How would corruption taste?

Mar 1, 2017

 

In a kitchen at a popular eatery in Pristina, balloons were dipped in melted chocolate; Someone wrote notes on the latest figures from Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and hurried over to the check the oven; “Can you please remind me of the number of arrests from corruption-related charges, so that I know how much broccoli to chop?” – someone yelled from behind the cupboard; A group discussed which vegetable was better at representing the corruption figures in healthcare: Green peppers or eggplant? Another group was checking for inconsistencies in their milk-rice treat, while they compared it to the latest anti-corruption citizen report from Kallxo.com. Eyebrows were raised by visitors, as they could not fully grasp the concept of the all the commotion in that kitchen. But something new and exciting was happening.

Enter “Data Cuisine”, a workshop that explores food as a medium for information – initiated Dr. Susanne Jaschko. from “prozessagenten – process by art and design”, with Moritz Stefaner, an experienced data visualization expert. After numerous workshops around the world, they were invited by our Anti-Corruption Project (SAEK) for a two-day workshop to transform corruption data into edible diagrams – with the purpose of raising awareness on the importance that data plays in the fight against corruption.

“The whole idea of combining such a topic as corruption with food is strange, but we’re constantly looking for new patterns to deal with this important social topic – corruption, and confront it with the most unpredictable means. Corruption adapts itself, and by using the tried-and-tested ways, we can expect limited outcomes. That’s why we want to try out never-before tested methods, and expect new/better outcomes in our fight against it. This data visualization “with a twist” exercise, will do just that.” – one of the project officers was quoted of saying.

On Day One of the anti-corruption workshop/kitchen, participants had to find, play, and transform the available data on corruption, from spreadsheets and reports, to actual recipes. It made them crunch the numbers and extract the essence of what those data shows, and make it into a dish. “I never even thought that I could take the latest Kallxo.com citizen corruption reports and make a meal out of them. But seeing the recipe, the meal, it makes it much easier to understand that report – you can touch, smell, taste the data. Now it makes a lot more sense”.

On Day Two, participants had to chop, cook, melt, fry, and peel actual ingredients and make it into an “edible diagram” – a meal that represents the data from the report. It was a hectic period, with bits of food flying around, high-demand for using the oven, and a lack of cooking skills by almost all participants. The food was prepared, tasted, photographed/documented, and the table was set to allow others to come to taste and feel the corruption. “It’s strange to think that you’re eating something made from the latest anti-corruption agency reports. It just brings the data into perspective – or in your mouth, literally – and it shows how powerful this data can be. It just need to be formed in a way, like this meal, so that people really feel it” – one of the many visitors that tasted the meals was quoted of saying.

In the end, the “Data Cuisine” Anti-Corruption edition serves – as unconventional as it was – as a reminder on the power of data, as the important ingredient in shaping policy (including meals) and that data-empowered citizens and organizations can have a crucial impact on the fight against corruption. And yes, food is always a good medium to transmit information – especially on an empty belly.

UNDP’s Anti-Corruption Project is generously supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).