UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Kate Roll

Kate Roll is Head of Teaching and Assistant Professor in Innovation, Development and Value at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), as well as the Faculty Lead for Public Policy.

Dr Kate Roll is a political scientist interested in vulnerability, with a particular focus on the factors that enable people in poverty to gain greater social and economic security. Her work asks questions such as: who gets what after war and why? And who carries risk when corporations sell through the poor? Her multi-disciplinary work brings together politics and policy, business ethics, and development studies. Committed to grounded research, she has conducted in-depth field research in Timor-Leste, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Kenya.

At IIPP, Dr Roll serves as an Assistant Professor in Innovation, Development and Purpose. She is also the Bartlett Faculty Lead for Public Policy. Prior to joining IIPP, she was based at the University of Oxford, where she was a faculty member at the Saïd Business School, contributing to the strategy and innovation curriculum, and ran the Mutuality in Business Project, a large multi-year research partnership on responsible business. She also taught undergraduates in Oxford’s distinctive tutorial-style as a Lecturer in Empirical Politics for Somerville College and Lecturer in General Management, Lady Margaret Hall. In recognition of her dynamic teaching, she was nominated for the Most Outstanding Lecturer award in 2018.

Dr Roll’s research is broadly divided into two streams, the first concerning economies of peace, with a focus on the politics of benefits programmes for former combatants. The second stream critically engages with private sector approaches to development, particularly ‘base of the pyramid’ route-to-market programmes. As part of this work, she co-leads a randomised control trial (RCT) experiment in partnership with colleagues at Oxford’s Centre for the Study of African Economies investigating the impact of greater risk-sharing in micro-finance contracts. Dr Roll is currently developing a new stream of research, which will extend her work on private sector approaches to development by critically examining the emergent field of social innovation and 'technology for good.’

Dr Roll holds a DPhil in Politics (2015) and an MPhil in International Development Studies (2011; distinction) from the University of Oxford. Dr Roll’s doctoral fieldwork involved logging over 1,000 km on a motorbike, crisscrossing Timor-Leste to conduct representative survey interviews with over 220 registered former combatants – now one of the largest of its kind. This research argues that the programmes provided a key technology for the preservation, rather than assumed disruption, of conflict-era power networks. Her BA from Brown University was in International Relations (2006; honours, Phi Beta Kappa), where her award-winning thesis focussed on how private military companies establish legitimacy.

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Selected publications

Academic working papers
  • Roll, K. (2020). Gig work at the base of the pyramid: considering dependence and control. UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, Working Paper Series (IIPP WP 2020-05). Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/wp2020-05 
  • Psychological ownership: Effects and applications. H Campbell Pickford, G Joy, K Roll. Saïd Business School WP 32112016.
  • Social Capital and Adoption of Agronomic Practices: Theory and Findings. M Hansen, K Roll. Saïd Business School WP 3512016.
  • Smallholder Agriculture and Management Practices: Insights from the field. M Hansen, K Roll. Saïd Business School WP 342016.
  • Maua Programme: Bettering Lives through the Micro-Distribution of Wrigley Products. K Roll, F Cordaro. Saïd Business School WP 3812016.
  • Bloom Programme: Micro-distribution of Mars Products in Manila. L Dela Cruz, C Shen, H Campbell Pickford, K Roll. Saïd Business School WP 132017.
  • Mutuality in Business: Future Governance Options for the Mars Corporation. K Roll, J Michie. Saïd Business School Working Paper, Mutuality in Business Working Paper2017.
  • Rama Murthy, Sudhir, Roll, Kate and Colin-Jones. 2021. Alastair, Ending business-non-profit partnerships: The spinout of social enterprises, Scandinavian Journal of Management, Volume 37, Issue 1.
  • Swenson, Geoffrey and Kate Roll. 2020. ‘Theorizing Risk and Research: Methodological Constraints and Their Consequences.’ PS: Political Science & Politics. 53 (2), 286-291
  • Roll, Kate and Geoffrey Swenson. 2019. ‘Fieldwork after Conflict: Contextualising the Challenges of Access and Data Quality.’ Disasters. 43 (2), 240-260.
  • Roll, Kate. 2018. ‘Corruption, Correctives, and Street Level Bureaucrats: Understanding Veterans’ Pensions Fraud in Timor-Leste.’ Civil Wars. 20 (2), 262-285. Selected by Editors as a featured article.
  • Roll, Kate. 2016. ‘The New Local: Reappraising Peace-building at the Grassroots.’ International Studies Review. 18 (3), 542-547.
  • Roll, Kate. 2015. Book review of Surpassing the sovereign state by David A. Rezvani. International Affairs 91 (03), 634 –635.
  • Roll, Kate. 2014. ‘Encountering Resistance: Qualitative Insights from the Quantitative Sampling of Ex-Combatants.’ PS: Political Science & Politics 47 (02), 485–489.
  • Dolan, Catherine and Kate Roll. 2013. ‘Capitals’ New Frontier: From “Unusable” Economies to Bottom of the Pyramid Markets in Africa.’ African Studies Review 56 (03), 123–146.
Book chapters
  • Roll, Kate. 2020. ‘Selling Names: The Economics of the Dead in Post-conflict Timor-Leste.’ In Lia Kent and Rui Feijo (Eds.) The Dead as Heroes, Ancestors and Martyrs in Independent Timor-Leste. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
  • Meki, Muhammad, Kate Roll, and Simon Quinn. 2021. ‘Mutuality meets microequity: An ongoing microfinance field experiment in Kenya.’ In Colin Mayer and Bruno Roche (Eds.) Putting Purpose into Practice: The Economics of Mutuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Forthcoming.
  • Roll, Kate. 2019. ‘Corruption, Correctives, and Street Level Bureaucrats: Understanding Veterans’ Pensions Fraud in Timor-Leste.’ In Werner Distler, Elena B. Stavrevska, and Birte Vogel (Eds.)  Economies of Peace: Economy Formation Processes in Conflict-Affected Societies. Routledge.
  • Roll, Kate. 2018. ‘Reconsidering Reintegration: Veterans’ Benefits as State Building.’ In J. Bovensiepen (Ed.) Beyond the Resource Curse: Visions of the Future in Timor-Leste. After Independence. Canberra: ANU Press.
  • Marc Thompson, Catherine Dolan, Colin Mayer, Kate Roll and Ruth Yeoman. 2016. ‘The challenges in building common knowledge in hybrid value chains to reduce poverty at the Bottom of the Pyramid.’ In Anne Edwards (Ed.) Collaborating on Complex Problems: Cultural-historical Accounts of Relational Work. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 
In the media


Email: k.roll@ucl.ac.uk