Melanie Punton

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Melanie Punton

Melanie Punton is a Senior Consultant in Itad’s Knowledge Hub, specialising in qualitative and participatory research methods and theory-based evaluation. Melanie designs, manages and conducts theory-based evaluations across a number of themes in Itad, including Governance, Organisational Effectiveness, and Health. She has applied contribution analysis, realist evaluation, process tracing and outcome harvesting in several multi-year projects, including the DFID-funded Tilitonse and BCURE evaluations, and has co-authored two CDI practice papers on process tracing and realist evaluation. She is currently applying a range of participatory methods within the theory-based process evaluation for Adolescents 360, an innovative sexual and reproductive health programme developed using Human-Centred Design.

Melanie plays a key role in promoting technical excellence across Itad, including through delivering internal training and developing resources on evaluation design, theory-based evaluation, qualitative methods, 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 innovation with the wider evaluation and international development communities. She is currently leading a Realist Evaluation Learning Group to capture and share lessons from Itad’s portfolio of realist evaluations.

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, UK, 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:

2018 - ongoing
Evaluation of Adolescents 360
(Gates, CIFF ) - Senior Consultant
Melanie is a core member of the process evaluation team, designing, managing and conducting fieldwork to evaluate the progress of the innovative $30 million A360 programme and feed in lessons to improve implementation. She has applied Participatory Ethnographic Research to explore the perspectives of adolescent girls, and Action Research to answer burning questions from implementation teams. Melanie co-authored the Mid-Term Review and led the design process for the final phase of the process evaluation.
2018 - 2019
Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) Research Project
(DFID) - Researcher
Melanie co-authored a case study of the £100 million DFID-funded Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) adaptive programme, using a combination of field research and desk review to explore if and how adaptive approaches are particularly relevant and useful for promoting empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict and violence-affected settings (FCVAS).
Evaluation of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) – Foundation Stage
(BEIS ) - Theory of Change and Evaluation Strategy Consultant
Melanie co-developed the theory of change for the £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund, conducting a literature review on research impact, and working with the team leader to develop the GCRF evaluation strategy and framework.
2015 - 2018
Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls Through Sport
(British Council ) - Co-team lead
Melanie co-led the evaluation and monitoring components of the £1.7 million DFID-funded programme, designing and managing a mixed-methods theory based evaluation using contribution analysis, outcome harvesting and insights from social norms theory to capture evidence against the theory of change. She also co-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 - 2018
Evaluation of Approaches to Build Capacity for Use of Research Evidence (BCURE)
(DFID) - Methods lead
Melanie worked with the team leader to design and manage a realist evaluation of the £15.7 million BCURE programme, designing data collection to test context-mechanism-outcome (CMO) configurations across six countries, and co-writing the final report. Melanie led the BCURE programme evaluation in Zimbabwe, managing national consultants through the design, sampling, data collection and analysis over two years. She also authored a detailed Literature Review using a realist approach to synthesise evidence from diverse fields on evidence-informed policy making (EIPM).
2012 - 2016
Independent Impact Evaluation Agent (IIEA) for the Tilitonse Fund
(DFID) - Consultant
Melanie managed a team of UK and Malawi-based researchers to produce 12 in-depth longitudinal case studies of civil society grantees within the £12 million Tilitonse Fund. She developed an innovative approach to coding and analysing qualitative data within a contribution analysis framework and was responsible for synthesising qualitative and quantitative data sources (case studies and survey data) for the final evaluation report, employing meta-ethnographic synthesis techniques.
2014 - 2016
Malawi, Independent Impact Evaluation Agent (IIEA) for Tilitonse
(IDS) - Consultant
Melanie provided support and expertise to develop the framework for the realist evaluation and process tracing aspects of the evaluation, and conducted data analysis for the process tracing component.
Culture & Development Evaluation Toolkit
(British Council) - Project Manager
Melanie conducted an evaluability assessment of the British Council’s Culture & Development strategy, using a document review and key informant interviews to assess M&E data and systems within the British Council. She led the development of a Culture & Development toolkit for British Council staff, providing practical M&E guidelines and data collection and analysis tools to measure cultural and artistic impact.
2013 - 2014
Evaluation of DFID Nigeria’s Child Development Grants programme
(DFID, Nigeria) - Consultant
Melanie contributed to analysing and writing the initial Situation Analysis for the evaluation, running a debriefing workshop for the research team, and training and managing research assistants to conduct qualitative content analysis of transcripts.
GEF, Capacity Development Review
(GEF, World Bank) - Consultant
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:

Development of Youth Employment Programme
(DFID-Uganda, DFID) - Research Assistant
Melanie conducted key-informant interviews and a desk review on the employment opportunities and constraints experienced by girls and women and people with disabilities in Uganda, and their implications for the design of the programme. She worked with consultants and DFID staff in-country to help design a theory of change and develop the programme Business Case.


  • 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