Traditional approaches to fighting corruption tend to focus on rules, compliance and enforcement. Regulations are passed and organizations are formed to root out graft. These efforts may provide part of the solution, but are often hamstrung or ineffective in places where opacity and patronage are ingrained, and where there is a gap between legal frameworks and everyday behaviors. To truly build systems and societies with integrity we need to rethink these approaches and close these gaps through reimagining education.

This was a critical theme during the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption (PACI) Building Foundations for Trust & Integrity project, which we recently co-led through our organizations the Accountability Lab and the eGovlab. Whether brainstorming about primary school civics courses in Mexico; developing creative accountability approaches through a film school in Liberia; or using technology for transparency in Sweden, the project has helped to clarify how to use education to build integrity from the bottom-up.

A starting point is moving beyond traditional compliance and ethics courses, which tend to quickly become check-box exercises that students or employees find uninteresting or token. This means looking at approaches like values round-tables, targeted and creative accountability campaigns, and ethical dilemmas. Moreover, traditional classroom-based learning may allow for information transfer, but does not generally support the shifts in behaviors we need to build cultures of accountability. So let’s think about focusing on interactive materials, group-based work and action-learning initiatives.

Technology is, of course, transforming the ways that education can be delivered and experienced. Almost 4 billion people or 47% of the global population are now online, which presents an incredible opportunity for mass learning. But the content provided has to be tailored to address the specific needs of participants, particularly around issues of integrity and anti-corruption, where dynamics can vary greatly across contexts. This is where co-creation and co-design within e-learning play a critical role: to make the content relevant and realistic to address the local needs of stakeholders.

Through PACI, our organizations are now bringing together the very best engineers, anthropologists, design scientists, academics and programmers from around the world to develop new educational approaches and materials for building integrity based on these principles. The Knowledge 4 Trust Initiative will provide practical support for those change-makers across the public, private and civic sectors, who are looking to fight corruption.

Have you read?

Using blended learning, interactive tools and an online and offline approach, the curriculum will focus on lessons, practices and ideas from a variety of domains and contexts. Topics will range from public sector reform issues to information systems innovations, and will aim to build a learning agenda that can revolutionize anti-corruption approaches. It will create an active community of responsible leaders that have the relevant skills, policy ideas and strategies to fight corruption in the modern era.

The programme will utilize eGovlab/Stockholm University’s online learning platform and combine it with Accountability Lab’s face-to-face workshops and co-creation sessions led by experts in the field. Participants will then work with the ideas they develop through the process to implement real change and validate their learning through practice.

As the political space for reformers seems to be shrinking globally, we need to find ways to make sure we are building societies with integrity, supporting values-based leadership and ensuring that advocates for positive change have the skills and knowledge they need. Now is the time for us to reimagine education to fight corruption.