Bruce Horowitz 

Founding partner

[email protected]

Pro Bono for NGOs

Around 18 years ago we sent out a questionnaire to the Executive Directors of approximately 100 local and international NGO’s working in Ecuador.  We asked them if they had ever received bribe demands from government functionaries.  Only one NGO Director responded that his organization had receive such bribery demands.  Things have changed in the last 18 years and even charitable organizations are opening up these days bribery, and about being extorted by Government Functionary Extortionists.

Today, it is clear that NGOs that work to protect the poor and defenseless, are not treated differently, or much differently, from for-profit entities when they are approached by Government Functionary Extortionists.

Why even try

In 2004, two professors at McGill University in Toronto were studying the results of the 2002 Peruvian National Householder Survey.  Based on their study, Professors Jennifer Hunt and Sonia Laszlo published a paper in January 2005, called, “Bribery:  Who Pays, Who Refuses; What are the Payoffs?”  Before beginning their analysis, they hypothesized that

the more wealth a person had, the more bribes they would pay, and the higher their bribes would be.  The results of Hunt & Lazlo study showed that their hypothesis was correct.

The Hunt & Lazlo paper, also, answered an important question that they had not asked:

If you refuse to submit to a Government Functionary Extortionist can you still get what is rightfully yours without paying the bribe?

What Hunt & Lazlo found was that, of the more than 18,000+ Peruvian Householders who had been in Government Functionary Extortion situations in the previous year, 79% paid the bribe, while 21% refused to pay the bribe. Meanwhile, of the 21% of Householders who refused to pay the bribe, 1-out-of-3 of them still received what they needed from the government – an outcome that the common wisdom would say is not possible  Although the authors were not interested small-percentage finding, it is of interest to people who work in the field of what is now called “Positive Deviance”, that is, the search among small numbers for real solutions to massively large problems. Problems like Government Functionary Corruption.


Since 2014, supported by our firm, Paz Horowitz, and affiliated with the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito, our Centro de Estudios de Situationes de Soborno, Extorsión y Coerción (CESSEC) does what its title says in Spanish –we do research and train individuals and communities in how to successfully, safely and ethically navigate bribery, extortion and coercion situations.

Back in 2005, Hunt & Lazlo had answered the question as to whether Government Functionary Extortionists extorted people from higher economic brackets more than they extorted people from lower economic brackets. A question still remained as to whether very poor people were even extorted by government functionaries.  Our hypothesis was that government functionary extortionists did extort bribes from very poor people.

First Positive Deviance Peer Research and Peer Training Sessions by and for Rural Women in Extortion Situations

In 2015-2016, using a Positive Deviance Approach, mentioned above, CESSEC worked with 400 rural women through the Association of Rural Women Leaders (AMJUPRE).  The average income of these women, was less than US$ 50 per month.  In the sessions that we had with about 90 of these women, and in their own sessions with another 300 women in their small rural communities, they discovered that even with such low incomes, they still faced Government Functionary Extortion from, among others, public school teachers and administrators, political party officials, government and political-party job supervisors, from the police, from local bureaucrats who control project grants, and even from public bus ticket-takers. Examples of what these women and, in some cases their daughters, were seeking was for  teachers to correctly grade their tests, or appropriately correct their final grades in order to pass to the next year; the right to stay in office and not have to hand over they rightfully elected place to a man chosen to replace them by the party in power; to keep the government job that they had won through competitive testing; to not be fined or lose a license for an infraction that they did not commit; to simply go before a judge; to get housing for their community; and unsolicited offer by bus controllers to reduce the price of the ride from US$ 0.12 to free.  Examples of the bribes demanded by the Government Functionary Extortionists included small amounts of money, car tires, bags of cement; a large amount of money from the community for community housing; and sexual favors.

In talking about these situations, the women participating in the workshops discovered that a few of them had actually gotten through the situations safely and ethically without paying the bribe.  Then, as a group, they practiced the behaviors of those few “positive deviants” who had succeeded.

Sea Captains and Campesinas

 In 2016, I met with a lawyer on a corporate law matter at the home office of the Maersk shipping company in Denmark.  At the end of our discussion, I mentioned that I knew that Maersk had been having success in stopping facilitation payments to port authorities around the world.  I asked if I might have a word with their lead Anti-corruption Counsel.  When we met, she told me that some of their work was based on some articles that I had written.  We discovered, together, that the one Positive Deviant ship captain who had provided the example for all of the other captains in their worldwide fleet, had used most of the same behaviors as the rural Ecuadorian women Positive Deviants when they successfully, safely and ethically navigated extortion situations.

Plan for 2021 -2023

Between 2021 and 2023, CESSEC will be extending these peer-research and peer training Anti-extortion and Anti-coercion workshops for rural women in Ecuador.  They will be more in-depth and in more local communities than the original ones in 2015-2016.  They will be supported by pro bono legal service providers under certain circumstances.  Some of the participants will go on to study, practice and become paid Positive Deviance resource support providers for their communities and for other communities in Ecuador and surrounding countries.  Other participants will have the opportunity to go on to study Compliance and become employed as Compliance Officers.

The experience that we have had with providing pro-bono Anti-corruption and Compliance services to NGOs, start-up for-profits companies, and directly for poor families and communities, shows that such services are needed, that they help to improve the lives of the clients and also of the communities in which they live.

If any of the participants at this TRACE Conference are already working on their own Pro Bono Anti-corruption and Compliance projects, or are interested in setting up such a project, I would like to talk with you.