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Islands of Integrity: Understanding the Politics of Corruption Reduction

This project examines how institutions, like the health sector and courts, have successfully reduced corruption in developing countries that are systemically corrupt.

This study examines services or institutions that have managed, against the odds, to become ‘islands of integrity’ in contexts of systemic corruption. It asks whether successful corruption reduction can be attributed to improved institutional operation or better enforcement, to key individuals or coalitions of willing actors, or a combination of all these. It also considers what the international community can do to support these processes.

The researchers will use statistical analysis of Transparency InternationaI’s Global Corruption Barometer database to identify ‘islands of integrity’. They will then explore five of these in depth, and will use fieldwork to drill down into two of these cases to develop a ‘deep dive’ understanding of how positive change happened. The research aims to find out what these success stories can tell us about how corruption can be reduced in challenging contexts, and how these lessons might inspire new and effective anti-corruption interventions in other countries.

Principal Investigator: Dr Heather Marquette, University of Birmingham

Supporting content

Project part of

Sustainable Development 2016 Programme

This programme funds researchers in the humanities and social sciences working on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and generating evidence on the challenges and opportunities faced in developing countries.


We foster international collaboration in the humanities and social sciences, and promote the sharing of international perspectives on global challenges.

Other projects in this programme

Making Light Work