The Open Society Foundations (OSF) is seeking a consultant/firm to conduct research on anti-corruption narratives in Brazil, Macedonia, and the United States, with relevance to global audiences.
Citizen engagement is critical to shifting norms around corruption and catalyzing political change. Thus many OSF grantees are pursuing public messaging campaigns on anti-corruption. However, a growing body of research indicates that communication campaigns on corruption can easily backfire. Highlighting corruption can inadvertantly increase public cynacism, fuel authoritarian populism, contribute to unfettered marketization, or feed overly simplistic analysis. Grantees are increasingly aware of these pitfalls, and some have started to experiment with deploying positive messaging, celebrating honest officials, and trying to shift social norms. However the appeal of directly calling out corruption – and potentially the strategic merits of doing so – endures.
Amid this nascent and sometimes conflicting research landscape, OSF partners are wrestling with the necessity and challenge of speaking with public audiences about corruption. This project seeks to support partners in making sense of the research landscape, with the benefit of new original fieldwork. The project will involve conducting a set of comparative case studies around anti-corruption narratives with grantees in three strategic locations (Brazil, Macedonia, and the United States), while providing value to the field overall. These case studies would supplement the existing literature by generating practitioner-oriened insights for partners in the three focus countries plus digestible guidance for those working elsewhere. The case study format should allow for consideration of historical and institutional diversity across countries, as well as how different social groups in a given country experience corruption messaging.
Throughout, this research will seek to contribute to the field’s understanding of persistent questions such as:
- How can civil society expose the costs of corruption without further reducing trust in government?
- How can civil society take advantage of the political salience of anti-corruption during electoral windows while avoiding partisan cooptation of the agenda?
- How do different social groups perceive corruption messaging differently based on their existing trust/distrust toward government?
- In crafting anti-corruption messages, what is the best balance between specificity (pressing for a specific demand) and accessibility (maintaining broad public appeal)?
- When is it best for civil society groups to personalize corruption (focusing on the individuals who need to be held accountable for past misdeeds) versus emphasizing the systemic nature of corruption (and the institutional reforms needed to prevent it in the future)?
- How does anti-corruption messaging fit into broader campaigns for rule of law reform, democratic norms, and human rights?
- When is it useful to use “anti-corruption” terminology compared to positive alternatives like “integrity,” “accountability,” and “fairness?”
• What are lessons for how civil society messaging can catalyze a public rejection of corruption and an increased a sense of agency and hope?
More information on proposed activities and how to apply can be found in the attached TOR.
About the Organization
The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.
We seek to strengthen the rule of law; respect for human rights, minorities, and a diversity of opinions; democratically elected governments; and a civil society that helps keep government power in check.
We help to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights.
We implement initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media.
We build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information.
Working in every part of the world, the Open Society Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.