By Shirin Ahlhauser

Transparency International’s CPI may not be perfect, but the perception of corruption in a country matters. As one study found, if you go to a country where you expect corruption, and someone solicits a bribe from you, you are more likely to give the bribe.

The reverse is also true. If you go to a country that you do not think of as corrupt, and someone solicits a bribe from you, you are less likely to pay the bribe.

When social expectations of corruption become internalized, bribery and corruption are perpetuated, and could even become unconsciously perpetuated, based on perceptions of corruption in that country.

The next step, then, is straightforward — countries need to change their perception of corruption. The question is: How can they change it?

National integrity confidence-building offers one avenue. Originally named “Integrity Idol,” the Accountability Lab’s Integrity Icon program is aiming to do just that. In this initiative, local volunteers first raise awareness and gather nominations of government officials who act with honesty and integrity. This list is narrowed down, and five finalists are filmed for episodes on national television and radio.  Citizens then vote on the finalists via text message or a website.

Part of its purpose is to create debate and discussion around the idea of integrity as well as the importance of honesty and personal responsibility — therefore, even those who are not selected as a top-five candidate are included in the conversation at an annual integrity summit. The program has also become a learning platform, where consultations are conducted about how to create a mechanism within systems to promote integrity, and young people can shadow the Integrity Icon winners.

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