Skip to main content

School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


Hannah Cook

Hannah Cook
Hannah Cook
African Studies School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh UK
Research Interests
Microfinance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Impact Assessment, Malawi, Accountability, Women's livelihoods, local economic development, Power (domination, authority, legitimacy)

PhD Title

Artefacts of Accountability: Partnerships, Power and Audit in Malawian Microfinance

Research Focus

My primary interest is the way in which a diverse range of actors and supporters, each with differing agendas, experience and priorities, come together behind a single development intervention. Accountability mechanisms and processes have been built up to broker and manage these relationships, but I am questioning whether these systems are in fact undermining the empowerment narrative of the intervention its self, by reinforcing the power of the already powerful actors through a reliance on top down controls.

My research is exploring these issues in the context of the Malawi microfinance sector. While the impact and effectiveness of microfinance has been extensively critiqued, the manifestations and experiences of accountability, through which impact data is generated, have not. I am therefore taking an actor oriented approach, using ethnography, interviews and document analysis, to explore what accountability practices exist, and what effects they have on relationships between stakeholders, and operations.

The emerging conclusions in this research include that a lack of transparency is undermining accountability efforts, and effectiveness more widely, with poor communication having a detrimental effect on all relationships. Furthermore, there are significant weaknesses in downwards accountability, leading to the systematic marginalisation of beneficiary voices in programme planning, implementation and evaluation.



  • International Development, Aid & Humanitarianism (Senior Tutor)
  • Analysing Development (Teaching Assistant)


  • International Development, Aid & Humanitarianism (Senior Tutor)


  • Key Skills in Development Practice (Guest Lecturer)
  • International Development, Aid & Humanitarianism (Tutor)

Work Experience

Beltane Public Engagament Network; Explorathon 2017

Scotland's International Development Alliance; Effectiveness Programme Mentor

Christian Aid; Corporate Performance and Accountability Coordinator

Commonwealth Local Government Forum; DFID Projects Officer

Local Government Association; Corporate Programme Officer


Warwick Business School; PG Cert, Local Government Management

University of Birmingham; MSc Poverty Reduction and Development Management

University of Aberdeen; MA (hons) Geography


3rd October 2014 - Global Challenges: How do we know what we know?


ESRC collaborative studentship


Prof. James Smith

Dr. Jamie Cross 

Dr Hazel Gray