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Overcoming the pitfalls of engaging communities in anti-corruption programmes

Effective engagement by communities is a crucial strategy for anti-corruption initiatives. However, encouraging involvement and civic-mindedness at a local level can present challenges for donors and practitioners. Trust, the sense of ownership, and inclusion create and strengthen participation by enabling community members to express their opinions and expectations, and demand accountability from power holders. Feedback plays a pivotal role in successful projects by fostering dialogue between policymakers and citizens.

1 February 2020
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Overcoming the pitfalls of engaging communities in anti-corruption programmes

Main points

  • If elites, or powerful state or local leaders, exploit the existing legal and social order for their own benefits, corruption becomes one of the main threats to the rule of law. The expectations of communities regarding the benefits of anti-corruption policies decline if those who commit corrupt acts are not held accountable.
  • If the views or perspectives of a community on corruption are disregarded, the success of initiatives to prevent it is impacted. Without focusing on how problems related to corruption affect people’s everyday lives, projects might be easily hindered.
  • Being inclusive and integrating marginalised groups into anti-corruption projects is a successful way to prevent elite capture and establish balanced power relations. Organising strong, coherent, and supportive local power networks out of those who otherwise would have been barred from decision-making can concentrate capacities and influence.
  • In community development programmes, communities are the ultimate beneficiaries of the outcomes. There is a significant potential in creating a community that works together upon shared identity and interests. Through coordination and a unified approach, they can achieve greater impact.
  • In order to be successful, community engagement projects need to incorporate the building of trust at both interpersonal and institutional levels. Dialogue to co-create joint solutions and providing feedback on the impact of citizen input are crucial to maintaining trust and the willingness to engage.

Cite this publication

Burai, P. (2020) Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2020:3)

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About the author

Petra Burai

Petra Burai is an associate of the Law & Anthropology Department of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and legal advisor of the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law. She has more than 15 years of experience in contributing to international and government policies and legal regulations, and managing research projects about public participation, transparency, and accountability. Her PhD dissertation on the limitations of anti-corruption laws received the Pro Dissertatione Iuridica Excellentissima Award from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Centre for Social Sciences, Institute for Legal Studies.


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)


Dario Valenzuela