Dr Sarah Chapman is the School of Management Studies' first postdoctoral research fellow.
Her speciality is implementation research. Within this field she has worked to develop methodologies for evaluating programmes and initiatives designed to reduce poverty, improve health, and increase agricultural productivity in rural Africa.
The school's Professor Joha Louw-Potgieter (Organisational Psychology and Human Resources Management), who secured funding for this fellowship, said Chapman's work would add significantly to the quality of monitoring and evaluation research done in the school.
"In many cases, evaluation should not only assess whether an intervention works, but also why and how an intervention works," Chapman said. " Implementation research seeks to address such questions around the how, why (or why not) an intervention has had an impact."
Typically, implementation research draws on methods that assess how the project was conceptualised, and how effectively the programme services were delivered to beneficiaries.
"In recent years, implementation research has been increasingly recognised for its role in programme evaluation, as many development programmes and interventions which already have a 'proven' impact are being scaled up in almost every district of the world," said Chapman.
In such contexts, traditional impact evaluations which are based on isolation of programme effects can be inappropriate or difficult to apply, and a more useful evaluation question might be why an intervention with a 'proven' efficacy did or did not work in a particular context.
Yet implementation research faces its own methodological challenges, says Chapman.
"Extracting information as to how and why an intervention worked can result in data that is highly subjective, difficult to collate and challenging to generalise to other contexts and programmes."
She has already developed a portfolio of research that she implemented as part of the impact evaluation of a multi-sectoral development project in ten African countries. Her research proposal outlines a plan to further refine this methodology in a South African context.
Since mid-2009 Dr Chapman has been working as a postdoctoral researcher within the Monitoring and Evaluation team at the Centre for Global Health and Economic Development at the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Her portfolio of implementation research has been used to inform the evaluation of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP).
This implements interventions that target extreme poverty and other Millennium Development Goals. There are currently 12 Millennium Villages in 10 African countries. For more information see www.millenniumvillages.org/
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