How to optimize development impacts

When it comes to sustainability and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals, strict requirements are being imposed on organizations and businesses. They are required to report on their environmental and social footprints – while showing their societal contribution in creating shared value – and supporting local wellbeing. This is not only important in global agro-food value chains, but also in other sectors such as flowers, garment, and textile industry, as well as in infrastructure development.

In most cases, organizations and businesses look at impact through the lens of the intervention (and assumed benefits). This learning trajectory, however, will focus on a bottom-up approach through the eyes of different groups, how to make interventions contribute to local needs and priorities, making societies more inclusive and climate resilient.

Learning objectives

The course will provide tailormade knowledge and tools to optimize the livelihood and development impact of business, investment, and projects by aligning interventions to local ‘geographies’. 

Participants will learn how to make their projects more community-sensitive and inclusive. They will also develop new criteria for monitoring and evaluation – using narratives and visualizations (as an illustration of quantitative indicators) and new ways for benefit-sharing. There will be meaningful conversations and peer-to-peer exchange about how to achieve a socially inclusive practice that leads to lasting impact and transformative change.

Suitable for: 
Professionals involved in planning and implementation of projects and programs of various companies, NGOs, INGOs and development agencies, and early and mid-career professionals in the development field.
Entry requirements: 

The course does not require any specific specific prior education, but is based on HBO/WO work and thinking level.

Start date(s): 
20 January 2023
Time investment: 
4 hours in class and 3 hours preparation (for reading and working on projects in your own time) per month
Faculty of Geosciences
€3500 — Including 6 extensive sessions, in-between feedback and interaction with lecturers, and academic & professional literature materials
Extra information: 
  • Language: English
  • Group size: 10-15 participants

Deadline registration: January 6th 2023

Apply now


This learning trajectory is composed of 6 interactive and diverse sessions (4 hours each, including lunch). Participants will work on an assignment (based on literature research, or field research) and will be asked to develop their own plan. They will have chance to work on the social impact of investments and projects that they are working on or planning to implement. By looking intently and critically (yet constructively) at their organization’s work, they will focus on new, alternative approaches to social impact assessment and how to apply new innovative ideas  at work.

The results will be presented during a final seminar, where other colleagues and interested audience can also be invited. During the course, participants conduct practical assignments under the supervision of academic staff, in that way they will be enabled to apply the knowledge directly in their respective work environments.

This course also offered as a tailor made, one-week course for organizations.

Day-to-day programme and planning

Sessions (all take place on Fridays from 10.00-14.00hrs):

Friday 20 January 2023

Introduction & welcome, getting to know each other

Keynote & interaction: What is the desired/intended impact – what are the underlying assumptions? From ‘theory of change’ towards bottom-up assessment

Introduction assignment

Friday 17 February 2023

Keynote & interaction: Complex system approach: understanding the complexity of societal challenges

  • understanding the geographical context – social landscape approach
  • unintended impacts, translocality and rippling effects: impacts travel!

Understanding of ‘local issues’ and trends (in the regions where participants are active) that could potentially influence the impact of the business/ interventions

Friday 17 March 2023

Keynote & interaction: involving communities

  • enhancing community engagement and participation in projects/investments and evaluations (e.g. citizen science)
  • the need of understanding local perceptions, concerns and expectations and aspirations
  • intersectional approach: relevance of gender and generations
Friday 21 April 2023

Keynote & Interaction: Displacement, fair compensation, and non-beneficiaries

  • How to make business/ programmes more inclusive?
  • How to enhance shared value – benefit sharing

Keynote & interaction: Measuring impacts: new directions

  • Outcome/impact vs. process-oriented approaches
  • Use of mixed methods, methodological debates, indicators
  • Impact/outcome financing trends
Friday 12 May 2023

How to make impacts visible – communication strategies

  • Improving accountability and transparency of impacts
  • Storytelling: visual and creative approaches
Friday 16 June 2023Final seminar: participants’ presentations and future strategies

Throughout all sessions, participants will work on their assignments and discuss these with each other and the lecturers through pitches / presentations and group work. Reflecting on their own work, roles, and opportunities for change in relation to the course topics is key to the course.


This learning trajectory will be led by Prof. Dr. Annelies Zoomers, founding chair of the Netherlands Land Academy (LANDac) and Shared Value Foundation (SVF), and former chair of the board of NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development.  Our speakers and facilitators are experts and action researchers in various disciplines of international and sustainable development studies.


For more information, please contact: Jofelle Tesorio (