U4 information

U4 TRIAL – The anti-corruption innovation lab

U4 TRIAL will develop ideas for addressing corruption and testing them. This is a new U4 initiative – under establishment in 2018.

U4 TRIAL aims to run innovation projects with these objectives:

  1. Learn what works and not in specific contexts.
  2. Improve anti-corruption effectiveness.
  3. Improve intervention development process.

This involves testing recommendations, ideas, methodologies, hypotheses and assumptions relevant for anti-corruption, derived from research and practical experiences.

What motivates U4 TRIAL

Growing dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of anti-corruption approaches motivated the creation of the U4 TRIAL. Practitioners and researchers are pointing out major evidence gaps, and the problem of a limited understanding of what is successful in anti-corruption reforms.

As a result, there is increased questioning of the assumptions behind existing anti-corruption initiatives. Not least, how do they relate to the systems that maintain corruption in specific contexts? The changing and complex character of corruption across contexts is highlighted in recent research as a fundamental weakness in approaches to address corruption. The interaction between countries – developed and developing – is particularly vulnerable to corruption. Furthermore, existing anti-corruption knowledge is not fully accepted across the aid sector, preventing necessary improvements.

Action research for evidence-based policy

Until now, U4 recommendations have been based on analyses of existing and original research, and on insights derived from practice under very specific circumstances. Their eventual effectiveness across contexts have not been tested and is not adequately documented. U4 TRIAL will conduct systematic action research to enable accelerated evidence-based policy development.

The ultimate purpose of U4 TRIAL is to contribute to fulfilling the U4 mission by helping to develop innovative approaches and conduct research that can contribute to prevent the harmful impact of corruption on sustainable development. We will test recommendations, ideas, methodologies, hypotheses and assumptions relevant for anti-corruption, derived from research and practical experiences. Possible methodologies include action research, innovative pilots, and formative research.

These test projects can be short-term or stretch over a period of several years, depending on the type of activity or test object/prototype involved. The common denominator for all TRIAL projects is to embrace the risk of testing the new, with a view to generate knowledge that can limit the risks of larger scale interventions, while achieving greater impact.

Simple framework

U4 TRIAL work will revolve around specific pilot projects that we will identify in close consultation with U4 partners in the U4 Partner Forum. Based on experiences and research from actors specialising in innovation, U4 proposes a simple framework to encourage more precision in different stages of the innovation process:

The U4 innovation framework.

U4 TRIAL aims to provide recommendations for partner agencies and also offer valuable suggestions for future research. It will make a direct contribution to the evolving body of evidence on what kinds of anticorruption intervention works, why, and under which conditions. We envisage that the outputs will contribute to greater value for money from anti-corruption interventions that follow the initiative’s recommendations. The best TRIAL outcome would be a rethink of whole systems relevant for reducing harmful corruption within sustainable development.

Would you like more information?

Get in touch with Fredrik Eriksson, U4 Senior Adviser.