U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre

This Anti-Corruption Helpdesk brief was produced in response to a query from a U4 Partner Agency. The U4 Helpdesk is operated by Transparency International in collaboration with the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute.


Is there evidence for so-called islands of integrity to effect sustainable public sector transformations at the national level and, if so, please provide an overview of the research and evidence?


  1. How do islands of integrity emerge in corrupt environments?
  2. The impact of islands of integrity
  3. Challenges and opportunities for a wider impact
  4. References


There is no substantive evidence-based research on the sustainable impact of islands of integrity on the wider system, nor is there enough specific literature on islands of integrity. Nevertheless, the broader literature on positive outliers in public administration offers guidance on where and whatto look at when thinking about the impact of islands of integrity.


Islands of integrity are public institutions that reduce corruption despite being surrounded by endemic corruption. Research on islands of integrity and documented empirical evidence on their impact in the broad context is very scarce. Moreover, their impact is context dependent and would require case-by-case analysis. Nevertheless, the literature on positive outliers in public administration offers valuable guidance to reflect on the different impact levels and the wider impact of islands of integrity.

Islands of integrity have an impact at three levels. One is the impact caused by their “corruption-free” performance. A second level is their impact in fulfilling their institutional purpose. The third level is their effect on the wider system. One crucial obstacle to the wider impact of islands of integrity is the absence and limitations of methodologies to identify those positive outliers. The lessons that can be learned and potentially transferred to other institutions and sectors depend on making existing outstanding cases visible. Islands of integrity also offer opportunities regarding the identification and amplification of knowledge and the stimulation of innovation.


Nieves Zúñiga, Transparency International, [email protected]


Marie Chene, Transparency International, [email protected]




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