Impact-Based and Action-Driven Research

Establishing Collaborative Frameworks for Researchers, Impact Makers, and Sustainable Entrepreneurs


IMPACT-R with funding from IASS, will support the implementation of up to 10 customer assessment projects with different financing options for microfinance institutions, cooperatives, NGOs, energy and water technology suppliers.
The purpose of the studies is to investigate the nexus between access to energy and access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, combined with a detailed needs/market assessment at the household level.

Institutions participating in IMPACT-R will obtain in-depth customer assessment, gather high-quality data and receive insights on their social and environmental impact. Moreover, selected institutions will receive support for the field staff involved in the data collection and will have the opportunity to collaborate with leading research institutions.


The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework to encourage the synchronization of initiatives and increase available funds and tools in order to meet the goals within the established timeframe. Under the umbrella of the SDGs, the public sector has made a strong commitment to these targets. Moreover, private investors (specifically impact investors) and businesses targeting a triple bottom line (social, environmental, and economic) are playing a major role in fostering sustainable development. However, further mobilization of funds and active collaboration between the public sector, industry, and academia are urgently needed in order to achieve concrete results.

Understanding the needs of the population, beyond national statistics or studies focusing on population samples, is crucial to achieving sustainable development without leaving anyone behind. Despite the growing awareness of sustainable development topics, the monitoring of progress at the household level remains a major challenge for the research, public, and private (investors, NGOs, financial institutions, and small and medium enterprises) sectors.

The project Impact-Driven and Action-Based Research (IMPACT-R) aims to contribute to the interdisciplinary field of impact assessment in the sector of sustainable development. The main focus lie in the improvement of household access to basic services, namely, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (SDG6), clean and affordable energy (SDG7), and food security (SDG2).

To this purpose, the project will establish strong links between researchers and practitioners, especially in developing countries, to investigate innovative needs and impact assessment methodologies.

These tools will enable local and global stakeholders (research institutions, local communities, development organizations, and international investors) to: (i) understand the needs of vulnerable populations; (ii) analyze the market with respect to different products and services; and (iii) establish procedures for organizations to track their achievements according to the latest standards.

The project is funded by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), in the framework of the Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship.

"Securing access to both water and energy in developing countries is the cornerstone of alleviating poverty and breaking up the vicious circles of poverty and backwardness."


Phase 1: Data & Stakeholder Map The first goal of the project will be to establish a network of stakeholders, building upon existing partnerships (with academia and industry in Europe, Africa, and South America), in order to get an overview of the research needs of institutions operating in the field and identify possible nexuses among actors. Second, available databases related to energy, water, and sanitation (supply, services, & consumption) at the national and international levels will be evaluated.

Phase 2: Action-based research Exploiting available data sources and innovative data acquisition technologies and fostering close interaction between researchers and practitioners, the second phase will tackle research questions—relating access to energy with access to water and sanitation—that can be translated into concrete recommendations and solutions for the organizations working with vulnerable populations.

Phase 3: Guideline for assessment methodologies Based on the research results, the potential for digital tools for measuring access to energy for productive uses, as well as for the combined assessment of access to energy and water & sanitation, will be evaluated.

Research Projects

The research will focus on the nexus between access to energy, access to clean water and sanitation, and food security, at the level of both households and microenterprises (productive uses). One of the main objectives of the research will be to propose – and field test – assessment methodologies for measuring the impact of modern credit mechanisms for financing clean energy technologies (green loans) and clean water solutions (water credits). To this end, the relationships between existing frameworks for the assessment of energy access (at the household level and for productive use) and access to WASH (at the household and community levels) will be investigated. The latest digital tools for data collection, assessment, and long-term monitoring will be employed, with support from HEDERA.

Call for proposals

This topics will be studied in the framework of data collection projects involving institutions working in rural regions (microfinance institutions, cooperatives, NGOs, suppliers) in Africa, Latin America, and South-East Asia.
In parallel with the data collection projects, the project will offer scholarships for desk research with the purpose of validate standard assessment methodologies, and analyze the role of financial institution in improving access to basic services in developing countries.

Workshops & Seminars

A series of online events will be organized to connect different institutions and introduce the latest assessment tools both from the perspective of practitioners and researchers. In addition, several webinars will be organized in collaboration with international partner institutions, focusing on the role of financial service providers in the achievements of sustainable development.

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IMPACT-R is hosted by

IASS Potsdam
IASS is funded by

BMBF FONA Land Brandenbug MWFK