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BLOG: Fighting corruption where and when it happens: Ambient accountability

In this blog post, Dieter Zinnbauer presents a powerful addition to the accountability toolbox: ambient accountability, the systematic use of physical space and the built environment to empower people to more effectively hold officials and service providers to account.


Please note that views expressed in this blog post are those of the authors and do not represent the position of The Anti-Corruption Research Network, Transparency International, or any of its affiliates. To comment on this post please log into ACRN.

 

 

Fighting corruption where and when it happens: Ambient accountability

By Dieter Zinnbauer, Senior Programme Manager - Emerging Policy Issues, Transparency International

Where next on the accountability research and action journey? This paper takes a first wave of empirical studies into the impact of social accountability as starting point to develop a very nimble, yet potentially very powerful addition to the accountability toolbox: ambient accountability, the systematic use of physical space and the built environment to empower people to more effectively hold officials and service providers to account.

I develop a first typology of ambient accountability with three interlinked clusters of mechanisms that respectively focus on helping citizens to better understand ‘what ought to happen’ (their rights, entitlements), what is actually happening (the performance of the official, institution etc.) and what to do, if things go wrong (who is responsible, how to complain effectively). Examples from all over the world are provided for all these three clusters, demonstrating the incredibly creative and diverse spectrum of ambient information and design interventions that can provide inspiration. However, so far these mechanisms have not been systematically explored, evaluated and adapted in a targeted manner by the governance community for the purpose of fighting corruption.

What’s more, insights and lessons from a wide variety of disciplines confirm the potential and promise of ambient accountability. From the vantage point of cognitive information science, political communication or social movement studies to insights from sociology of corruption, knowledge management or environmental psychology, ambient accountability looks like a very promising concept to explore and enrich the fight against corruption.

In short: ambient accountability provides a very exciting new lens to understand an important segment of corruption risks and develop new ideas for tackling them. It provides a common frame to bring together a new accountability alliance and tap into the expertise, experience and creativity of many stakeholders that are usually not an integral part of the anti-corruption conversation -from architects and city planners to public space designers, signage experts, as well as urban activists and artists. Last not least, the paper also highlights that there is a very important role for research in helping develop and most effectively use ambient accountability strategies.

 

For a first round of visual examples, ideas and full references to the literature, take a look at the working paper.  Feedback, ideas, interested to get involved? Your comments are most welcome.

Dieter Zinnbauer, "Ambient accountability, fighting corruption where and when it happens", Available at SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2168063, October 2012

 

Author : Dieter Zinnbauer

14 Dec 2012


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