Love and anti-corruption training

Dieter Zinnbauer
4 min readDec 19, 2022

yes, they really have a lot in common — despite this cheap try of attention-grabbing

Love and anti-corruption training: everyone is very much invested in it, many say they are really good at it, few candidly talk about it and there is a general suspicion that things are actually not going as well as they could.

The following sections flag a few insights and ideas that are developed in detail in my new working paper available here

Anti-corruption, compliance or ethics trainings are everywhere

Compliance, ethics, anti-corruption, or integrity trainings are prescribed and implemented in many different settings as a main element of anti-corruption programs. They feature prominently in landmark conventions (UNCAC, OECD), universal organizational standards (e.g. ISO 37001), in numerous national or local anti-corruption strategies and across the major diagnostic frameworks that NGOs use to assess the strength of integrity systems. Likewise training is an integral part of compliance and corruption risk management in the private sector. For example, almost half all companies (46%) that responded to a business survey in 2022 indicated to have invested in integrity training, up from only 38% of companies two years earlier (EY 2022).

We have almost no real idea what works and what does not

Measuring corruption is hard. Measuring the impact of anti-corruption interventions is harder still. Measuring the impact of anti-corruption training is even hardererererer. The independent variable of training usually remains ill-defined, reduced to a yes/no treatment binary even though trainings can be hugely diverse in content, pedagogy, target audience, duration, intensity and and and. In sum this results in a heroic challenge of understanding the impact of a black-box intervention on equally elusive outcome variables. And all this unfolds under the constraints of the usual short-termism in academic/MEL research that can only track projects over a limited time horizon and the proprietary data-sharing shyness by private training providers that are reluctant to grant a look at how the sausage is made and what effect the sausage actually has. No wonder that with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Azulai et al. 2020; Kancharla & Dadhich 2020; Pallai & Gregor 2016) we have a very poor idea of what types of training approaches may work under what circumstances.

We have a great opportunity to learn from others and try out new things

Based on this dearth of evidence and my own experience in designing and implementing anti-corruption trainings in a wide range of settings there seems to be a real opportunity, for more research, more peer learning and, above all, more innovation and experiments inspired by other practice areas. How about picking up on new insights about commitment devices in behavioural psychology and bringing such mechanisms more systematically into training modules? How about exploring to what extent negotiation, de-escalation, even personal self-defense techniques or other life-skills aimed at a heightened sense of self-efficacy can help frontline workers protect themselves against corruption pressures? How can trainings serve as launchpads for peer-support networks or double as some kind of super focus groups to identify levers for institutional reforms? All of these and many more questions surfaced in and animated a recent action experiment that we conducted in the context of an integrity training for urban planners in Zambia. This initiative provided a re-sounding proof-of-concept that anti-corruption training is ripe for innovation, for cross-practice learning and for longer-term evaluation approaches.

So let’s start with a series of nimble experience exchange and idea incubation workshops that convene experienced trainers from the anti-corruption world and from a variety of other practice areas, design and try out a set of experimental trainings and follow-up with a mix of assessment strategies over a two year-time frame. Better understanding what exactly works in anti-corruption trainings for whom when and how is highly timely and topical. And so is sharing insights and experimenting with new formats, content modules and institutional embedding.

The central role that training plays in tackling corruption requires to open up this black-box and move beyond current practice that an experienced consultant has described like this:

“The go-to response for organizational issues is typically some form of reactionary training. The mantra goes like this: Design the training. Deliver it. Move on.” (S. Bingham, business consultant, Harvard Business Review, Feb 2022)

Further readings:



Dieter Zinnbauer

governance, innovation, justice, tech and cities — copenhagen business school — views all mine