Catherine Dolan

Catherine Dolan

Associate Scholar


Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street


Catherine is an anthropologist specialising in the cultural economy of markets and development, primarily in Africa.

She has directed and researched programmes on poverty, globalisation, commodity chains, rural livelihoods, CSR and gender.

Catherine's work is concentrated in three main areas:

  • Changing relationships between the public and private sectors in international development
  • Corporate governance of global value chains
  • Sustainability

Catherine holds BA, MA and PhD degrees in anthropology. Prior to joining the School she taught anthropology and development studies at Northeastern University in Boston and at the School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, and was a Research Officer in the Globalisation Programme at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. She was a Fulbright and Social Science Council Research Fellow, and has held Visiting Fellowships at the Centre of African Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies; the Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the International Center for Research on Women in Washington, DC; and Boston University’s Center for African Studies.


  • Food governance
  • Market-based approaches to development
  • Gender and markets
  • Responsible capitalism, CSR and ethical consumption
  • Anthropology of development
  • Political economy of food and agriculture
  • East Africa



Catherine's research interests are as follows:

Catherine’s research spans responsible capitalism, bottom-of-the-pyramid initiatives, cultural economies of development and the intricate relationships between global markets, poverty reduction and women’s empowerment. She works both independently and in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Oxford and elsewhere.

View Catherine's research.


Catherine engages with a wide range of organisations in her research.

The nature of Catherine’s research, and in particular her investigation of market-based approaches to poverty reduction, gender empowerment and responsible capitalism, and their consequences for households and communities in developing countries, brings her into contact with representatives of international companies such as Avon,  Proctor & Gamble, BATA, Unilever, Danone and Shell. She also works with aid agencies like UNICEF, USAID, DFID and CARE International, and with officials of both government programmes and NGOs, as well as with thousands of women and girls in low income countries.

Her research has been funded by Fulbright, the Social Science Research Council, USAID and the National Science Foundation in the United States, and by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Development for International Development (DFID) and Development Studies Association (DSA) in the UK.

She acts as a consultant and advisor to the World Bank, DFID, USAID, UNIFEM, ILO, UNCTAD and the British government. She is currently an Advisor on the Roundtable on Responsible Capitalism for Ed Milliband, the Leader of the Labour Party, and in 2011 provided expert testimony on Fairtrade for the UK Food and Fairness Inquiry.

Catherine is an Academic College Member of the ESRC Peer Review College and a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute. She is also a Board Member of MWomen and GSMA, a public–private partnership between the worldwide mobile industry and the international development community that aims to reduce the mobile phone gender gap.

In addition, she is a Board Member of the FTIS Scientific Committee of Fairtrade, an Advisor to Partners for Change and Ideal Philanthropy and serves as faculty mentor to the Oikos UNDP Young Scholarship Development Academy.

Her research has been widely covered in the press, including the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the BBC, Voice of America, Harvard Business Review, and Forbes magazine.


Catherine teaches on the MBA programme.

Specifically, she teaches Customer Insights and on Social Innovations and Marketing for Change.

Customer Insights is an MBA elective course during which students use a range of methods and techniques to gain strategic customer insights. The course is designed to provide students with a clear understanding of the concepts, tools and techniques (qualitative and social) that are used to understand customer behaviour, and the strengths and limitations of each. A highly practical course, the bulk of students’ learning is by ‘doing’ and they spend the term using a range of qualitative methods (ethnography, in-depth interviews, social media mining, co-creation semiotics and focus group discussions), and analysing the data derived from them to obtain knowledge and insights into consumer behaviour, and developing new ideas for products based on this in-depth market research. The course includes professionally led mini-workshops to introduce students to cutting-edge practice in marketing.

She also teaches Social Innovations and Marketing for Change, which is designed to inform and stimulate thinking on the role of marketing in global development. The course exposes students to innovative models used to address social problems developed by a range of business types, from large multinationals to small domestic firms and from social enterprises to hybrid private/public partnerships. There are also ‘innovation labs’ with leading social entrepreneurs and change-makers.

Catherine believes strongly in engaging students in ‘real world’ problems and has developed two teaching cases for use in the MBA classroom, rooted in her own recent research (in collaboration with Professor Linda Scott) into the potential for market-based approaches to provide economic empowerment for poor women.

The CARE Bangladesh Rural Sales Programme case study, led by Catherine, focuses on a bottom-of-the-pyramid (BoP) scheme in Bangladesh: a rural door-to-door goods distribution system that aims to reduce poverty and empower women. The case charts the development of the initiative and discusses many of the critical issues associated with BoP schemes, specifically whether such schemes offer a viable model for women’s empowerment.

The Pampers UNICEF case study, led by Linda Scott, explores how a corporate brand (Pampers) partnered with a humanitarian organisation (UNICEF) to deliver life-changing health programmes to some of the world’s poorest countries, whilst also achieving corporate goals.

MBA students are encouraged to critically examine the methodologies and consequences highlighted in these case studies, for example by considering how the profit motivations of commercial companies can be reconciled with the aim of NGOs  to deliver effective development aid.