By Dr. Harutyun Aleksanyan, August 2014
Education is an important component of integrity building in any society to empower citizens to act with and demand integrity. Universities have a unique role in teaching and preparing future professionals for the workplace with all its challenges.
Education is a necessary and important component and tool for carrying out the Community Integrity Building (CIB) approach, and Closing the Loop is a critical element for the successful resolution of problems in CIB projects.
Although CSOs are the main actors in Community Integrity Building projects, they cannot always teach/train a sufficient quantity of CIB monitors and do all the collecting of data, expert analysis, and reports. It is impossible to effectively complete monitoring of a CIB project and finally close the loop without the active participation of students, professors and academics.
University, college and high school students, as well as professors are important human resources for any CIB project, by actively participating in joint working groups.
In Community Integrity Building, integrity education is important to consider at three levels:
At the Community Level:
It is important to introduce integrity education in schools, colleges and universities and engage students as community monitors - students will participate in joint learning together with local officials and CSO members and then work on community-based projects. For example, in West Bank, Palestine, 30 students in the 11th grade of Izzat Abu Rubb Boys School participated in the Teacher Creativity Centre’s (TCC) Social Audits Project in 2013. Through the Social Audits Project TCC is working with school children in Palestine to monitor and improve the quality of infrastructure projects which matter to local communities - See more here.
At the Expert Level:
Experts from colleges and universities can introduce integrity education across a range of disciplines and engage students as community monitors in context sensitivity and evidence-based stages of CIB projects to: a) establish baselines, conduct research for understanding integrity challenges and issues, b) analyse using the ACE elements of integrity (accountability, competence, ethics) with corruption controls, verification techniques, and data collection using the skills they acquire, c) conduct impact assessment, reporting and community feedback analysis.
By involving academics and students in conducting field research it will be possible to strengthen the expertise of community monitors through integrity education, peer support and evidence-based advocacy.
Getting respective training students and teachers from Bhairavee Higher Secondary School, Dhading, Shree Tara Higher Secondary School, Gorkha, and Amar Campus Bhingri, Pyuthan, have been using their new skills. The three schools formed 15 monitoring groups (5 in each district) with one teacher and five students in each group.
These monitoring groups then visited 15 schools, 5 in each district in Nepal. Using their new skills, the students accessed school budgets for scholarship funds and surveyed teachers, students and parents. Each of the three monitoring groups then produced a report based on their findings and submitted these to their districts’ education authorities. See more here.
At the Policy Level:
Colleges and universities can be involved in constructive engagement (the joint working groups will identify solutions to the monitored problems, conduct advocacy, build coalitions, PR, etc). Universities also can be included in developing policy papers on innovative financing of CIB, or public procurement oversight. For example, Teacher Creativity Center, in Palestine within Integrity Action’s CIB programme sent students to participate in public hearings on water issues.
In Armenia, 34 graduate students from different universities in Yerevan, participated in business integrity internships during which they learned about public integrity and how to analyse and enact integrity in their daily lives.
During the students’ internships, the Yerevan mayor decided to raise public transport costs by 50% violating citizen’s legal rights. Furthermore, he enacted the decision without public consultation. As a result of their integrity training, the students recognised this as an integrity challenge, and used an ‘integrity lens’ to identify problematic behaviour such as the mayor’s lack of accountability and unethical, non-participatory decision-making process. Students immediately mobilised to further analyse the problems and formulated recommendations to solve them. They took practical actions such as writing to the Mayor, asking him to retract the decision and then rallied with other young people to protest against the new legislation. The practical suggestions made by the students were spread very quickly via social media and were presented to the authorities, including the urban authorities. Following on from the actions the students took, the Yerevan mayor’s office eliminated the decision and postponed the process of raising transportation prices.
In all of the five CIB phase’s community monitors in joint working groups (JWGs) with active involvement of teachers, university professors, and public officials, community members should learn together. This could be done through trainings, workshops, seminars, guest lectures, round tables, etc. It is important to create a partnership with civil service training institutions and involve them in coalitions.
Constructive engagement finally will discuss integrity issues, close the loop and influence policy at the local, national or international levels.
Methodologies to be adopted during the joint learning process
Monitoring and evaluation related methodological training should be included in the joint learning process in any CIB project. JWG monitors should be trained on how to properly organise:
· Surveys (micro, occasional, in-depth, sociological) this is relevant for context analysis and gathering evidence stages;
· Monitoring & Evaluation (relevant for gathering evidence and closing the loop stages);
· Study visits (relevant for gathering evidence and closing the loop stages)
· Films, videos (relevant for gathering evidence stage)
· In-depth and structured interviews (relevant for gathering evidence and closing the loop stages)
· Needs assessment (relevant for context sensitivity stage)
· Advocacy, coalition building (relevant for constructive engagement stage)
· Research methods (relevant for context sensitivity, gathering evidence and closing the loop stages)
· Focus groups (relevant for context sensitivity stage, gathering evidence and closing the loop stages)
Integrity Training Tools:
Training manuals, School Civics DVD, ACE animations, presentations, handouts, maps, etc.
 Closing the Loop: occurs when feedback is integrated into a process and triggers an informed, appropriate response to resolve an identified problem.