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Say NO to bribe.

By Luzia Amon, Cecilia Battich & Lisa Grages.

Cecilia: “When I was younger, I frequently travelled to Argentina to visit my family from my father’s side. One time, when walking through the streets of Buenos Aires I noticed the huge ‘Casa Rosada’ which is the working palace of the Argentinian President. It is a pink-coloured palace with giant fences around it and many guards who protect it. It made me reflect on the different lives of the Argentinian president and the Dutch prime minister. In Argentina, it is a well-known fact that the president has multiple luxury residents all over the world and that his children go to the most elite schools. He is guarded 24/7 and chauffeured to every location. In the Netherlands, we are proud of the fact that our prime minister bikes to work and laugh at the fact that he used to still live with his mother far into adulthood. I asked myself, where does the Argentinian president get his money from? Is the salary for being a president that high? Then why does the Dutch prime minister not have multiple houses? While I did question the situation, I did not have an answer for it. 15 years later, when starting my Value Creators journey with Lisa and Luzia, events like these have become the steppingstone to addressing the wicked problem of corruption within SDG 16.”

What feels like a short eternity ago, the three of us sat together in Cecilia’s room over a cup of tea. Bright-eyed and optimistic, we were discussing our shared interests, searching for potential ideas and directions that we perhaps could merge to pursue a common wicked problem. The issues underlying the development aid system was a particularly intriguing subject. So was the emergence of alternative sustainable economies spearheaded in regions like Scandinavia, and the challenges underlying its adoption in the developing world. We were all interested in similar directions, but with different angles of approaching it.

Fast-forward to a month later, after many brainstorming sessions, we narrowed down our topic to corruption, as it is a problem prevalent on all levels of society and a major driving force in hindering true development in developing countries. But this was still a giant of an issue to tackle! How do we get started?

Through the guidance of our coach Aryanti and the looming deadline of our first E-model report, we made some first progresses in our quest for narrowing down corruption. We started with a case study research into the Democratic Republic of Congo (only to dawn on us later that it will be a true challenge to work with stakeholders there, as none of us conversed fluently in French). We moved on to picking out different generalist organizations and institutions that were actively working on anti-corruption measures or advocacy, quickly scoring different contacts and hopping onto our first calls. Slowly but surely, we were building more confidence in our knowledge of the topic and had the chance to explore the different dimensions to it through stimulating conversations with every new stakeholder. We identified some ‘missing links’ and had a growing network that were curious about our direction.

But what next? How do we move forward? We wanted to engage youth in our product creation, but where to start? We put our investigative hats back on and did some market research. But that was not enough. We felt ourselves sinking into an “absencing” phase, a state of mind known in Theory U as the part where you feel disconnected and at lost from what you are trying to achieve. That did not last though! We quickly picked ourselves back up during a fruitful mid-term reflection session and went back to basics. We knew that we wanted to create something of value that is related to the international Anti-Corruption Day, something one of our stakeholders mentioned to us, and we had to start soon as the clock was ticking.

As the nature of corruption is so contextual, we realized that our best shot was to choose one specific location to engage in – and we picked the low-hanging fruit. Luckily, Lisa had a couple of contacts who were happy to lend a helping hand. With the aid of a teacher, a couple of students at an international school, a campaign designer and a national parliament advisor, we were motivated to get started on the co-creation process of our little social media campaign and a workshop on corruption! Due to the sensitive matter of the issue and after more input from our local network, we changed the theme of the workshop to place civic education at the forefront, to promote civic values such as fairness and ethical behaviour. This way, we could tailor our workshop to target also English-language schools where there is a lower level of English fluency. Due to some unforeseen delays, our very own pilot workshop will take place at the end of January, which we all are very excited for!

What does the future hold for us afterwards? Our pilot is merely a baby step in a much greater scheme of ambition, which is to encourage teachers and educators to bring civic education into the formal education curricula and make it a norm for the public who lack access to it. Together with a respected stakeholder within our network, we will continue our value creation process and improve upon our pilot and tackle the next destination!

“Knowledge is power. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

-Kofi Annan

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