In January 2018, The Economist featured our work on Integrity Idol posing the question:

“Can a reality TV show (really) discourage corruption?

As we round off our 6th year of the Integrity Idol campaign, we have just celebrated a new cohort of government officials in Mali, Pakistan, Nepal and South Africa, all of whom have displayed exemplary integrity as civil servants. Next week, we celebrate Integrity Idols in Nigeria and Liberia and in 2019 Mexico will become the latest country to join the Integrity Idol movement. Our work is beginning to show evidence that suggests that a campaign like ours can indeed begin to shift collective culture towards one of greater accountability and transparency.

Integrity Idol, a global movement to find, celebrate and connect honest government officials is different. We aim to highlight or in our words “name and fame” positive examples of individuals working in contexts where there is a growing need for accountability. Our teams and volunteers are actively looking to “catch” civil servants doing the right thing and, in the process, are finding daring, brave leaders who go against the grain and are challenging the status quo. Social accountability thinking which positions citizens at the center of governance- informs much of how we run the campaigns.

We partner with citizens and young people, who drive new forms of creative civic engagement. Our team- now across 7 countries- identify individuals who make the civil service work and who role model an alternative narrative to that of corrupt officials. This kind of work is important because we know that corruption breaks the moral fibre of communities, it displaces hope and disproportionally affects those on the margins of society. We’ve seen in South Africa, for example, public service corruption that has resulted in no water in taps, no textbooks in schools and comprised health and education systems.

This past weekend we were acknowledged by Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Center and UNODC at the International Anti-Corruption Excellence Awards held in Putrajaya, Malaysia. The awards highlighted innovative strategies and celebrated public work legacies in the fight against corruption. The Accountability Lab was recognised in the Youth Creativity and Engagement category for our work on Integrity Idol. Being acknowledged for our efforts is affirming and strengthens our networks in what can be an isolating fight against corruption. The award is testament to our Idols who are leading this movement on the ground and rallying their teams and peers to build a culture of accountability. We are honoured to be recognised alongside some of the leading researchers, activists and innovators globally. I am left inspired and encouraged by the work of Nuhu Ribadu (Winner of the Lifetime/Outstanding Achievement Award), who has led some of the most important anti-corruption initiatives in Nigeria, saving the government billions of dollars; Dr Robtel Neajai Pailey (winner of Anti-Corruption Academic Research And Education category) who is using early civic education tools, arts and literature to build empathy, encourage public participation and facilitate an age appropriate understanding on the true cost of corruption for young children. And Dr Roger Oppong Koranteng (winner of Anti-Corruption Innovation Award), the Lead Trainer and Governance and Anti-Corruption Adviser for the Africa Commonwealth Secretariat, recognised for his convening ability to support anti-corruption agencies on the African continent to build coalitions across countries.

As we begin to look inward and reflect on our work, we are working to further develop the supporting activities around the Integrity Idol campaign. Our Nepal team are working closely with the Civil Service Training School to re-think how government officials are trained and how to best to use public resources in ways that are efficient and effective. Our Integrity Idol Fellowship and Engagement Platforms have given young people increased access to the civil service; and our Film Fellowship is up-skilling young talent with skills in film-shooting, editing and post production further contributing to the broader #ArtsforSocialChange movement. An unintended result of this campaign has been that it has facilitated the creation of new and unlikely networks, bringing together actors outside of the public service to reimagine an accountable and transparent society for all.

This award helps us to understand that accountability matters, that it is important and integral in shaping communities of hope and opportunity, free of corruption. The Accountability Lab will now redouble its efforts to build the next generation of ethical and responsive leaders,thank you for journeying with us!

Faith Pienaar is a Non-Profit Management Fellow with Accountability Lab South Africa.