The Proxy Challenge – towards solving the anti-corruption measurement problem

We know far too little about which, when, and where anti-corruption efforts are most effective. U4’s Proxy Challenge initiative promotes methodological fine-tuning and empirical application of pioneering ways to measure types of corruption where no standardised tools yet exist.

The aid community has focused on measuring changes in general perceptions of corruption or bribery via standardised measurement tools, such as the Corruption Perceptions Index, and paid less attention to actually evaluating whether specific anti-corruption initiatives are successful. To make progress on measuring the impact of anti-corruption efforts, good assessments often need indicators that are currently not readily available. The Proxy Challenge is about developing these indicators. Proxy indicators can be complementary to existing indicators, or alternatives to “direct” indicators that may be hard to operationalise, or require too costly data collection.

We consider proxy indicators to be a promising new frontier for measuring corruption and evaluating the effectiveness of anti-corruption work, and believe that this mind-set change is necessary to develop indicators for other types of corruption than bribery and financial fraud (or general perceptions). Such new indicators will help to (a) better evaluate specific anti-corruption initiatives, and (b) ultimately present a better measure of overall corruption levels in a country, region, sector, or organisation that can illustrate trajectories of change that are meaningful to guide reforms.

In a 2013 U4 Brief on why bespoke proxy indicators can help solve the anti-corruption measurement problem, we provided the conceptual and intellectual foundation for using proxy indicators.  In 2014, we held the Proxy Challenge Competition to find the best ideas for proxy indicators.  By “best” we mean indicators that are more reliable, intuitive, and cost-effective, but not necessarily transferable from one context to the other. The Proxy Workshop gathered the people behind the best proposals to discuss them with experts and practitioners. We have worked with the teams behind the most promising entries, resulting in a new publication series that so far covers proxies for grand corruption in procurement, nepotism, and revolving doors. And more will come.

The next Proxy Challenge will take place in 2016. We will launch the call for proposals in late 2015.


Jesper Johnsøn

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