‘Islands of integrity’

Heather was Principal Investigator on ‘Islands of Integrity‘, funded by the British Academy/Global Challenges Research Fund’s Sustainable Development Programme. Dr Caryn Peiffer (University of Bristol) was Co-Investigator, and the research team included Dr Rosita Armytage (Research Fellow, University of Durham), Professor Trevor Budhram (Research co-ordinator & collaborator, University of South Africa) and Mr Pius Gumisiriza (Research co-ordinator & assistant, Ugandan Management Institute). The project ran from December 2016-May 2018, though dissemination is ongoing. 

Corruption researchers tend to focus a lot of attention on why systemically corrupt countries fail to improve and why anticorruption efforts often fall flat. As such, the field has had a difficult time identifying and explaining how positive change happens in order to inspire new and more effective anticorruption interventions.  Our research focuses on the opposite: potential success stories in anticorruption. Using a novel three-step methodology developed to identify previously hidden ‘positive outliers’, we look at sectors within a country that have successfully reduced bribery against the odds in otherwise systemically corrupt countries.

Having identified up to 18 potential cases, we drilled down in two ‘positive outlier’ cases—Uganda’s health sector and South Africa’s police—to uncover the political processes and policies that have been responsible for bribery reduction in each case. In doing so, we draw out lessons about how positive changes happened and what can be learned for more successful anti-corruption interventions. However, our success cases also highlight some important tensions that raise red flags for future interventions, collective action-based or otherwise, and we look at important lessons from these as well.

Project Papers

‘”Islands of integrity?” Reductions in bribery in Uganda and South Africa and lessons for anti-corruption policy and practice‘, DLP Research Paper 58, October 2018 (Heather Marquette & Caryn Peiffer)

‘The Surprising Case of Police Bribery Reduction in South Africa’, DLP Research Paper 57, May 2018 (Caryn Peiffer, Heather Marquette, Rosita Armytage & Trevor Budhram)

‘Uganda’s Health Sector as a “Hidden” Positive Outlier in Bribery Reduction’, DLP Research Paper 56, May 2018 (Caryn Peiffer, Rosita Armytage & Heather Marquette)

‘Searching for Success: A Mixed Methods Approach to Identifying and Examining Positive Outliers in Development Outcomes’, DLP Research Paper 52, April 2018 (Caryn Peiffer & Rosita Armytage)

Briefs & Other Media

Bribery in health down 50%‘, Independent (Uganda), 18 March 2019 (Heather Marquette, Caryn Peiffer & Rosita Armytage, with Pius Gumisiriza)

What we found out about bribery patterns in Uganda’s health care system‘, Conversation Africa, 28 February 2019 (Heather Marquette, Caryn Peiffer & Rosita Armytage, with Pius Gumisiriza).

Uganda’s health sector as a ‘hidden’ positive outlier in bribery reduction‘, University of Birmingham Policy Brief, January 2019.

‘What “hidden” success stories tell us about anti-corruption policy and practice’, Public Administration Review blog, 22 October 2018 (Heather Marquette & Caryn Peiffer)

‘How to find surprising development successes’, DLP Opinions blog, 16 April 2018 (Caryn Peiffer & Rosita Armytage)

‘Corruption research: Hunting for glimmers of light in the gloom’, DLP Opinions blog, 25 July 2017 (Caryn Peiffer & Rosita Armytage)


Conference on ‘Collective Action – Evolution to Revolution‘, International Centre on Collective Action, Basel Institute on Governance, Basel, 14-15 November. Panel on ‘From Island of Integrity to Integrity Pacts – and back again?’ (Moderator: Claudia Baez, Head of Governance Research, Basel Institute)


  • Robert Klitgaard, Professor, Claremont Graduate University, USA
  • Heather Marquette, Professor, Birmingham University, UK
  • Daniel Bühr, Partner, LALIVE
  • Esteban Arribas Reyes, Senior Researcher, TI Spain
  • Claire Martin, Project Leader- Public Accountability, Transparency Internationalbasel conference

Islands of integrity: Anti-corruption research to guide the way‘, Global Integrity, Washington DC, 22 June 2018

GI event tweet.PNG


Panel on ‘Anti-corruption and development assistance at a crossroads’, Australasian Aid Conference, Canberra, 12-14 February 2018. Video and podcast available.