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New ways of collaboration in fighting corruption

Complexity is a frequent refrain on International Anti-Corruption Day. Individual instances of corruption can be brazenly simple but the system, actors, and processes that enable cross-border corruption are hard to see, hard to grasp, and hard to tackle. 

To expose, punish, and prevent corruption, a multiplicity of actions is needed, often requiring very different skillsets. Luminate began its anti-corruption journey concentrating on data disclosure to attack the hidden nature of corruption. It has increasingly invested in the digging and storytelling associated with investigative journalism. We also recognise the importance of a strong regulatory and legal framework to deter and punish corruption. Yet so often the skills associated with data analysis, storytelling, and policy are not well aligned.

The Anti-Corruption Data Collective (ACDC) was launched this year as a project of the Fund for Constitutional Government. It is a conscious effort to tackle that lack of alignment across anti-corruption disciplines, being a collaboration of journalists, programmers, academics, and advocates aiming to tackle specific dimensions of transnational corruption flows. ACDC looks to expose corruption among elected and other government officials by leveraging both data and anti-corruption expertise to target specific vehicles for hiding and laundering corrupt capital.

The ACDC team is looking to test this concept of interwoven skills by exploring two high risk sectors - real estate and private investment funds. It aims to produce sustainable and effective technical tools and techniques for promoting transparency that deters kleptocrats and their business partners from stealing and laundering public money and assets. If ACDC is successful in exposing the major corruption risks and actual examples of corruption in these two significant investment fields (real estate and private investment funds), they will be able to support advocacy for changes in law and in practice (e.g. anti-money laundering and disclosure requirements) that will be led by strong advocacy partners such as Transparency International, the FACT Coalition, Project On Government Oversight, and Global Witness.

While this is an experimental approach, ACDC is in good hands. It was conceived by three impressive founders: 

  • award-winning journalist Frederik Obermaier of Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the ICIJ initiators of the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers;
  • the anti-corruption campaigner Zoë Reiter, Director of Civic Engagement at Project on Government Oversight (POGO), who designed and led Transparency International’s CRIMJUST project to strengthen capacity of law enforcement sectors in Latin America and Africa to resist capture by organized crime and led the relaunch of the TI’s strategic presence in the US; 
  • David Szakonyi, Assistant Professor of Political Science, George Washington University, the author of numerous academic articles on corruption as well as Politics for Profit, a new book on the intersection of business and politics in Russia published this year.

Luminate is proud to be funding ACDC and is particularly excited about its network approach across different "pillars" of civil society and accountability actors. The team is already collaborating with several Luminate partners, including Global Witness, Finance Uncovered, OCCRP, ICIJ, and the FACT Coalition. We hope to support the further development and strengthening of that network around the world, and across at least three of Luminate’s impact areas - financial transparency, independent media, and civic empowerment.