TNRC External Resource Tufts Social Norms and Corruption: An Overview

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Targeting Natural Resource Corruption

Harnessing knowledge, generating evidence, and supporting innovative policy and practice for more effective anti-corruption programming

Social Norms and Corruption: An Overview

While behavior change theories and efforts are familiar to many conservation and natural resource management practitioners, there has been less emphasis on how these approaches can help address the negative impact of corruption on conservation and NRM outcomes. This short guide, from the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Program at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, gives an easy, accessible overview of some essential knowledge about the relationship between social norms and corrupt behaviors. Social norms can prevent anti-corruption (or any) programming from changing behavior through their effect on people's expectations. If people expect that others will continue to profit from corruption, or if they think they themselves will be in danger from corrupt actors if they refuse to participate in corruption, those people are unlikely to refrain from corruption--even if they believe a corrupt act is wrong.

As the short guide highlights, the risks to a program that ignores social norms are high. They include not just less sustainable impact, but the potential to exacerbate corruption, conflict, and, potentially, endanger people's lives. Practitioners undertaking activities in contexts where corruption is pervasive would be well-advised to consult these key principles.

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Image attribution: © / Jen Guyton / WWF; © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF; © Georgina Goodwin / Shoot The Earth / WWF-UK; © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus