Diagnosing social behavioural dynamics of corruption

This interactive toolkit identifies the types of social expectations which sustain selected corrupt practices and provides behaviourally-informed recommendations for changing them.

Other resource Updated 11 December 2023 Published 8 December 2021

When tackling a problem as complex as corruption, it is important to understand why and how people behave in different situations where corruption occurs. In contexts where it is easier to engage in corruption than avoid it, identifying the social expectations and informal rules which sustain corrupt practices can advance corruption prevention and deepen collective action.  

Behavioural approaches to corruption offer a better understanding of diverse social settings, group dynamics, power distribution, social motivations, and expectations that contribute to a more tolerant environment for certain forms of the phenomenon. They are also highly complementary to traditional corruption measures, which tend to focus on the enforcement of legal sanctions and deterrents. Behavioural approaches, especially those inspired by social norms theory, highlight complex social characteristics and informal rules of specific corrupt practices, and effectively support implementation of more dynamic context-specific anti-corruption interventions.

Since 2016, the Chatham House Africa programme’s Social Norms and Accountable Governance (SNAG) project has adopted a behavioural approach based on social norms methodology to investigate the social beliefs which motivate different forms of corruption. Drawing on the project’s extensive evidence-gathering and analysis, this toolkit offers users navigable behavioural mapping of contextual factors, beliefs, and expectations surrounding common corrupt practices. 

It aims to support anti-corruption actors in diagnosing informal rules and social expectations which sustain corruption in some societies. It also proposes behavioural-informed guidance for developing or adapting anti-corruption interventions and activities, so they account for informal rules of behaviour such as social norms. 
The toolkit supports users to:

  • Identify whether and how widespread corrupt practices are motivated by social beliefs and expectations.

  • Understand how society influences the types of corrupt activity individuals engage in, or avoid, and the factors informing these choices

  • Integrate empirical evidence and behavioural insights into anti-corruption strategies from diagnostics to design, and eventual implementation and evaluation

The toolkit presents evidence from SNAG’s research into three key corrupt practices – bribery, embezzlement, and electoral fraud. Each was examined in the context of typical situations in which they occur, such as law enforcement, healthcare, the power sector, voting, and education while critical factors such as religion, gender, and ethnicity were considered. 

The toolkit presents an overview of specific contexts and behavioural features of the practices and provides behavioural-informed recommendations. It also contains pop-up features with definitions and explanations of key concepts. The toolkit is designed to be expandable, allowing further content and behavioural dynamics to be added.   

Explore the toolkit