• Richard Bistrong

Can you teach anti-corruption?

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

The following interview is with Elena Helmer, Director, Master in Anti-Corruption Studies (MACS) Programme, International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA).

Q: Elena, you are director of IACA’s Master in Anti-Corruption Studies (MACS) program. For those who might not be familiar with IACA, can you tell us more about it? Why and when did it start, and what is the purpose of the Academy?

EH: The International Anti-Corruption Academy, or IACA, became an international organization in 2011. It was set up to help overcome existing shortcomings in knowledge and practice in the field of anti-corruption and compliance, and to empower professionals. IACA has a unique dual purpose: it is an international organization with a constituency that brings together more than 5 billion people worldwide, and it is also an educational institution for experienced anti-corruption and compliance professionals.

Q: How has it evolved over the years?

EH: Quite rapidly. IACA is just five years old but we already have 67 Parties as well as more than 800 alumni in 140 countries. In addition to the MACS program which started in 2012, we offer numerous open-enrollment programs  and tailor-made training. We plan to launch a second master’s in 2017 on collective action, compliance, and (private sector) anti-corruption, and we’re also working on developing a Ph.D. program. There is a great demand for anti-corruption and compliance education, and IACA has a well-established brand in this rapidly developing field.

Q: Now tell us about the Master in Anti-Corruption Studies program. Elena, I really enjoyed presenting to the last class on Business and Corruption, and look forward to joining you again, so if you don’t mind sharing some more about it for today’s readers, I am sure they would like to hear more about the program.

EH: The MACS is a unique two-year M.A. program for working professionals. With a mix of classroom and distance learning, the seven MACS modules look at corruption from just about every possible angle: political science, sociology, economics, law, business, and others. We have students from all over the world, literally, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The average age is 38, and most of them are mid-career professionals from all walks of life: government, law enforcement, business, international organizations, NGOs, journalism…. This diversity produces fascinating exchanges in and outside the classroom.

Q: So, from your perspective Elena, can you really teach anti-corruption? What gives you the greatest hope for success, how do you measure success, and where do you see the greatest challenges ahead?

EH: It is a loaded question, Richard! Of course, you can teach anti-corruption, and we bring in the best of the best – Michael Johnston, Johann Graf Lambsdorff, Mushtaq Khan, Tina Soreide, Drago Kos are just a few of our regular lecturers. Learning from experts who have successfully accomplished major changes and can communicate the why, what, and how of effective anti-corruption action is incredibly enriching. I have seen many IACA students go back to their countries and organizations and achieve great steps forward for their people in the fight against corruption.

But knowledge and practical experience is not the end in itself. Our goal is to create a community of anti-corruption practitioners, to have an environment in which you can pick up the phone, call a classmate or a lecturer on the other side of the world, and get help. And support, of course, because anti-corruption work is often dangerous and frustrating.

For me personally, the greatest measure of success is the success of our students and the program itself. A current MACS student, who graduated from one of the best universities in the world, told me last month that “IACA’s education is by far the best I have ever had.” Another said that he wished he had enrolled in the MACS ten years ago, “to avoid learning by trial and error.” This is success.

As to challenges…. The greatest challenge for MACS students and graduates lies in  implementing what they learn during the program in their own environments, which are often very tough.



Yes, you can teach #anticorruption, but the challenge is implementing it in-country

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Q: Well, thank you, Elena. I know that there is a June 30, 2016, application deadline for the upcoming program, so for those who are interested, where is the best place for them to review the literature and to make contact?

EH: The MACS website, of course: macs.iaca.int. And we are always happy to answer any questions, so macs2016@iaca.int is a good way to go!

Q: Thank you again, and as an aside, I am really looking forward to meeting Martin Kreutner, IACA’s Dean, at the upcoming NYC FCPA Blog event in October!

EH: Thank you, Richard.


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