All CDI blog posts are written by members of the CDI team or those working on projects in connection with CDI who can offer a personal analysis of development impact research and practice. The views expressed in these blogs may not represent those of CDI. Please do join the debate by 'commenting' on our blogs. You can also join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #cdimpact and #impact eval. 

Blog Posts

Giel Ton
Certification systems, like Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and organic agriculture are crucial social capital in the food system. They need to show that they are credible. Therefore, a large part of published research on sustainability in food production concerns the impact of certification. The focus of this research is often to measure the effect on household income. Giel Ton argues that impact research might need to shift its focus to explore new policy options within the certification process, looking at crucial elements of the certification process that need to be improved to remain relevant and credible, especially ways to improve the cash premium and way to reach living wages for workers.
August 2019
Chris Barnett

Metrics are useful, and the widespread use of standardised metrics and ratings[1] have been helpful over the years. Still, many of the claims of the social impact from investments tend to focus on good news stories or a narrow set of metrics, such as jobs created. With the increased interest in mobilising private capital to address poverty and sustainable development, perhaps it’s time to be more evaluative about social impact?

January 2019
Chris Barnett

A new paper on African investments offers insights into improving social benefits: it can be achieved but requires intentionality by business leaders and fund managers. This isn’t without a cost – something that only serves to highlight structural weaknesses in many fund operating models. The overheads available to support social performance are often tight. So, do donors and philanthropists have a role to play while this fledgling investment ecosystem emerges?

January 2019
Lewis Husain, Gerry Bloom

Some years ago, Tony Saich likened doing research on local government in China to the story of the blind men and the elephant – the complexity of China, and the differences between places, mean that different people experience different things, and describe different realities.

December 2018
Chris Barnett

The latest IDS Bulletin ‘The Millennium Villages: Lessons on Evaluating Integrated Rural Development‘ brings together a series of reflections on integrated development and how best to know whether it works and why. It certainly doesn’t provide all the answers; rather it’s meant to stimulate debate. Some things you might agree with, others you might not. Hopefully, it is at least thought-provoking.

December 2018
Melanie Punton

At Itad, we see choosing an evaluation approach as an art as much as a science: there’s always a lot to consider. As a result, our evaluation designs are often hybrids, drawing on a range of different approaches in order to tick all the boxes.

October 2018
Melanie Punton

We like a challenge at Itad, and so four or five years ago we threw our hats into the realist evaluation ring. At that time, there was growing interest in the international development sector about the potential of realist approaches to answer tricky questions about how and why our programmes work or don’t work.

October 2018
Peter O'Flynn
In my last blog, I provided an update on how investors and companies monitor the performance of smallholders in supply chains. In this one, I ask – what are the barriers and incentives for collecting more relevant data on smallholders who work with agribusinesses?
September 2018
Jeremy Holland

I once edited a book on combining methods and data to get the best of all worlds in applied research. In the book, David Booth wrote a chapter entitled ‘strong fences make good neighbours’ which advocated for a clear demarcation between ‘acontextual’ survey-based data collection and ‘contextual’ in-depth interpretive research. Weakening that fence was asking for trouble, he argued. I saw his point then and still see it now. It centres on sacrificing explanatory depth in a quest for external validity.

August 2018
Giel Ton
My work with CDI is to help the evaluation of development impact. This implies research to detect outcomes that change in response to a project or a programme, and explore the conditions that contributed to the realisation of these effects. However, these projects and programmes are always context-dependent. Each impact study, or for this blog post, ‘effectiveness’ study, has specific characteristics that make their impact ‘unique’, which limits the usefulness of their findings to the outside world – the so-called ‘external validity’.
February 2018