Qualitative Comparative Analysis

Impact is often the result of complex processes influenced by multiple factors. Unlike many methodologies that aim to test single, linear pathways of change, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) tests how combinations of causal factors lead to success in a given context - as well as across contexts. It is a methodology based on case studies, but unlike many case-based methods, QCA also attempts to generalise these combinations by identifying a limited number of pathways to the same outcome. Therefore, rather than provide a measure of the average causal influence, QCA tells us under what circumstances (in combination with what contextual factors) certain outcomes are achieved. This is particularly attractive to stakeholders interested not just in 'what impact?' but also the conditions and combinations of factors these impacts were achieved.

The focus of CDI’s work is on:

  • Exploring the potential of QCA as an evaluation methodology in international development
  • Learning about how QCA is applied in practice, and its suitability in different contexts
  • Sharing understanding about the strengths and limitations of QCA

Latest publications

A heightened focus on demonstrating development results has increased the stakes for evaluating impact (Stern 2015), while the more complex objectives and designs of international aid programmes make it ever more challenging to attribute effects to a particular intervention (Befani, Barnett and Stern 2014).

January 2016

Latest blog posts

Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) has taken a prominent role in European evaluation discourse and practice over the past few years and was a hot topic at the 2016 European Evaluation Society Conference.

October 2016

At the European Evaluation Society 2016 conference (EES2016), I found myself attending almost exclusively sessions related to Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). Two years ago, QCA was still the newbie at EES, but with seven sessions on the topic at this year’s conference it’s clear that the approach has taken a prominent role in European evaluation discourse and practice.

October 2016