“The Association of Legal Clinics of Ukraine (ALCU) held the first anti-corruption quest for students in Ukraine. It is organized to help Ukrainian students recognize corruption in higher education and counter its manifestations – from small bribes to complicated cases, which are dealt with by national anti-corruption bodies.
The idea of holding the Anti-Corruption Quest was born from the desire to create a non-standard format for teaching students the basics of anti-corruption, which would be interesting, up-to-date and combine the latest information technologies, AI and live communication.
“We wanted to create something unusual, but at the same time informative and educational for those students who are interested in combating corruption. So we decided to develop the quest in the form of a dialogue game, where students would have to act on behalf of specific characters and make sometimes difficult and contradictory choices – as it happens in real life. The events of the online part of the quest took place in the fictional Vinnytsia Shipbuilding Institute (VSI), and its key heroes were active, intelligent and attentive students – Aurora, Kharytyna, Kindrat and others,” – says Mariia Tsypiashchuk, the coordinator of the Anti-corruption quest, the ALCU Board-member.
The principle of the dialogue game and the plot, built around a specifically invented institution of higher education Vinnytsia Shipbuilding Institute (VSI), became common to the online and offline parts of the Anti-Corruption Quest. More than 160 students (of various specializations) from all over the country registered to participate in the online part. They worked individually and in teams, and for four months they solved practical situations related to corruption in higher education institutions; checked their knowledge by taking tests; attended online webinars from specialists of the ALCU, National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NACP), National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAP), the Project “Support of leading organizations in combating corruption in Ukraine “VzayemoDiya” (USAID SACCI) and other partners of the Association working in the field of combating corruption.
7 teams that showed the best results online advanced to the next — offline — stage of the quest. On October 2, 2023, they met at the quest locations, and for 3 days they competed for the title of the best experts in anti-corruption tools.
Practice that is lacking in classrooms
Familiar characters from the online found themselves again in a situation with a corruption trail, but this time the participants did not act on behalf of the student characters, but as NABU detectives – they investigated the case of the “rector of VSI”, who tried to sell university property and at the same time get an illegal profit. The participants recreated all the steps of the detectives in such a case, checking the law and logic and fulfilling all the necessary procedures and requirements.
The first day of the offline quest was dedicated to getting to know the teams who met for the first time at the locations, but very soon formed a friendly community where everyone is different, but everyone is equal. By completing the task of a non-standard presentation of the team or inventing what to present to their “Secret Friend”, students revealed their strengths, which were difficult to show in online conditions.
“Each of the teams that went to the offline part were, in fact, our rivals and, having a high level of preparation, possessing significant skills and abilities, they could easily beat us. However, instead of feeling rivalry, I constantly felt friendliness and teamwork. This, indeed, only strengthened the belief that we are one big team that is on the way to a big goal: the absolute eradication of corruption from the national environment; building a country with zero tolerance for bribery and with a regulatory and institutional anti-corruption architecture that is a benchmark for the whole world” – says Vadym Didenko, a member of the “Guardians of Justice” team, sharing his impressions.
At the same time, the teams began their work on the case, and the first task was to independently assemble the plot of the case, looking for clues and interacting with the characters. But they had to start this journey from the place they received a photo of an outside spot (a tree, a bench, a bush, etc.), where instructions and a map with quest locations awaited them. Relying on the map and moving from location to location, the participants had to collect 7 abstracts from characters who told only fragments of the whole story: the rector of VSI himself/herself, the head of student self-government, the anti-corruption commissioner, the head of the “Olympic champions” department, and even the rector’s secretary, who was not there physically and participants had to call her via phone. Their task was to compile the chronology of the plot. And here the game with the accumulation of points began: the more complete the version of the plot was, the more points the team received. In the end, the teams received an envelope with an expanded case and the first task that awaited them the next day.
The second day of the quest was entirely devoted to the team work acting as the NABU detectives. Each task is a new step in the investigation of the case of the unscrupulous rector: the participants had to receive a claim about a criminal offense, conduct an interrogation of the applicant, form an investigative team, identify and conduct covert investigative actions, agree to the appropriate request from the investigating judge, cooperate with the NACP, and finally conduct a real search of a car, the driver of which, according to the story, was supposed to hand over funds to the suspect. The performance of the tasks, the reasonableness of the decisions and actions of the teams at each stage were evaluated by judges – experts (current employees) of all key anti-corruption bodies of Ukraine: NACP, NABU, SAP, High Anti-corruption court (HAC), as well as public organizations working in the field of anti-corruption.
Unlike online, during which the participants acted mainly through a chatbot, at the offline stage of the quest the characters were real people, the events took place live and all the materials were real: from protocol forms used by NABU detectives in their activities – to specifically created with an AI fake register of open data, thanks to which it was possible to trace the connections between the suspect and his accomplices; and video cameras that recorded the progress of the car search. And the working conditions were no less strict than in reality: lack of sleep due to nightly preparation for tasks; temperamental characters who interfered; limited time to complete tasks, requiring speed and flexibility – all this made the already difficult tasks even more challenging.
The main task of the third day of the quest was to prepare for the mock trial, which was a continuation of the investigation: the teams had to present the prosecution at the court hearing to consider the petition for the application of a custody to the rector of VSI. For this, it was necessary to fulfill all the requirements of the relevant article of the Criminal Procedure Code, to refute the key arguments of the defense side, and also not to forget about common sense, logic and the social context of the offense under investigation.
Beyond doubt all the teams did everything necessary so that the unscrupulous rector of VSI ended up in custody. At the same time, they gained practical experience: now they not only know the anti-corruption tools, but also tried them in action. And this is what male and female students, according to their own confessions, lack so much in university classrooms.
“You showed us what practice is; showed that the theory taught at the university is only 20 percent of success,” comments Yuliia Kozmina, a member of the Filiae Themidis team.
According to the results of the judges’ assessment of all the tasks, the top three prize-winners of the Anti-Corruption Quest were determined:
The third place among the teams participating in the Anti-corruption Quest was taken by the team “Lawyers Made in Ukraine”, which included Anna Neodnycha, Olha Sira and Vladyslav Besarabchyk, who represented the State University of Economics and Technology.
The second place in the ranking of the teams of the Anti-corruption quest was won by the team “Exaltatus” representing the Prosecutors’ Department of the Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University Vitaly Yavorskyi, Dmytro Kvasylchuk, Yehor Zavyalov.
The winners were the “Guardians of Justice” team, which included students of Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University Department of Advocacy — Vadym Didenko, Snizhana Verbytska, Yelyzaveta Hlushchenko, Kseniia Valenya and Herakl Arzumanov. The team will have the opportunity to visit Dublin and learn about Ireland’s experience in the field of corruption prevention.
Over the course of several days, the winning team will meet with experts from the Anti-corruption research Centre at Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland’s Advisory Council against Economic Crime and Corruption, visit the office of Transparency International Ireland, etc.
People without whom the Anti-Corruption Quest would not have taken place
Perhaps the greatest discovery of the Anti-corruption Quest was the people — professional, caring, inspiring. At the start, the quest was just an ambitious idea, and few people understood how to implement it. But Mariia Tsypiashchuk, Yuliia Lomzhets, Anton Lobov, Valentyna Humenna and Andriy Udovychenko, united by the idea of non-trivial anti-corruption training, turned the hastily sketched concept of the quest into a successful project, with no analogues in Ukraine. For more than six months, the team worked on the development of the format, content and mechanics of the quest, involving not only experts from anti-corruption agencies, but also information technologies and artificial intelligence.
The offline stage of the quest turned out to be no less a challenge for the team than the online one, and incredible people came to help. Experts from the national anti-corruption bodies of Ukraine — NACP, NABU, SAP, HAC and public organizations working in the field of anti-corruption became judges, consultants, and sometimes actors and organisers of the Anti-Corruption Quest.
“I am not sure that in the near future I would have such an opportunity to personally talk with the detectives / heads of departments of NABU, NACP, the assistant of the Head of HAC (what competent, experienced and, at the same time, nice people they turned out to be!). However, this became possible thanks to the Anti-Corruption Quest and its organizers. The knowledge that I received as a result of this communication is something invaluable and something that can hardly be simply forgotten,” – comments Vadym Didenko.
Among the professionals who were with the participants at the locations and helped, consulted, explained and evaluated the work of the teams were:
Mykyta Vodziansyi — chief specialist of the of the NACP Educational Work and Educational Programs Department
Hanna Tkachenko – a leading specialist of the NACP Department of Educational Work and Educational Programs, an expert of the Integrity Office of the NACP
Iryna Tymchenko — head of the professional development department of the NACP Department of Educational Work and Educational Programs
Pavlo Buzdyhan — senior detective, deputy head of the NABU detective department
Vitaly Pisnyi — senior detective, deputy head of the NABU detective department
Kateryna Pavlovska — chief specialist of the NABU Open Office sector of the Department of Communications and External Relations
Tetiana Shalahon – chief specialist of the NABU Open Office sector of the Department of Communications and External Relations
Stanislav Bronevytskyi — prosecutor of the sixth department of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office of the General Prosecutor’s Office
Oksana Vozniuk – an assistant to the Chairman of the High Anti-Corruption Court
Anna Fedorenko — consultant on anti-corruption policy and protection of whistleblowers of the Project “Support of leading organizations in combating corruption in Ukraine “VzaiemoDiia” (SACCI)
Serhii Movchan – the head of the War Crimes Documentation Department of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Kateryna Datsko – executive director of the NGO “Institutional Development Foundation”
Illia Beliak – an assistant-consultant of the MP, head of the Student Expert Council of higher education institutions, co-head of the NGO “Student Self-Governments Union”.
We express our gratitude to all partners and friends who supported this project and made it an incredible experience not only for the participants, but also for the organisers!
The Anti-corruption Quest is organized within the framework of the project “Anti-corruption compliance in higher education: foreign experience and national practice”, which is implemented with the support of the USAID “VzaiemoDiia” project.