A Life Enriched with Integrity

Students sitting around table.
Children solving study cases of integrity and corruption. | Courtesy Photo: Veronica Portugal Chaves

by Veronica Portugal Chaves, Mexico, YLAI Fellow 2017

Have you ever faced a situation at work or school that didn’t feel right? Do you know that there is corruption in your community, but are not sure how to address it? Are you looking for tips on how to talk about it with your peers? Veronica Portugal Chaves, YLAI Network member and participant in the 2017 YLAI Professional Fellows Program, has taken the time to share her experience working on transparency issues in Mexico. Below is an interview with Veronica that includes some very practical tips on how you (yes, you!) can address integrity issues in your life.

Can you describe your work? What it is that you do that relates to transparency, accountability, and/or integrity?

I am the CEO and founder of an organization that has two projects: Participa en Tu Comunidad Escolar and the Women Against Corruption Project. Participa en Tu Comunidad Escolar was born as a project funded by Transparency International as winner of the Transparency International Social Entrepreneur Initiative. The project is about creating capacities in the school community, especially parents, about how to monitor resources and school budget in the framework of the educative decentralization in primary schools. We give tools to school councils to organize participatory budgeting.

The Women Against Corruption Project was born as my role of Global Champion for Women’s Empowerment. The project is about raising awareness in youth about the consequence of corruption for the gender gap.

My organization has the mission to create innovative projects/programs to create capacities in civic society to tackle corruption through advocacy, games, technology and storytelling.

Veronica speaks with students.
Veronica presents her, Women Against Corruption Project in Universidad Politecnica de Sinaloa. | Courtesy Photo: Veronica Portugal Chaves

Why did you decide to participate in anti-corruption work? What prompted your interest in it?

First, I had concerns about the topic since I was studying in the university. (I studied Economics and Political Science.) My academic background gave me tools to understand that corruption is not only a political problem but also an economic issue that costs 9% of the Mexican Gross National Product. In fact, corruption is the main reason behind our biggest problems: poverty, inequality and insecurity. And also it aggravates them.

What is one way that someone who is not working specifically on transparency or accountability issues can incorporate them into their work or daily life? How can someone incorporate integrity into their life?

I think anybody can incorporate integrity in their lives. Integrity is a process that can be enriched on a daily basis. It involves  the synchronized practice of a set of leadership skills such as respect, honesty, empathy, loyalty and lead-by-example. Indeed, it is beneficial to practice integrity in the workplace and daily life. In the workplace, there are gains in trust, productivity and fostering of the business climate. In daily life, to practice integrity will make you a reliable person that can enjoy a good reputation, that will attract the right people and will increase your circle of influence.

Were you worried about working in this field? Have you had any concerns about openly discussing these issues in your community?

In some circles, there are difficulties to talk openly about the topic. To talk about integrity can be uncomfortable for many people. Somebody who works in the field expects to see resistance and denial. (In our culture the corrupt is always the other.)

As a worker in the field you need to be very patient and not have anxiety problems! It is a work that also depends on others (the beneficiaries); the beneficiaries require time to transform themselves. For that reason, as a practitioner in the field you have to develop patience to see the results of your work.

What is something you’re looking forward to with this project/program? What is next on the agenda?

My idea is to take advantage of all the preparation I am going to receive though YLAI to increase the impact of my organization.

What advice would you give someone who is facing an ethical dilemma in their work or home?

Facing an ethical dilemma can be a  challenge when you don’t have a clear set of core values or when the organization has not established a clear code of conduct. My recommendation is to analyze the background of the problem, know your values, and define the outcome and the consequences of your decision for all the involved actors. Furthermore, it is important for a leader to know how to justify decisions with sound arguments.

To avoid ethical dilemmas in organizations it is important to have good mission and vision statements along with a clear code of conduct.

Veronica Portugal Chaves is an anti-corruption and transparency activist from Sinaloa, Mexico. She is also a member of the 2017 YLAI Professional Fellow Program. For more information on the program and to read the bios of the participating Fellows, please click here.