Giel Ton is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies and Director of the Centre for Development Impact. He specializes in the design of mixed-methods research on agricultural value chains and private-sector development. He promotes Contribution Analysis as an overarching approach of theory-based evaluation and a stepwise process to identify the hot spots where additional data collection and reflection is needed. He co-convenes the professional course Contribution Analysis for Impact Evaluation.
He applies his methodological skills to projects relating to institutional arrangements and collective action in agricultural value chains, such as collective marketing, certification, and market system development. Currently, he is involved in research on the governance of food safety in urban food markets in Peru (GICCAP), the scaling of inclusive business projects in Africa (2SCALE), the impact evaluation of a private sector development programme in Ethiopia (PEPE), sustainable intensification in poultry production (One Health Poultry Hub) and social protection and action research on child labour in Bangladesh (CLARISSA).
Most of these projects focus directly or indirectly on value chain governance and coordination. These imply configurations of incentives and institutional arrangements as ‘value chain governance mechanisms’. These mechanisms are based on an amalgam of (sometimes conflicting) formal and informal rules and regulations. Giel’s research focuses on those chains in the value chain where smallholders, local agents, farmer groups and traders exchange agricultural products or related services and negotiate the quality attributes, risks, and rewards in these transactions. In this analysis, he explores the role of other influencing factors and actors upstream or downstream of the value chain and in the institutional environment and the inequity of power in those relations.
To do so, he tries to analyse the heterogeneity of effects/impact, using the core question of realist evaluation: What works for whom under what conditions, and why? A realist analysis typically results in various context-mechanism outcome configurations (CMOs) that explain why certain contextual characteristics make that specific subgroups of actors benefit (or not) from particular support activities.
One of Giel’s latest publications, Contribution, Causality, Context, and Contingency when Evaluating Inclusive Business Programmes’, elaborates on the methodological challenges of evaluating impacts in inclusive business programmes and highlights the promises of a behavioural system lens to identify the relevant context conditions that make interventions work for some, and not for others.
Often the only way to know whether one factor in a configuration of factors makes a difference is to ask it to the ones that know their complex environment best. Therefore, In the paper ‘Evaluating the impact of business coaching programmes by taking perceptions seriously’, he piloted a survey module that helps reflecting on a large set of outcomes, computing so-called Contribution. Similarly, Contribution Scores were applied in the evaluation of a large private sector development programme, documented in the paper ‘Assessing the ‘Contribution to market system change of the Private Enterprise Programme Ethiopia’, where he used these scores, together with the process-tracing of the main impact stories, to get a plausible estimate of the programme’s impact on job creation.