Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Integrity Idol Elevates All by Honoring Honest Officials in Corrupt Systems

My topic on WKYB.

Integrity Idol is a popular competition to honor public officials who do their jobs honestly, transparently, and well in places where that is not the norm.

Created by the American good-government group Accountability Lab, the project now exists in five countries notorious for their endemic corruption.  Starting in Nepal in 2014, the local teams take nominations from all over the country of public officials doing their jobs well.  The five nominees are then profiled on television.  Popular voting determines the winner, who is then honored on the show.

The first winner, Gyan Mani Nepal, is a District Education Officer in Nepal.  He was faced with a terrible pass rate by his students - 14% - on the national exam.  When he looked into why, he found that many teachers simply did not show up for work.  Many were patronage appointments made by local politicians.  They collected their salaries, but often were out doing the bidding of their political bosses.  Mr. Nepal gave his phone number to all the students and had them text him whenever their teacher was absent.  He had the students keep attendance logs for their teachers.  Using this, he fired the worst offenders, trained the best teachers, and encouraged those in the middle to commit to their jobs.  He also reduced his own budget, and posted all of his expenses, thereby winning the respect of the public.  The parents, in particular, were grateful supporters.

In one year, the pass rate on the national exam rose to 60%.

Max Weber said that money and command authority are, indeed, two kinds of power in the world.  But an equally important kind of power comes from status.  Status is not something we can give ourselves, but comes from the honor we earn from others.  Integrity Idol puts status power to work to lift up the honorable, empowering them to improve their whole system.

Jonathan Haidt says that when we see others doing good things, it elevates our own happiness, and makes us want to go out and do good, too.