Business and Development Centre

The Business and Development Centre seeks to provide much needed research and practical analysis on the role business plays in addressing global challenges such as inequality, sustainability and security informed by thinking from across business, economics, political science and development studies.

Technicians work assembling computers at the Omatek factory. The owner is Florence Seriki. Within only a few years her business has grown to a successful enterprise. Credit: S. Torfinn - Panos

Business is increasingly identified in global frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by national governments and donor agencies and at a more local level by communities and citizens as playing a key role in addressing development challenges. Yet understanding of the role business can play alongside government, donors and NGOs, and also the negative development consequences it can have, is limited by a lack of evidence and robust analysis.

Since its launch in March 2014, the Business and Development Centre has taken a problem-oriented approach to understanding the conditions required for effective business contributions in specific sectors including health, agriculture, nutrition, finance, energy and the circular economy.  The Centre builds on a well-established track record of IDS research on markets, value chains and business, as well as participatory methodologies and evaluation, both of which bring a unique perspective and approach to our work.  The Centre focuses on four key areas:

  1. Markets: Using systems theory to map and understand formal and informal markets, how they intersect and affect the lives of the poorest, and how they can be restructured to work better for development.
  2. Innovation: Understanding different forms of innovation in product, process and organisation, how they disrupt markets, their potential for development, and how they can be made more inclusive.
  3. Inclusion: Understanding the potential and limits of market-based approaches to reach the poorest and most marginalised, who face multiple barriers across different dimensions (economic, social, political) and who typically lack the skills, assets and resources required to benefit from markets.
  4. Political economy: Understanding how business and state actors, and multi-stakeholder partnerships, affect market governance and the way markets work, and the implications for development outcomes. 


Read the Business and Development Centre launch report (PDF).

Image: Technicians work assembling computers at the Omatek factory in Nigeria, owned by Florence Seriki. Within only a few years her business has grown to a successful enterprise. Credit: S. Torfinn - Panos

Photo of Amrita Saha More details

Photo of Ana Pueyo More details

Photo of Carlos Fortin More details

Photo of Elise Wach, Evaluation and Learning Advisor with the Impact and Learning Team More details

Photo of Gerry Bloom, Research Fellow of the Knowledge Technology and Society team More details

Photo of Hubert Schmitz from Green Transformations Cluster More details

Photo of Jing Gu More details

Photo of Lizbeth Navas-Aleman More details

Photo of Mar Maestre Morales, Globalisation More details

Photo of Mustafa Roberts, IDS More details

Photo of Philip Mader, Research Fellow, Business, Markets and the State More details

Photo of Sir Richard Jolly More details

IDS Research Fellow Seife Ayele More details

Photo of Spencer Henson, Globalisation Research Fellow More details

Photo of Professor Stephany Griffith-Jones - Economist More details

Stephen Spratt, IDS Research Fellow More details

Pathways to Inclusive Development through Innovation, Technology and Change

Pathways to Inclusive Development through Innovation, Technology and Change is developing a framework to analyse alternative pathways that link different forms of technological innovation, and evaluate resulting structural change and inclusion outcomes in low-income countries. More details

Green Growth Diagnostics for Africa

This project is looking into the heart of the electricity supply crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. More details

Market Based Solutions for the Extreme Poor

Studies have shown that it is often wealthier people in a community who benefit from market approaches to combatting poverty – men more than women, non-disabled more than disabled. So how and to what extent can market-based solutions improve the lives of extremely poor people? More details

Changing Business-State Relations in Development

There is much we still need to learn about the structure and process of business and the state interactions with regards to specific and general development issues. This project therefore aims to assess the state of play in research on state-business relations in developing countries, and outline a research agenda which builds on this foundation towards better understanding of the role of state-business relations in shaping development outcomes, including but also beyond economic growth. More details

BRICS Economic Engagement Footprint Study

This project investigated the nature of economic relations between the BRICS and Africa, in order to quantify the development footprint, focusing on various elements such as trade, investment. finance, ODA and migration. The current phase aims to look at development finance and the role of BRICS development banks. More details

Business from the BRICS

The Rising Powers in International Development Programme is looking at the growing role of business from the BRICS countries in the field of international development cooperation. More details

Market Systems Approaches to Enabling Women's Economic Empowerment through Addressing Unpaid Carework

Market systems programmes are increasingly recognising the important role that women play in market activity and including women’s economic empowerment and gender equality objectives. However, unpaid care work is a significant and regularly overlooked factor which affects women’s economic, political and social activities. More details

Political Economy of Low Carbon Investment in China and India

This project investigates whether and how coalitions of public, private and civic actors influence low carbon investment. More details

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Agriculture: Enabling Factors and Impact on the Rural Poor

This research will identify the key factors driving the effectivness of public-private partnerships (PPPs) at bringing sustained increases in income for smallholder farmers at scale and delivering positive development outcomes across rural communities. More details

Inclusive business in practice

Inclusive business has been recognised as an opportunity to deliver development impacts through innovative approaches to business. IDS has been working on case studies of what this actually means in practice with the Business Innovation Facility (BIF). More details

Success Factors for Lead Firms to Shape Inclusive Procurement

This consultancy examines best practices both operationally and in the literature surrounding business models from the view point of inclusivity of smallholder farmers More details

Who Drives Climate Policies in the Rising Powers?

This project is concerned with the political economy analysis of climate change policies. The central question of the project is who drives/obstructs climate change policies in the rising powers, paying special attention to renewable energy policies. More details

Rent Management: the Heart of Green Industrial Policy

At the heart of green industrial policy is rent management: government creating and withdrawing opportunities for highly profitable investment. This project asks what the key factors are for rent management to succeed. More details

View all Research Centre's publications

Use this search to display this centre's publications and filter by journal, theme, country and much more.


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This is the front cover to, 'Can the markets and the private sector tackle undernutrition amongst the poorest people?'.

Can the Private Sector Tackle Undernutrition Amongst the Poorest People?

Undernutrition is the biggest worldwide health risk and accounts for roughly 45% of child deaths globally. Additionally, “hidden hunger” or deficiency in vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) affects to 2 billion people in the world. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Microfinance and Financial Inclusion

This chapter on microfinance and financial inclusion is included in a collection of discussions on leading theories and conceptual debates on poverty, the most salient topics in poverty research, and the far-reaching consequences of poverty on the individual and societal level. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Developing Norms and Standards for Assessing Business, Social and Environmental Impact

Internal paper funded by UKCDS looking at the norms and standards for assessing business, social and environmental standards. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Assessing the Impact of Multiple Businesses in One Region

Internal paper funded by UKCDS examining the impact of multiple business in one region. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Market Systems Approaches to Enabling Women's Economic Empowerment through Addressing Unpaid Care Work

This framing document sets out how the provision of care can be integrated conceptually within a market systems approach. More details

Front cover of the book "The Political Economy of Microfinance: the financialization of poverty" by Dr Philip Mader

The Political Economy of Microfinance - Financializing Poverty

This book helps to understand the enigmatic microfinance sector by tracing its evolution and asking how it works as a financial system. More details

This is the IFAD/IDS Report, 'Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains'.

Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains

IDS-IFAD Report (2015)

Markets are central to agriculture and rural development. Making markets, value chains and the systems that support them work better for the poor has therefore become a central aim of many donors, governments and nongovernmental organisations. More details

This is the IFAD/IDS Case Study, 'Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains'. Summary of Ghana Case Study.

Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains. Summary of Ghana case study

IDS-IFAD Case Study (2015)

This is a summary of the Ghana Country Report, as part of an IFAD-funded programme on the role of PPPs in agriculture. It is one of the four IFAD project-supported Public-Private-Producer Partnerships analysed for the research. More details

This is the IFAD/IDS Case Study, 'Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains'. Summary of Indonesia Case Study.

Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains. Summary of Indonesia case study

IDS-IFAD Case Study (2015)

This is a summary of the Indonesia Country Report, based on research carried out in 2014 in association with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), as part of an IFAD-funded programme on the role of PPPs in agriculture. More details

This is the IFAD/IDS Case Study, 'Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains'. Summary of Rwanda Case Study.

Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains. Summary of Rwanda case study

IDS-IFAD Case Study (2015)

This is a summary of the Rwanda Country Report, based on research carried out in 2014 in association with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) as part of an IFAD-funded programme on the role of PPPs in agriculture. More details

This is the IFAD/IDS Case Study, 'Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains'. Summary of Uganda Case Study.

Brokering Development: Enabling Factors for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains. Summary of Uganda case study

IDS-IFAD Case Study (2015)

This is a summary of the Uganda Country Report, based on research carried out in 2014 in association with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) as part of an IFAD-funded programme on the role of PPPs in agriculture. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Bulletin Vol 46.3, 'Business, State and Society: Changing Perspectives, Roles and Approaches in Development'.

Business, State and Society: Changing Perspectives, Roles and Approaches

IDS Bulletin 46.3 (2015)

The debate on the role of business and markets in development has a long history, marked by divergent and strongly held perspectives, but also shifts in dominant thinking about what is feasible and desirable. While only two decades ago debates were about the state vs the market, there is currently broad consensus that both are essential. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Markets for Nutrition: What Role for Business?

IDS Bulletin 46.3 (2015)

This article examines how this might be achieved, drawing lessons from three intervention types: ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs), mandatory fortification and voluntarily fortified products. More details

ER90 Front Cover

Policy Options to Enhance Markets for Nutrient-Dense Foods in Tanzania

IDS Evidence Report 90 (2014)

There is an urgent need to reduce alarming rates of undernutrition in Tanzania. This report analyses options for policies and interventions to improve the functioning of markets that deliver nutrient-dense foods. More details

This is the cover to IDS Working Paper 443, 'Engaging with Health Markets in Low and Middle-Income Countries'.

Engaging with Health Markets in Low and Middle-Income Countries

IDS Working Paper 443 (2014)

Many low and middle-income countries have pluralistic health systems with a variety of providers of health-related goods and services in terms of their level of training, their ownership (public or private) and their relationship with the regulatory system. More details

ER64 Front Cover

The Role of Businesses in Providing Nutrient-Rich Foods for the Poor: Two Case Studies in Nigeria

IDS Evidence Report 64 (2014)

This report presents case studies of two Nigerian food-processing businesses and analyses their efforts to produce nutrient-rich foods for undernourished populations. More details

This is the image to IDS Policy Briefing 54, 'Understanding and Enhancing
the Role of Business in International Development'

Understanding and Enhancing the Role of Business in International Development

IDS Policy Briefing 54 (2014)

Political, private sector and development leaders broadly agree that business has a critical role to play in driving innovation, promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth and improving human wellbeing. More details

This is the cover for IDS Working Paper 440, 'Understanding and Enhancing the Role of Business in International Development: A Conceptual Framework and Agenda for Research'.

Understanding and Enhancing the Role of Business in International Development: A Conceptual Framework and Agenda for Research

IDS Working Paper 440 (2014)

It is now commonplace for development policy makers to refer to the contributions of businesses to the achievement of development goals and the importance of collaborations between businesses and development agencies. More details

Event briefing for IDS-organised parliamentary event entitled "Good for business and poor people? The role of the private sector in tackling undernutrition"

10 things we know about markets, food and nutrition

A look at what works and what doesn't in terms of interventions by governments, donors and businesses to tackle undernutrition. More details

Image Teaser for Evidence Report 4, 'What is Business and Development? An Annotated Bibliography'

What is Business and Development? An Annotated Bibliography

IDS Evidence Report 4 (2013)

This annotated bibliography provides an exhaustive collection of resources on the topic of Business and Development. More details

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