PublicationsThe U4 Blog

U4 Issue

Follow the integrity trendsetter

How to support change in youth opinion and build social trust

In some societies people come to see corruption as the norm. When popular opinion in a country normalises corruption, this results in low trust in public administration. In Nepal, a youth fellowship programme has been successful in changing youth opinions about corruption through direct interaction with officials known for their integrity. Such programmes can enhance development partners’ and practitioners’ efforts to build greater accountability and trust in the public sector.

20 February 2019
Download PDFRead short version
Follow the integrity trendsetter

Main points

  • Trendsetters are individuals who abandon established norms, spearhead change, inspire others, and mobilise others to follow in their footsteps. They are an important element in changing norms that favour corruption.
  • ‘Pluralistic ignorance’ describes a situation in which people follow a norm because they falsely believe that everyone else agrees with it. For example, individuals may reject corruption personally yet still assume, incorrectly, that most others in the society participate in it.
  • In Nepal, youths who interact directly with integrity trendsetters abandon such beliefs. They come to trust that not all government officials are corrupt, and that there are public servants who work with integrity and deliver good services.
  • Youths who interact with trendsetters often become more interested in working in public administration themselves. They believe that they can maintain personal integrity throughout their working life, regardless of career choice.
  • Practitioners need to recognise that individual trendsetters function within wider social and professional networks. Including these networks in programmes can help trendsetters be more effective in building integrity. Programmes where youth co-learn and interact with trendsetters can strengthen networks that promote integrity in trendsetters’ places of work.
  • Mentoring, fellowship, and integrity award programmes that include bureaucrats in training or newly graduated civil servants can help to build the next generation of trendsetters.
  • Formalised peer exchange on positive experiences with public servants can help reduce pluralistic ignorance and increase trust.
  • Historically rooted inequalities in caste, gender, and social status should be considered when identifying integrity trendsetters and selecting youth participants.

Cite this publication

Bentley, J.; Mullard, S.; (2019) Follow the integrity trendsetter. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2019:3)

Download PDFRead short version

About the authors

Jenny Bentley

Jenny holds a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Zürich. She has been conducting ethnographic research in the Eastern Himalayas (Nepal, India) since 2005. In addition to academic work, she has had a long engagement in the development NGO sector in the Himalayas and beyond. She is currently the executive director of Tapriza, a Swiss NGO supporting a school project in Dolpo, Nepal.

Saul Mullard is a senior adviser at the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre and a civil society specialist with a background in historical sociology, development studies, and South Asian studies. His research interests include the relationship between corruption and climate change and the role of local communities and indigenous peoples in addressing corruption and environmental protection. Mullard holds a doctorate and master’s in South and Inner Asian Studies from the University of Oxford, as well as a BA in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Photo: Accountability Lab Nepal