Introducing the Smarter Crowdsourcing Against Corruption Initiative

To identify and implement innovative approaches for fighting corruption, we at The Governance Lab (GovLab) are partnering with Mexico’s Secretaría de la Función Pública (Secretariat of the Civil Service) and the Inter-American Development Bank to conduct a series of online conferences that will convene global experts from a variety of fields, including public administration, data analytics, technology, law enforcement, and business.

These six online dialogues will take place during June and July of 2017, with each two-hour dialogue focusing on a specific challenge that stands in the way of improved public integrity. We are soliciting the advice and participation of experts from around the world.

The online conferences will address the following six challenges:

  • Measuring Corruption and its Costs (June 6)
  • Countering Judicial Corruption (June 20)
  • Facilitating Citizen Participation in Policymaking (June 27)
  • Ensuring Whistleblower Support and Protection (July 11)
  • Increasing the Effectiveness of Prosecution ( July 18)
  • Tracking and Analyzing Money Flows (July 25)

Each conference will take place from 10–12p Eastern Standard Time.

To express your interest or to refer others who may be able to help, please follow this link or email

Beth Noveck introduces the Smarter Crowdsourcing | Anti-corruption initiative during a workshop on problem definition with key stakeholders at Mexico City (April 21st, 2017).


One in every three times a Mexican citizen interacts with government a bribe is paid (read more here or here). The real cost of such a problem goes beyond the billions of diverted taxpayer pesos. It also hinders the delivery of essential government services, harms public safety, and reduces public trust in government. In a recent survey, corruption was named as the second most relevant problem in Mexico behind only crime and ahead of unemployment.

Graphic 1. What Worries the World. Ipsos Public Affairs. 2016.

In 2016, the challenge of corruption spurred an unprecedented legal reform process, driven by civil society. The passage of the National Anti-Corruption System calls for reforms across the federal government. The new legal framework –which has been widely heralded– creates, for example, a specialized court on corruption crimes and it expands and improves the ethics obligations of public servants. Although the Sistema Nacional Anticorrupción (National Anti-Corruption System) has propelled Mexico to global leadership in the reach and strength of its anti-corruption laws, most of the battle still lies ahead, as government agencies, the judiciary, and civil society put this law into practice.

Implementing a reform of this scale and complexity requires government to work in fundamentally different ways. Entire programs and processes need to be re-built, institutions reformed, and behaviors and mindsets changed. With this daunting challenge comes an opportunity to introduce innovative and improved approaches to governing.


We are applying the Smarter Crowdsourcing methodology to the pressing challenge of corruption in an effort to help Mexico rapidly identify practical reform strategies that have worked elsewhere. The goal is to harness the momentum created by the passage of the National Anti-Corruption System to go beyond legal principles and, in addition, to implement new practices.

Online dialogue on “Assessing Public Awareness” for the Smarter Crowdsourcing | Zika initiative that took place during August-October, 2016.

Thus, instead of a handful of people meeting once at great expense in a conference room, we will use the Internet to make it easy for people to lend their time and know-how to identify, design and iterate upon implementable ideas that governments can use.

The method we employ marries the agility and diversity of crowdsourcing (also called “open innovation”) with curation to target those with relevant know-how and bring them together in a format designed to produce effective and implementable outcomes.

This more targeted form of crowdsourcing, which quickly matches the demand for expertise to the supply of it, is what we call “smarter crowdsourcing.”

This is our third iteration of the Smarter Crowdsourcing model. In 2015, we assisted the government of Quito, Ecuador in preparing for the eruption of the Cotopaxi Volcano, that led to the development and testing of a new citizen reporting platform. More recently, we completed a Smarter Crowdsourcing initiative focused on Zika in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank and the governments of Argentina, Colombia, Panama, and Rio de Janeiro (see project here).

This model has five phases, as outlined below (figure 1):

First, we break a big problem down into a set of specific, core challenges that need to be addressed.

Second, we work with our government partners to conduct background research on each challenges and ensure that we understand its root causes and, particularly, how those manifest themselves in each context.

Third, we solicit the participation of leading experts to address these core challenges. We both put out an open call for volunteers and hand-select the list of guests who can contribute most to helping governments to identify practical solutions.

Next, we hold online conferences on each challenge to identify potential innovative approaches to solving them.

Finally, in order to enable implementation of what is learned during the conferences, we complement the online dialogues with research and write up detailed implementation roadmaps in order that our partners can put the best ideas into action quickly.


At this stage in the project, we have already worked with Mexico’s Secretaría de la Función Pública and the IADB to identify and prioritize those six challenges that this initiative will help to address. In collaboration with Yale’s Governance Innovation Clinic, we conducted research into each of these challenges, developing detailed problem briefs which will inform the online conferences.

Participants at Mexico City’s workshop discussed problem briefs and provided additional feedback to GovLab’s team.

To aid in that research, we convened a workshop at the offices of the Inter-American Development Bank in Mexico City with around 60 key stakeholders –top-level government officials, leading civil society organizations, representatives from the private sector, and local academics and experts– where the six challenges were discussed and specified. The workshop tested our understanding of the problems and gave us additional feedback on the briefs that will guide the conferences (see the program of the workshop here).

We are now preparing and designing each of the six conferences, actively soliciting offers of expertise or referrals from global experts. These conferences will last approximately two hours. You can express your interest by following this link or email

From the conferences, a set of implementable ideas will be identified and detailed plans about how to put those ideas into action will be prepared. Although written for Mexico, these implementation guides will be freely available online for the benefit of anti-corruption reformers everywhere. Additionally, over the course of this project, we will foster a network of informal, agile, and diverse innovators from around the world.

If you want to keep informed about this initiative, you can visit or follow @TheGovLab on Twitter.

Like what you read? Give The GovLab a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.