A new generation of anti-corruption efforts

Big change doesn’t always make global headlines.

Just ask Paul Hilder, the Vice President of Global Campaigns at online petition site Change.org. He sees ordinary citizens fight for extraordinary change every day – largely under the mainstream radar. At the opening plenary of the 15 IACC, Hilder shared one such story, of a young man from Bihar, India, whose tale unfolded when he went to get a driver’s license last year.

Paul Hilder (center) speaks at the opening plenary of the 15 IACC. To his left is Sanjay Pradhan, Vice President of the World Bank Institute; to his right is Daniel Kauffan, President of Revenue Watch. Photo credit: Virginie Nguyen Hoang

When the young man, a student, entered the public office, officials demanded a bribe. The man refused and was beaten. Unbeknownst to officials, the young man had recorded the incident on his phone. He shared it with a friend who started a campaign on change.org. Within days, 440 people had signed the petition. Because of the buzz, a collector disciplined the official and reforms were put in place.

“It took less than 500 people to make enormous change,” said Hilder, who also co-founded opendemocracy.net & avaaz.org. “We are shaping culture and turning moments into movements.”

Hilder calls 2011 the year of protests, and he says tools like Change.org exemplify the next step in the movement to fight against corruption. Instead of focusing on the notion of corruption, panelists spoke about empowering real action and change, including through the use of amazing new tools.

“We live now in a world where no one is powerless,” Hilder said “from workers taking Wal-Mart to task in Mexico to a 13-year-old girl who used the site to defeat a secret corporate lobby for plastic bags in Illinois. And we have only just begun to glimpse what this means.”

Change.org now has 25 million users, and 2 million more join each month, Hilder said.

Organizations around the world are focusing on similar technology-driven tools and solutions for transparency and anti-corruption. The World Bank, for instance, is introducing online tools that are opening budgets, helping citizens give feedback, and creating transparency around oil, gas and mining contracts in developing countries, according to panelist Sanjay Pradhan, the Vice President of the World Bank Institute.

To help citizens give feedback and foster improvements in education in the Phillippines, the Bank supports CheckmySchool.org, an interactive platform which provides the public with a database on problems in the country’s public schools – ranging from a lack of textbooks to faulty toilets. (One of the project’s leaders is at the IACC, representing the Global Youth Against Corruption Network, GYAC. Learn more.)

Daniel Kauffman, President of Revenue Watch Institute, said tools like these examples can help us move beyond anti-corruption rhetoric.

“No more laws, commissions or ethics group after every scandal,” he said. “It’s time to treat corruption as a symptom of a  larger disease.”

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  1. samwel mwangi

    i want to join how can i?