving from one ‘café table’ to another.

  • Public attitudes to aid in donor countries (project supported by the Gates Foundation) – Dr David Hudson (Deputy Director, DLP/Senior Lecturer in Political Economy, UCL)
  • Corruption messaging: how different anti-corruption messages work in Indonesia (supported by the Australian government) – Dr Caryn Peiffer (Research Fellow, DLP, UoB)
  • Integrity research in Bolivia and Rwanda (supported by ANTICORRP, EU) – Dr Nieves Zúñiga (Research Fellow, University of Nottingham)
  • Patronage and corruption in Afghanistan (supported by the German Research Foundation) – Dr Kristóf Gosztonyi (Researcher and Project Manager, Berghof Foundation, Berlin)
  • Multilevel governance, decentralisation and corruption (supported by the British Academy/DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence Partnership) – Umme Shefa Rezbana (Research Associate, Centre for Policy Dialogue, Bangladesh)

Coffee/tea will be provided during the café

16:15-16:45 Closing remarks
Prof Paul Heywood (University of Nottingham; British Academy/DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence Partnership Programme Leader)
Phil Mason, OBE (Senior Anti-Corruption Adviser, UK Department for International Development)

Download the full programme (PDF)

Event partners

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative based at the University of Birmingham, and working in partnership with University College London (UCL) and La Trobe University in Melbourne. DLP aims to increase understanding of the political processes that drive or constrain development. Its work focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate institutions that promote developmental outcomes.

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is a leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues. ODI’s mission is to inspire and inform policy and practice which lead to the reduction of poverty, the alleviation of suffering and the achievement of sustainable livelihoods. It does this by locking together high-quality applied research, practical policy advice and policy-focused dissemination and debate, with partners in the public and private sectors, in both developing and developed countries.

The British Academy for the humanities and social sciences was established in 1902 to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement in these areas, throughout the UK and internationally. The British Academy and the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) have launched a £3.6 million initiative to support leading international research teams to research and identify the most successful ways of addressing corruption in developing countries. The initiative forms part of a wider investment by DFID on Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE), which includes a consortium led by SOAS in London, designed to tackle corruption and lead to more effective, evidence-based anti-corruption initiatives by DFID and its partners. The BA/DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) element of the partnership has provided eight grants to support world-leading multidisciplinary research to explore policies and interventions in different countries that have reduced corruption and helped address its negative impact on people's lives.

ANTICORRP is a large-scale research project funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme. The project started in March 2012 and will end in February 2017. Its full name is Anticorruption Policies Revisited: Global Trends and European Responses to the Challenge of Corruption. Its main objective is to investigate factors that promote or hinder the development of effective anti-corruption policies. The project consists of twenty research groups in fifteen EU countries. 

Corruption: Black and white or fifty shades?