We see it as our mission to design, test and promote a new generation of more effective anti-corruption and state-building programmes based on our research and grounded in the broader society, not just the government. We believe that the transition from a corrupt regime to a regime where ethical universalism is the norm is a political and not a technical-legal process, and that this process has to be driven by domestic actors who stand to lose from corruption. Identifying such actors, studying their strategies, helping their process of learning and empowerment is what can lead to the sustainable building of a governance regime based on ethical universalism.

Our three core objectives are:

1. To offer a clear, theory-grounded and policy-sensitive diagnosis tool to identify the potential for governance change and the policy options analysis on a case by case basis. What windows of opportunities to use, what actors are more interested in changing the rules of the game and how to sequence the transformation depends on the diagnosis of each society and cannot be solved by a one-size-fits-all solution. This is what we study with the aim to understand and spread this knowledge for both theoretical and practical purposes. Our analysis is based primarily on the ‘who’ and ‘when’ prior to the ‘what’ of control of corruption, as the latter varies – as it should – from one country to another and should be addressed by programmes and policies grounded in the specific political economy analysis of each society. Our aim is to study and promote the best contextual solutions.

2. To develop a second generation of governance indicators to allow better monitoring of trends (time-sensitive) and the impact of policies (change-sensitive). Policymakers and donors rely excessively on input and output indicators to evaluate anti-corruption policies. But when a policy or programme is not adequate in solving the problem, reports which evaluate how many seminars were held or policemen we trained have very little to tell about the progress of our efforts. We also work to develop impact indicators which can be included from the onset in anti-corruption policies and programmes.

3. To foster collective action by empowering domestic coalitions in favour of good governance through policy analysis, research, advocacy and transfer of knowledge. What is presented in most anti-corruption literature as a principal-agent problem is more often than not a collective action problem, since societies reach a sub-optimal equilibrium of poor governance and the domestic agency in favour of transformation is not sufficiently powerful. No country can improve without domestic collective action. The media, political oppositions and civil society should not be seen as non-permanent guests taking part in consultations on legal drafts but as main actors in the process of state-building who hold decisive seats in all institutions promoting ethical universalism. We need to conceive the UNCAC implementation and review as mechanisms to stir domestic collective action. The UNCAC can have an impact only if the entire society contributes to a check on the government. Furthermore, we believe that foreign aid should be tied to assistance on a cash-by-delivery mechanism only, with the goal of empowering local actors who seek reforms. We offer through our website, publications and teaching a platform for horizontal learning and best-practice transfer to help actors of governance transformation processes, be they civil society, businesses, governments or international donors.