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The i-Gov Project


Investigators: Dr Paolo Campana, Prof Federico Varese (PIs); Alyssa Knisley (Research Assistant). Affiliate Member: Dr Ben Bradford (University College London). Funding: Leverhulme Trust



The Illegal Governance (i-Gov) Project aims to identify and explore instances of illegal governance in local communities across the United Kingdom. Following Oliver Williamson, one way to understand governance is to refer to the rules and norms that regulate production and exchange.

A focus on illegal governance allows scholars to retain the crucial distinction between producers of goods and services on the one hand and suppliers of forms of regulation on the other. In this view, organised crime attempts to regulate and control the production and distribution of a given commodity or service unlawfully. Such an aspiration requires investments in a special set of resources, which are not necessarily available to illegal producers and traders. 

Illegal governance of communities is a phenomenon traditionally associated with regions of the world with a high density of Mafia presence, like Sicily, Russia, Hong Kong, or more recently — Latin America. Yet the governance dimension of organised crime (OC) is not just a feature of mafias and cartels, it is also undertaken by criminal groups in territories outside of the conventional settings.

Illegal governance is operationalised through the i-Gov Index based on indirect measures, including the ability of an organised crime group to:

  • generate fear in a community
  • coerce legal businesses 
  • influence public officials
  • control illicit markets
  • play a role in community activities.

The i-Gov Project begins by mapping illegal governance through the i-Gov Index and follows by placing individual organised crime groups within specific communities, utilising a mixed-methods approach.


Selected Publications
Campana, P. & Varese, F. (2018). Organized crime in the United Kingdom: Illegal governance of markets and communities. British Journal of Criminology, 58(6): 1381-1400.


Image: Flickr, Tony Webster


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