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Studies, Research & Evaluation

About punto.sud lines of investigation

As widely recognised, external aid is no longer seen as the sole or even main factor of development changes. Other development drivers, such as world trade, governments’ own resources, civil society empowerment and the political economy of developing countries work in combination with external aid. This scenario raises the question of how a single “project” can (positively) affect a given context. Although important research activities are carried out in many sectors, small-medium Civil Society Organisations continue to feel that the full potential benefit of this knowledge and the lessons learnt have not being achieved yet.

Since its inception, in January 1999, punto.sud is meant as a “group of research and support” to facilitate the exchange of information, good practices, methods and lessons learnt among the different actors working in implementing humanitarian and development projects.

In practice, this concept of “bridging” is realised by focusing on studying and elaborating methods to put into practice concepts such as efficiency and effectiveness, working both with resource partners (Institutional Donors, Foundations, Donor Agencies) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), International Agencies and practitioners in general.

Due to our specific vocation, it is also important to note that our organization focuses mostly on small and medium size actions implemented by CSOs, where resources for enhancing managerial skills are scarcer. We chose this course of action as we believe that changes may play a substantial impact on this kind of activities, as they are usually overlooked by analysts, who tend to focus on large co-operation projects and programmes.

About punto.sud Engagement

At present, the punto.sud research activity moves in a European framework of analysis and comparison, and aims to contribute to a gradual improvement of communication and cooperation of the actors involved. This is believed to contribute to a culture of learning and accountability and to reinforce the enabling environment necessary for any type of reflection (research on innovation, project evaluation) to bring about change and improvements in humanitarian and development practices.

Today there are three different thematic axes of research in place:

  • Institutional procedures and methods for the optimization of resource partners and implementing organisations internal processes. In this case, the main focus is on the concept of “accountability” in its double meaning of “transparency” (in the way resource are used) and of “responsibility” (towards stakeholders regarding the evidence of achievements). The main outputs of this analytical work are the capacity development activities (training, mentoring, development of web-tools, strategic support, design of good donors-schemes);
  • Methods and analytical tools for monitoring and evaluation of small and medium size interventions. Within this field, punto.sud is working to better adapt and perform different approaches ranging from a theory-based approach (e.g. realist evaluation), to a stakeholders oriented approach (e.g. outcome mapping) and quantitative counterfactual analyses to measure the net change in outcomes for a particular group of people (e.g. Experimental/RCT and quasi-experimental methods);
  • Testing of best practices. This last group of activities satisfies the idea to take advantage of the experience in some areas where punto.sud is developing a specific experience, such as co-development actions, development of sub-granting schemes for small CSOs, social business, introduction of the Vallerani system in semi-arid areas. On this regard, punto.sud is engaged to analyse and promote guidelines, project ideas and strategic partnerships aimed at scientifically testing causation and attribution of new ideas taking in consideration both the investment (to be) made and the real change envisaged/occurred in the target beneficiaries. Yet, the core idea is to respond to the question “Did the intervention make a difference?”, limiting the dispersion of resources and preventing the design of actions characterized by excessive subjective views by implementers.

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