Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 58, Issue 5, pp 533–549

Understanding success and failure of anti-corruption initiatives


DOI: 10.1007/s10611-011-9361-y

Cite this article as:
Heeks, R. & Mathisen, H. Crime Law Soc Change (2012) 58: 533. doi:10.1007/s10611-011-9361-y


This paper focuses on the success and failure of anti-corruption initiatives; focusing mainly on those in developing countries. Through a review of extant evidence, it finds a very mixed picture within which there is widespread failure; albeit sometimes only partial failure. As a result, anti-corruption as a field can struggle to gain attention and resources among competing development initiatives. In reviewing that field we find that, while some progress has been made – for example in integrating risk assessments into programs and in learning from political economy analysis – there is little actual focus on the “missing middle”: the interventions themselves and how they can be made to work better. In analyzing those interventions, we argue that projects mostly fail because of over-large “design-reality gaps”; that is, too great a mismatch between the expectations built into their design as compared to on-the-ground realities in the context of their implementation. Successful initiatives find ways to minimize or close these gaps. Effective design and implementation processes enable gap closure and improve the likelihood of success.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Development InformaticsUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen InstituteBergenNorway

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