Workshop on Islands of Institutional Integrity

18 attendees at the Speaker's dinner at the Quandrangle Club


On November 10, 2023, the Malyi Center hosted a group of thirty academics, government representatives, and graduate students for a Workshop on Islands of Institutional Integrity. This is a term in the development literature characterizing institutions that maintain an ability to function effectively, even in otherwise degraded or corrupt systems. Such institutions may serve a variety of roles, such as investigation of corruption, judicial management, administration of elections, or provision of high-quality data. The literature on these positive outliers has largely been drawn from sociology and focused on public administration. Our workshop sought to broaden the theoretical conversation to include economists, lawyers, and political scientists, and to consider the implications for legal institutions, as well as ideas to inform prophylactic institutional design regarding democratic backsliding. Papers focused on a diverse array of countries, with special geographic focus on (i) Mexico under current President Lopez Obrador, and (ii) countries in the former Soviet Union.  

A highlight of the program was an opportunity to hear from Adam Bodnar, the former Ombudsman of Poland who was recently elected to the Senate in October 2023.  As the main constitutional institution not controlled by the Law and Justice Party from 2015-2019, the Ombudsman’s office played a critical role in preserving space for civil society. Bodnar described the institutional features and personal strategies that facilitated the functioning of this island of integrity.

The Workshop was also critical for allowing the Malyi Center to expand its network in the region of interest, specifically in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. We invited several scholars from the region currently in the US to attend, including Nazarii Stetsyk from University of Notre Dame, Egor Lazarev from Yale University, Konstantin Sonin from University of Chicago, Marina Zaloznaya from University of Iowa, and Kirill Titaev from Yale University.  Our recent University of Chicago PhD graduate Zhenya Olimpieva, whose dissertation is on Russian prosecutors, has helped us build the network. The conference also featured Professors Konstantin Sonin and Aziz Huq of the University of Chicago.