What is ACE?

The SOAS Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) research consortium – led by SOAS, University of London – takes an innovative approach to anti-corruption policy and practice. Started in 2017, and funded by UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), SOAS ACE is responding to the serious challenges facing people and economies affected by corruption by generating evidence that makes anti-corruption real and using those findings to help policymakers, business and civil society adopt new, feasible, high-impact strategies to tackle corruption.

Running until 2027, the current phase of SOAS ACE is building on the insights and learning from our first phase from 2017 to 2022 which identified feasible, high-impact, evidence-based strategies to reduce corruption in different sectors and countries with over 30 research partners around the world. Led by Professor Mushtaq Khan and Dr Pallavi Roy, the latest phase will extend and deepen our work in sectors including health, education, green investments and climate change, digital ID, and government procurement in Nigeria, Bangladesh and several other countries.

The wider FCDO Research and Evidence Directorate (RED)-funded Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) research programme was launched in 2015 and has recently been extended until 2027. ACE provides external, independent, rigorous research with a long-term funding commitment that allows ACE to produce a large body of evidence over time as a global public good. ACE directly informs FCDO and HMG strategy, policy, operations and programming, with impact around the world.

The wider ACE programme has 3 components, each of which specialises in specific areas:

To date, ACE has worked with over 60 organisations and over 200 researchers in countries across most regions of the world.

Watch our introductory video here.

Existing anti-corruption approaches have often delivered poor results in developing countries because they have attempted to enforce formal rules using ‘vertical’ agencies such as anti-corruption and tax authorities or public prosecutors. Vertical enforcement is necessary but only works if the rules being enforced are supported by those subject to them, such as businesses, civil society and public service providers.

This ‘horizontal’ support for enforcement only happens when the rules enable these actors to be productive in their own interests. For example, these actors are likely to stop interacting with rule violators, report them to the authorities or directly punish them, when they see these violations as damaging to their own productivity. In rule-following societies, significant horizontal enforcement is critical for adhering to laws and tackling corruption, and helps vertical enforcement – which has limited capacity on its own – to be successful.

Society-wide vertical enforcement thus requires thousands of powerful organisations to assist with horizontal support. This is likely in developed countries where most powerful organisations are productive enough to benefit from general rule of law enforcement, and where economic policies are supportive of productivity. But in developing countries, these conditions are absent or only partially exist. Organisations are thus more inclined to negotiate their own informal arrangements than support the enforcement of rule of law.

Theory of Change

Our Theory of Change is based on a simple but powerful proposition. Anti-corruption policies can be feasible and have a high impact on delivery in sectors as diverse as power generation, pharmaceuticals, health services or fertilisers…