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Civic engagement to curb corruption: how institutions may shape opportunities and impulses for activism

Marcia Grimes (University of Gothenburg/Quality of Government Institute)

25 NOVEMBER 2020

BIT-ACT Seminar Series

dalle 17:00 alle 18:00 - Online | Zoom


Registration and Link for the Online Seminar

Our monthly seminars last 1 hour, are open and free of charge.

Those who are not part of the University of Bologna's academic community, please register HERE

Link to access the online talk: HERE. In case of any doubt, please contact Anwesha Chakraborty ( and Fernanda Odilla (

Talk Description

Presentation abstract: Citizen activism and engagement are often pointed to as a means to expose and redress government corruption. A range of institutional spaces and mechanisms have emerged in recent decades precisely to foster such involvement. In recent survey of research on social accountability initiatives (SAIs), which have been deployed primarily in developing countries, I together with my co-author Frida Boräng, find that such mechanisms are less transformative than hoped (see attached chapter). Research on societal accountability – spontaneous bottom-up efforts to redress corruption – also suggests that the likelihood that such efforts will arise and succeed is low where institutions are highly corrupt. This presentation will explore how government institutions, their characteristics, and quality, may shape the opportunities and impulses for citizen involvement and activism. Where institutions are permeated with corruption or alternatively virtually absent from citizens’ lives, as in rural settings in much of the developing world, civic engagement may, for a number of reasons, seem futile or alien to many citizens. In highly developed settings where institutions are characterized by low levels of corruption, evidence also shows no link between civic engagement and lower levels of corruption. Taken together, these findings suggest a need to systematically consider how institutions shape citizens’ inclinations to assume a role as accountability actors, with implications for both scholarship and policy work.

Short Bio of the Seminar Speaker

Marcia Grimes is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg and a research fellow at the Quality of Government Institute at the same university. Grimes’ research explores civic engagement in the area of anti-corruption, including in institutional arrangements designed to expand ‘crowd-sourced accountability’, or citizens-led campaigns to hold officials accountable. More specifically, her work examines how government institutions, and the degree to which they are impartial or, alternatively, distorted to serve private, political or partisan interests, affect citizens’ political engagement.