Melanie Punton

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Melanie Punton

Melanie Punton is a Senior Consultant with Itad, specialising in qualitative research methods, social development, and evidence-informed policy.

Melanie designs, manages and conducts research across a number of themes in Itad, and is experienced in innovative qualitative and mixed-methods approaches to impact evaluation.  She has applied contribution analysis, realist evaluation and process tracing in several multi-year impact evaluations – including the evaluations of DFID-funded Tilitonse and BCURE programmes.  She has also co-authored two CDI practice papers on process tracing and realist evaluation.

Melanie plays a key role in promoting technical excellence across Itad, including through delivering internal training and developing technical resources on theory based evaluation and theory of change. As a core member of Itad’s Knowledge Hub, she works to strengthen Itad’s internal and external knowledge sharing through improving systems, facilitating cross-company learning events, and supporting strategic communications to share Itad innovation with the wider evaluation and international development communities.

Previously employed in DFID’s Research and Evidence Division, Melanie was responsible for research uptake, impact and communications projects to improve evidence-informed policy within and beyond DFID.

Find out more about Melanie in her 60 Second Interview.

Nationality: British
Languages: English (mother tongue)
Country Experience:

Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe


2011 - 2012
MA Poverty and Development (Distinction)
Institute of Development Studies
2006 - 2009
BA Philosophy (First Class)
Durham University


2017 - ongoing
Senior Consultant
Itad Ltd.
Providing research and consultancy services on a range of projects across a number of themes, including Empowerment and Accountability, Organisational Effectiveness and Health. Specialising in theory based evaluation methods and qualitative and mixed-methods research, analysis, and synthesis. Supporting internal and external knowledge creation and sharing through Itad’s Knowledge Hub. Core member of Itad’s training team, supporting staff learning and development particularly around theories of change.
2013 - 2017
Itad Ltd.
Providing research and consultancy services on a range of projects across a number of themes, including Empowerment and Accountability, Organisational Effectiveness and Health. Specialising in qualitative and mixed-methods research, analysis, and synthesis. Supporting internal and external knowledge creation and sharing through secondment to Itad’s Knowledge Hub.
2012 - 2013
Research Officer (Graduate Development Scheme)
Department for International Development
Contributing to governance, conflict and social development research project management; including writing business cases, annual reviews and developing theories of change for research programmes on social protection, governance, gender and poverty. Responsible for research uptake, impact and communications projects to improve evidence-informed policy within and outside DFID, including developing new approaches to communicate research findings to policy makers, and conducting an in-depth case study on the research impact of the Chronic Poverty Research Centre.
Research Assistant
Institute of Development Studies
Retrieved and screened literature, copy-edited documents and analysed data for a range of research projects, including a DFID-funded study on the changing nature and distribution of global poverty and inequality.
2010 - 2011
Community Fundraising Projects Coordinator
Save the Children

2009 - 2010
Durham University Charities Committee (DUCK) Manager
Durham Student Union

Project Experience:

2015 - ongoing
Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls Through Sport
(British Council ) - Co-team lead
Project description: The programme works with young people aged 10-20 and their wider communities in two regions of Kenya. It uses inclusive community football coaching as a means to address negative gender stereotypes and attitudes towards violence, challenge harmful relationship dynamics between men and women, and ultimately change behaviour and reduce the incidence of violence. Itad is designing the M&E framework, providing M&E support, and conducting an independent impact evaluation of the programme.

Activities: Co-leading the evaluation and monitoring components of the programme. Designed and managed a mixed-methods theory based evaluation design, using contribution analysis and insights from social norms theory to capture evidence against the Theory of Change. Designed the project monitoring framework and tools, incorporating a range of observational and participatory monitoring methods in order to capture evidence of changing attitudes and behaviours among young people.

2014 - ongoing
Evaluation of Approaches to Build Capacity for Use of Research Evidence (BCURE)
(DFID) - Methodology lead
Project description: BCURE aims to build the capacity of policy makers in low and middle income countries to use research evidence more effectively in decision making – ultimately aiming to improve the quality of policy-making for the benefit of citizens. Itad have been commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the BCURE programme, in order to assess which approaches to build decision maker capacity work in which types of contexts.

Activities: Core team member and methodology lead. Working with team leader to design and manage a realist evaluation of BCURE, including developing data collection tools and methods, and drafting context-mechanism-outcome (CMO) configurations. Designed, managed and wrote a detailed Literature Review for the evaluation, using a realist approach to synthesise evidence from diverse fields on evidence-informed policy making (EIPM). Evaluation lead of the VakaYiko programme evaluation, involving sampling, data collection and analysis for a Zimbabwe country case study.

2014 - 2016
Evaluation of the use of Mobile Phone Technology for Nutrition Service Delivery in Indonesia
(IDS) - Consultant
Project description: Researchers at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) evaluated the impact of mobile phone technology on growth monitoring and the quality of nutrition counselling in Indonesia.

Activities: Provided support and expertise to develop the framework for the realist evaluation and process tracing aspects of the evaluation; elaborating a process-tracing mechanism and creating draft CMO configurations. Worked with the lead researcher on the data analysis for the process tracing component.

2013 - 2016
Malawi, Independent Impact Evaluation Agent (IIEA) for Tilitonse
(DFID) - Case study lead
Project description: Tilitonse is a multi-donor pooled fund designed to support governance work conducted by civil society organisations (CSOs) in Malawi. It provides grants to CSOs with the aim of improving the accountability, inclusivity and responsiveness of local and national governance. Itad has been appointed as the Independent Impact Evaluation Agent (IIEA) to measure the impact of Tilitonse.

Activities: Managed a team of UK and Malawi-based researchers to produce 12 in-depth longitudinal case studies; a central component of the evaluation design. Developed an innovative approach to coding and analysing qualitative data within a contribution analysis framework using qualitative analysis software. Responsible for synthesising qualitative and quantitative data sources (case studies and survey data) to feed into the final evaluation report, employing meta-ethnographic synthesis techniques.

Culture & Development Evaluation Toolkit
(British Council) - Project Manager
Project description: The British Council believes that culture contributes to the building of peaceful, stable, sustainable and equitable societies and communities. The Culture & Development Strategy brings together work across the British Council that uses creative and cultural means to achieve development goals. Itad developed a Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Toolkit to help British Council staff measure how and in what ways culture can contribute to development, looking at outcomes such as behaviour change, inclusive institutions, and wellbeing.

Activities: Conducted an evaluability assessment of the Culture & Development strategy, using a document review and key informant interviews to examine existing M&E data and systems within the British Council and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Led the development of the toolkit based on the evaluability assessment findings. The toolkit included a revised Theory of Change for Culture & Development, and practical M&E guidelines and data collection and analysis tools – designed to meet the specific needs of project staff as well as the challenges of measuring cultural and artistic impact.

GEF, Capacity Development Review
(GEF, World Bank) - Consultant
Project description: The Global Environment Facility (GEF) asked Itad to determine how far it was demonstrating the latest thinking on capacity development through its Enabling Activities work – what GEF called 'Capacity Development 2' (CD2). Itad reviewed the meta-evaluation of GEF's Enabling Activities work to determine how, if at all, CD2 approaches and tools had been used. Itad then defined a framework for CD2 and synthesised appropriate examples and lessons.

Activities: Contributed to the development of the CD2 framework, and reviewed GEF documentation for evidence of CD2 approaches. Contributed to a series of blog posts articulating the CD2 approach, available here:

Evaluation of DFID Nigeria’s Child Development Grants programme
(Itad) - Consultant
Project description: The Child Development Grant Programme provides a monthly cash grant and nutritional education to 60,000 pregnant women and women with children under two in Northern Nigeria. The programme aims to benefit 420,000 people through improving food security and diets, and providing greater resilience to shocks. Itad is leading the qualitative component of an impact evaluation, employing a longitudinal cohort study to provide explanations about attitudinal and behavioural change.

Activities: Contributed to the data analysis and write-up of the Situation Analysis, facilitated a de-briefing workshop with the Nigerian research team, and trained and managed research assistants to conduct qualitative content analysis of interview and focus group transcripts

Development of Youth Employment Programme
(DFID-Uganda, DFID) - Research Assistant
Conducted key-informant interviews and a desk review on the opportunities and constraints experienced by girls and women and people with disabilities in Uganda, and their implications for the design of an inclusive youth employment programme. Worked with consultants and DFID staff in-country to help design a theory of change and shape the business case for the programme.
2012 - 2013
Impact Case Study, Chronic Poverty Research Centre
(DFID, UK, Uganda) - Research Officer
Designed and conducted a 6-month qualitative study examining the impacts of the DFID funded Chronic Poverty Research Centre. Consulted with researchers and policy makers in the World Bank, USAID and the Ugandan government through key informant interviews and field visits, developed an innovative matrix for measuring research impact, and produced a final case study report and short Stories of Change for the DFID Research and Evidence division.
2012 - 2013
Communicating synthesised research evidence to policy makers
(DFID Research and Evidence Division , UK) - Research Officer
Developed an innovative format to present synthesised social science evidence (for example in literature reviews, evidence papers and systematic reviews) to policy makers in an accessible way. Presented the format to senior management and trained research partners in its use. This is now being rolled out to other research teams and academic partners within the Division.
New Bottom Billion research study
(Institute of Development Studies, UK) - Research Assistant
Assisted Research Fellow Andrew Sumner with a DFID-funded study on The New Bottom Billion, examining the changing nature and distribution of global poverty and inequality. Produced detailed country poverty profiles and literature reviews, by systematically retrieving and summarising around 200 relevant papers on poverty and inequality. Proofread and formatted papers for publication in an academic journal.


  • Reflections from a Realist Evaluation in Progress: Scaling Ladders and Stitching Theory (2016)
    IDS: CDI Practice Paper 18
    Punton, M., Vogel, I., and Lloyd, R.

  • Straws-in-the-wind, Hoops and Smoking Guns: What can Process Tracing Offer to Impact Evaluation? (2015)
    IDS: CDI Practice Paper 10
    Punton, M & Welle, K