Impact assessment of financial market development through the lens of complexity theory

This example of complexity theory from FSD Kenya focuses on the evaluation of the impact of two financial programs implemented by the organisation: the development of a credit information sharing system and the implementation of a savings group. The research focused on exploring the complexity of the contexts in which FSD worked, how the project teams dealt with the complexity and finally developing methods of impact assessment to to assess the success or otherwise of the programs in addressing the complex environments they were delivered in.


"This research addresses the conjuncture of complexity thinking with programming and impact assessment in a development context. Complexity thinking has been of increasing interest to development practitioners in the last few years. However, there is as yet little in the way of commonly accepted approaches in which it is applied practically. The arena of impact assessment currently attracts hot debate about approaches and methods. Bringing programming and impact assessment together to investigate their implications for FSD’s work is an innovative step; with no pre-existing methodologies to apply, the work is exploratory. Indeed it was first important to consider whether complexity thinking was in fact relevant to FSD before turning our attention to methods and frameworks. Our intention was to draw out key features of complexity thinking which are of value to programming and impact assessment and propose ways forward - a “complexity-informed” approach." (Johnson & Boulton, 2014)


  • Why complexity? The complex nature of FSD’s work and context 1
  • Complexity theory and its relevance to FSD 2
  • The case studies 5
  • Implications for programming, evaluation and impact assessment 17
  • Conclusions and next steps for FSD 27
  • Annex 1 Impact assessment and complexity theory 28
  • Annex 2 Case study - savings groups 33
  • Annex 3 Complexity informed impact assessment – proposed approaches 37


Johnson, S., & Boulton, J. FSD Kenya, (2014). Impact assessment of financial market development through the lens of complexity theory. Retrieved from website:

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