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Assessing the impact of microfinance programmes: learning through a collaborative project in Pakistan and Zimbabwe

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

The demand for accountability of publicly funded social programmes has increased substantially during the past two decades and, thus, so did the need to evaluate the outcomes of these programmes. Evaluating impact is, however, a complex process and different perspectives have emerged regarding evaluation goals and methodologies. The term ‘impact’ has, therefore, been associated with different concepts, which translate into different approaches in terms of rigour and usefulness, going from formal impact assessments, which privilege methodological rigour, to internal evaluations, which are associated with a learning/improvement perspective. The Lendwithcare (LWC) impact project positioned in between these two approaches and it can be seen as a collaborative project between the project leader (LWC), the academic consultant (University of Portsmouth) and the field partners (Akhuwat Islamic Microfinance and THRIVE Microfinance).
The research conducted within the PhD resulted from my participation in the project as academic consultant. It is based on a case study methodology implemented in two settings (Pakistan and Zimbabwe), using qualitative methodologies, including participation-observation. The analysis of the case studies was based on the utilisation-focused evaluation model developed by Michael Patton, with the choice of the model being rooted in its pragmatic approach and its fit with the conditions of the LWC impact project.
The PhD thesis explores two main research questions. The first deals with the lessons learnt from the implementation of the individual evaluations. The main field challenges and respective solutions were identified, giving attention to the resulting compromises in terms of rigour and the advantages associated with involving the field partners. The second explores the common project approach adopted by LWC in the two settings, identifying its main elements and how these have influenced the perception of the partners regarding their participation in the evaluations. The intention of all partners to continue the project as well as the interest of other microfinance institutions to implement similar evaluations seems to indicate that LWC and its partners have perceived relevant advantages in this approach.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateJul 2018
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