Department of Social & Policy Sciences

Social enterprise spin out providing quality impact assessment to the development sector

Fri Oct 07 10:25:00 BST 2016

James Copestake at the European Evaluation Association in Maastricht

James Copestake at the European Evaluation Association in Maastricht


Bath Social Development Research Ltd was set up in April as a social enterprise to provide credible and flexible ‘reality checks’ to assess whether development interventions are achieving their intended goals. The main vehicle for this has been the ‘QuIP’ or qualitative impact protocol designed and piloted under the DFID-ESRC funded Assessing Rural Transformations (‘ART’) Project conducted from 2012-15 with NGOs in Ethiopia and Malawi.

Since its launch Fiona Remnant (Director) and Max Nino-Zarazua (Associate Consultant) have secured seven contracts, drawing in a range of Bath University students, staff, collaborators and alumni in the process. Two of the studies were again in Ethiopia: into the social impact of a fair trade coffee project (for Oxfam GB), and into smallholder barley procurement for the commercial beer industry. Also under the spotlight has been an NGO project to promote commercial cassava production in Western Kenya and impact investment in smallholder dairying in India. Work is also now starting on a study to assess working conditions in garment factories in Mexico, a long-term NGO community development programme in Uganda, and microcredit to finance low cost housing improvements in urban India.

Common strands of this rapidly diversifying and often challenging work include close collaboration with local field researchers, remaining open to surprises rather than being blinkered by a ‘confirmatory agenda’ and seeking to ensure feedback is timely and useful as well as credible. This entails continuing to learn about evaluative practice both through doing and through comparing notes with others doing similar work within the traditions of mixed methods research, contribution analysis, realist evaluation, process tracing, sense-making and participatory impact assessment and learning approaches. In the last two months James Copestake had the opportunity to do just this in shared panel sessions at the Annual Conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research in Stockholm (with INTRAC) and the European Evaluation Association in Maastricht (with OPM Ltd).