I’m just back from a trip to a not so democratic nation in Africa and from an amazing Net-Mapping session with urban water managers. I knew that they were faced with two major challenges to improving their dilapidated system: Leakage of water and leakage of money.
But as an outsider, can you just come in an say: “Let’s talk about corruption!” Well, no. And yes.
When we draw a Net-Map together, we start innocently enough: “Who will influence whether you achieve 24/7 delivery of water to your customers in this city?” They put everyone and their grandmother on the map and start getting in the flow. Drawing the formal hierarchies and formal flows of money helped them understand the general structure that is the backbone of the system. In this specific case I knew a bit about the informal money flows (a.k.a. corruption) beforehand and proposed mapping them too. The temperature in the room rose by at least 10 degrees and everyone was very awake when they started drawing out the simple and complex lines of corruption and explaining the cartel-like structures involved. For us as outsiders, it helped us to understand what they are up against. But I think the more significant thing was what happened within the group, being in this pressure cooker together, experiencing that yes, they can talk about corruption, starting with the little people, the ground level entry points but also exploring the connections as they lead higher up…
No, we did not find a solution for it. We did not eradicate corruption or discover the secret for world peace. But I am convinced: If you want to get rid of a monster, the first thing you have to do is to look the monster in the face and say: “Monster, I see you!”