Accelerating the Future...
- Award Categories: Behavioral Change
- Award Year: 2019
- Nominee URL: www.integrityidol.org
Corruption costs over $2 trillion a year- and perpetuates poverty, inequality and insecurity in every country around the world. By some estimates (World Bank) it leads directly well over 3 million deaths a year, and indirectly to tens of millions more. When money meant for hospitals go missing, patients do not receive the medicines they need; when funds for schools are stolen, children don't learn. Corruption is the central challenge to development everywhere. The key driver of corruption is a lack of integrity within government- systems of patronage, nepotism and graft become entrenched and are incredibly difficult to change- indeed, the international community has been trying for decades, but corruption is only getting worse. The problem is that we focus too much on rules, compliance and enforcement; and not enough on shifting values, norms and ethics- as these are the keys to behavior change, and where Integrity Idol is finding success.
Integrity Idol is changing these dynamics, flipping the anti-corruption narrative and creating role-models that are transforming government and fighting opacity. Instead of focusing on the problem (corruption) we are focusing on the solutions (people with integrity). Instead of shouting about the wrong-doers we are celebrating the do-gooders. And instead of putting criminals behind bars we are putting heroes in front of cameras. Begun 5 years ago in Nepal and now in 9 countries, it is a campaign and competition through which we ask citizens to nominate honest government officials. We receive thousands of nominations, and with the hep of independent judges, narrow the field down to the top 5. We film the top 5- from the tax collector who goes that extra mile to the teacher who always turns up on time- and put the episodes out on national TV, radio and on social media. Hundreds of thousands of people vote for their favourites by SMS, Whatsapp and online; and the winners are celebrated at national ceremonies in front of VIPs and the media. We turn them into national celebrities- giving them the confidence, trust and credibility they need to push back against corruption and form networks and coalitions for accountability. Integrity Idol has been watched by over 50 million people, with the winners mobbed by crowds of supportive citizens when they return to work. Now, we are working with them to push for reforms, develop new skills and contacts and change the way decisions are made both at the local and national levels in their countries. We are also working with the Idols to support a generational change within public service, through using them as mentors for incoming civil servants; developing training courses and schools for integrity with governments; and running fellowships for young people- who previously would have shunned work in government- but now find a supportive environment in which they can push for positive change.
Integrity Idol is unique in 3 key ways: i) As described above- it is hugely positive. It is lifting the right people up, rather than taking people down. This creates huge amounts of hope and engagement, among young people in particular; and gives them a sense that a new reality is possible, and that they can be part of the process of building it; ii) Integrity Idol is popularly owned- there are other anti-corruption prizes, but none mobilize the media and popular engagement in the same way. Integrity Idol has become big precisely because people can both nominate and vote for their winners. Although a jury helps narrow down the field, this is not seen as an award far away chosen by experts- it is watched and listened to in tea shop, homes and schools; and people feel they have a stake in the outcome. This makes it effective in creating conversations about the kind of people we need in government and the sorts of values they should represent. iii) The campaign is just the entry point- there are lots of fun advocacy campaigns, but these tend to finish once the media spotlight fades. Integrity Idol does the opposite- we follow the energy of the campaign with a variety of activities that turn conversation into action; and ideas into realities- through, as mentioned above, training, coalition-building, support and mentoring. We now have an active community of Idols. volunteers, fellows and supporters all around the world who are finding ways to build integrity within institutions and push for greater accountability.
The biggest challenge Integrity Idol faces now is moving from piece-meal and effective media-relations at the national level to larger, global engagement and partnerships. The challenge is about taking a game-changing idea to the next stage- through a process of harnessing popular media- and in this process, changing how people understand their role as citizens globally. We have now reached the point where we are partnering with big national media outlets- such as Channels TV in Nigeria and Hum TV in Pakistan- but now we want Integrity Idol to go global with the support of the Katerva Award- expanding to more countries through a global media partnership (we are discussing this with Al Jazeera) and through the development of a worldwide campaign to find the most honest government officials. The capacity of this process to change incentives is significant- if we can motivate bureaucrats everywhere by showing the world- in big, bright lights- why this matters, we can make Integrity Idol a truly global process of behavior change.
Integrity Idol impacts all of us. It impacts the mother who cannot see a doctor with her sick child unless she pays a bribe; it impacts the young girl who cannot graduate from school without offering sexual favours; and it impacts the business-person who can only import his goods if he knows the people in power. We might think corruption is just a problem that affects the developing world, but everyone suffers from it, from London to Sydney- because it is the key driver of insecurity and inequality everywhere. Unless we find ways to shift norms within institutions and values within government organizations we will continue to make the same mistakes of the past. Integrity Idol impacts all of us because it gives us hope and creates role-models we can all look up to for doing the right thing, even when no-one is watching.