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).

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. 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 an 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 a 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; honors, Phi Beta Kappa), where her award-winning thesis focussed on how private military companies establish legitimacy.