In recent years, governments, activists, and civil society organizations alike have invested heavily in getting citizens involved in the fight against corruption. They’ve tried to help citizens identify, denounce, and take action to root out corruption, in various ways. In addition to carrying out more traditional information and awareness-raising campaigns, anti-corruption campaigners have: set up social accountability mechanisms, created whistleblowing opportunities, designed grievance redress mechanisms, provided legal aid, and supported the emergence of social movements.

Despite these efforts, increased interest by academics, and a general uptick in attention and resources spent on supporting citizen engagement, many organizations struggle to create anti-corruption mechanisms that feature and sustain citizen participation over time. This is because those of us working on integrity and anti-corruption still don’t understand sufficiently well how and why citizens decide to take action against corruption, nor how and why they choose to engage specific anti-corruption mechanisms when they do.

If the field is to get better at involving citizens in anti-corruption efforts, and eventually, at developing and applying anti-corruption strategies that have an impact at scale, we have to make progress on two fronts: First, we need to better understand the factors and the causal logic that guide decision-making by citizens. Second, we need to develop better practical guidance to help organizations explore how to engage citizens in ways that best fit the particular contexts in which they live. This latter point is particularly important, as existing guidance often assumes that the logic of citizen engagement can (or should) be replicated wholesale across different contexts, with too much emphasis on replicating form, and too little attention to the functions particular mechanisms might fill. This is what we do in Open Government Partnership: Amplifying the voices of citizens and helping governments and civil society respond to citizen needs.