Barbara Befani holds a European multidisciplinary PhD in Socio-Economic and Statistical Studies, awarded by a network of six European universities (Southampton, Lille, ULB Brussels, Humboldt Berlin, Barcelona, and Rome “La Sapienza”); Nicoletta Stame supervised her thesis on evaluation methods.

Barbara’s key research areas cover some of the most innovative methods for impact evaluation, particularly of development interventions, like Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Process Tracing. She has a broad overview of available methodological options, including causal inference models, approaches informed by complexity theory and systems thinking, and the criteria guiding the choice and combination of development impact evaluation methods.

After completing her PhD she worked in various evaluation and teaching assignments, including the development of evaluation guidelines; for the European Commission, Italian Ministries and international organisations / agencies (FAO, UNESCO, UNDP, NORAD).

When she moved to the UK in 2011, Barbara co-authored the DFID Working Paper 38 (Stern et al. 2012) and later joined the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in 2012 as a Research Fellow in Innovative Methods for Impact Assessment. Since leaving IDS in 2014, she has either led or advised on several innovative impact evaluations for IIED, DFID, 3ie, World Bank / GEF, and the UN Foundation.  

Barbara’s contributions appear in academic and other peer-reviewed journals. She often presents her work in international conferences and is currently the Secretary General of the European Evaluation Society (EES) and the Scientific Programme Coordinator of the 12th EES biennial Conference (Maastricht, 2016).

Key Research Interests

Barbara is a specialist in innovative designs and methods for impact evaluations, particularly of development interventions. She has a broad overview of possible options (as lead editor of the two IDS Bulletins “Rethinking Impact Evaluation for Development” and “Towards Systemic Approaches to Evaluation and Impact”), including causal inference options (as co-author of the DFID Working Paper 38 a.k.a. the Stern et al. paper and author of its annex on causal inference models). She is currently developing a decision-making tool to guide choice of appropriate methods in impact evaluation, funded by BOND UK.

Most of her applied work with innovative methods has focused so far on set-theoretic, configurational approaches like Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), for which she also has extensive training / lecturing experience (see Teaching section). She is currently developing extensive guidance on selecting, applying and quality-assuring QCA to development evaluations, funded by the Swedish Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA) ( 

A substantial portion of Barbara's time is now devoted to exploring ways of adapting Process Tracing principles and tests, particularly in their rigorous, Bayesian form, to theory-based evaluation and contribution analysis (see "Process Tracing and Contribution Analysis: A Combined Approach to Generative Causal Inference for Impact Evaluation" co-written with John Mayne); and gradually accumulating experience in delivering training workshops on Process Tracing.

A list of Barbara's publications on can be found here

Teaching Interests

Barbara has taught courses on Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) at the University of East Anglia, the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Sussex; King’s College; the International Program for Development Evaluation Training at Carleton University in Ottawa (IPDET); the Overseas Development Institute (ODI); the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED); the European Commission and a number of development NGOs.

She has also taught courses on Process Tracing at the University of East Anglia and the International Institute for Environment and Development; as well as more basic courses on theory-based impact evaluation and the evaluation-specific logic at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” and for international NGOs.