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  • Writer's pictureCheyanne Scharbatke-Church - CJL

Why is Our Anti-Corruption Program Working?

By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

L’évaluation mi-parcours est disponible en version française. Veuillez trouver cette publication, « La justice sans corruption, c’est possible – j’y suis engagé » sur le site web de CDA Collaborative Learning Projects

Is “Strength in Numbers” creating the ability to resist corruption? In this blog post, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, shares lessons learned and a few questions raised by the evaluation of Kuleta Haki; an anti-corruption ‘Network’ or dedicated community within the judiciary committed to fighting corruption. What about the network has encouraged concrete action? and, why is greater resistance by the network not occurring?

Some background

Kuleta Haki celebrated its first-year anniversary in October 2016, marked by a formative evaluation; what could be a better way to celebrate! RCN J&D, accompanied by CDA, established Kuleta Haki, an anti-corruption ‘Network,’ or dedicated community within the judiciary in late 2015 all of which are committed to fighting corruption. The Network has a diverse membership; predominately actors within the criminal justice system (CJS) pertinent to pre-trial detention, but also individuals external to the CJS, such as defense lawyers, judicial reform advocates and journalists.

The theory of change behind the program is that by connecting previously disparate ‘islands of integrity’, that is, individual judicial actors already taking a stand against corruption they will have strength in numbers which will allow them to resist more systematically and expand those who reject corruption as a matter of course.

The theory is based on CDA’s systems analysis of corruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and countless Skype calls with local partners … normally over a poorly connected line, fluctuating between two languages. The purpose of this evaluation was to determine if this theory of change was working. More specifically, what elements of the Kuleta Haki pilot project have catalyzed change within participants and beyond, what have we learned about why change happens, and what needs to be altered to increase the likelihood of making a difference on corruption in the criminal justice system (CJS)?

Conducted internally by CDA, Besa and RCN J&D, with the support of one external academic from the region, this evaluation adopted a Utilization-Focused evaluation approach with mixed-method data collection. Significant preparation was invested to ensure that the evaluation questions were meaningful to the Network and program coordination team. Forty semi-structured interviews were conducted, plus two focus groups and a questionnaire. The evaluation team recognizes that this is not an enormous amount of data and the conclusions should be reflected upon accordingly. Finally, a two-day workshop was held with a core group of the Network to discuss the veracity of the draft conclusions and recommendations. Their feedback was incorporated into the final evaluation report: available in full here.

What did we learn through the evaluation?

Our evaluation found that instances of resisting corruption is on the increase amongst members of the Network. However, the core tenet of the theory of change – strength in numbers – may or may not be the reason behind this increase.

Corruption is more regularly resisted by members

We’ve learned that Kuleta Haki has given those with existing personal convictions greater confidence, motivation and practical strategies for resisting corruption. The evaluation, supported by the monitoring data, showed that members across the Network are taking more concrete actions to resist corruption and, for a small cohort, such actions are increasing in frequency.

For example, 55% of network members interviewed gave examples of concrete actions taken to resist corruption or support others in their resistance. Four types of action were noted (in order of most to least frequently referenced):

  1. talking to people/colleagues/corrupt individuals,

  2. saying no to money,

  3. waiting rather than giving in to corruption,

  4. saying no when a boss asks a case to be passed through.

Decreasing the occurrence of corrupt transactions involving members of the Network is a critical initial rung in the ladder of success for this project. However, it is not systemic change in the system itself. In terms of the next tier of influence, the evaluation found that Network members are actively seeking to influence peers and colleagues who are not participating in Kuleta Haki. Members report positive reactions to these overtures, a sentiment found in the evaluation as well; yet little behavior change is apparent amongst colleagues. In reflecting on the youth of the project, the size and status of the Network, the evaluation team felt that this was understandable at this stage.

Different types of corruption are difficult to resist for actors

We’ve learned there is no discernible pattern in the types of corruption most often resisted by the Network. The three types of corruption identified as most difficult to resist cover a wide spectrum and include

  1. corruption within the judicial hierarchy,

  2. paying at each step in the judicial process, and

  3. paying ‘preemptive gifts’ to those you would like to curry favor with in advance.

These types of corruption were difficult to resist for diverse reasons and by various people.

Is ‘strength in numbers’ creating the ability to resist corruption?

The answer is; we don’t know! Only 17.5% reported that a group (or, ‘strength in numbers’) helped them resist corruption. This could mean that there is a different dynamic within the group which provides the catalysis for greater resistance; in other words, the theory is inaccurate. Conversely, it could simply be that the Network is not yet at a sufficient size to create a sense of strength.

Alternatively, the membership is notable in their desire for the Network to be more visible. This appetite for visibility could be derived from a sense that the strength in numbers is about others in the context being aware of the group which provides a sense of protection and/or power to the membership. This would mean that it is with visibility that the strength can be felt.

Therefore the ‘safety in numbers’ theory may be debunked or it may simply need expanding and reinterpretation about who is able to provide safety, and how.

Why concrete action is occurring

  1. Network members, internal to the CJS especially, explain that they now recognize the collective harm caused by corruption. Forty percent of the interviewees identified a “prise de conscience” – or an “awakening” – to corruption in their professional lives. This is a particularly important finding because systems thinking posits that a shift in a ‘mental model’ (values, assumptions and beliefs that shape a system) have significant potential to change the system. The corruption systems map developed by the Network identifies one mental model as “corruption is normal”. It seems there is early evidence of a shift in this ‘mental model’, that corruption is seen as less normal and more as potentially harmful.

  2. The most common reason Network members gave for acting against corruption was their personal conviction (i.e., that personal values were more important than professional ethics in motivating anti-corruption efforts).

  3. Some members have found newly acquired knowledge about corruption created more motivation and confidence to resist corruption.

One finding that was quite surprising to the evaluation team, but not to the program team, was that the Network T-shirts with the slogan “It’s possible, I’m committed” have motivated members.

Why greater resistance is not occurring

  1. There exist both perceived and real financial needs that lead Network members to participate in corruption.

  2. Some CJS professionals do not resist corruption because they do not want to resist. Among interviewees, 33% explained that CJS professionals do not resist because they are not motivated to resist corruption.

The evaluation has a number of other conclusions along with 22 recommendations and can be read, in full, here.

‘Strength in numbers’ efforts that bridge the formal and informal sector

We have seen many case studies on mobilizing groups to advocate against corruption in a sector e.g. health or education and we have found examples of multi-stakeholder dialogues about corruption. We have not yet come across anti-corruption programs based on a strength in numbers theory of change, that has membership that crosses the official and unofficial line in the sector that is being addressed. If you have any suggestions of resources, we would gladly read them.

We would also welcome your insights on the theory of change and what we found in this evaluation. Please contact Kiely Bernard-Webster, Program Manager at, or Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church at


About the Article

The Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative This work is part of a wider program, made up of CDA’s Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative (CAASDI), funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) and the Carnegie funded Corruption and Legitimacy effort at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The wider program came about in response to the increasing realization that most anti-corruption activities in fragile, conflict-affected countries are not working and that innovative approaches are needed.


About the Author

Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.


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