Past Event

IDS Bulletin launch: Evaluating the impacts of inclusive business programmes

11 March 2022 12:00–13:30

Development outcomes of inclusive business programmes are not self-evident. These programmes operate in dynamic markets full of uncertainties and depend on many other factors not under their control. Building on real-world experiences with theory-based evaluation in inclusive business programmes, this IDS Bulletin discusses approaches and methods for meaningful impact evaluation.

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Inclusive business programmes aim to change current business practices of small and medium enterprises in a way that these include smallholders as producers or target poor consumers as consumers.

In this IDS Bulletin the authors discuss the experiences of practitioners and academics in finding doable and creative ways to conduct impact evaluations of inclusive business programmes in the domain of food and agriculture.

The examples show a convergence in methodological approaches, with ‘What works for whom under what conditions’ as the key learning question. All use a combination of methods that complement and build upon each other. However, smart data collection and sharp analysis and synthesis alone are not enough. The evaluation process and outputs also need to be informative for the stakeholders involved. More interaction and sense-making between implementers and evaluators are needed.

The special issue highlights the novel approaches and methods used to assess systemic change and provide learning for adaptive management. It acknowledges the limits to attributing outcomes to programmes alone and proposes a way to generalise about effectiveness where outcomes are highly contingent on a specific contextual embedding. The article points to the synergy of iterative reflections on the Theory of Change, the analytical approach of realist evaluation, and the conceptualisation of changes in firms’ practices as emerging from behaviour systems where the motivations, opportunities, and capabilities of firms are not equally distributed.


  • Giel Ton, Centre for Development Impact (CDI), Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
  • Sietze Vellema, Wageningen University (WUR) & Partnership Resource Centre (PrC)

Lessons learnt by contributors to IDS Bulletin

  • Drew Koleros, Mathematica
  • Haki Pamuk, Wageningen Economic Research
  • Jodie Thorpe, Institute of Development Studies
  • Edward Hedley, Itad Ltd
  • Gordon Freer, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • Marijn Faling, Partnership Resource Centre
  • Sietze Vellema, Wageningen University

Comments by panellists

  • Patricia Rogers, Founder of
  • Ferko Bodnár, Netherland’s Evaluation Office IOB
  • Mike Albu, BEAM Exchange


Peter Taylor, Director of Research, IDS


This IDS Bulletin was financially supported by the 2SCALE programme, funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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