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Market Facilitation Initiative (MAFI) Image

MaFI (The Market Facilitation Initiative)

Market Facilitation Clinic 3: Case Study

 Influencing Other Development Actors to Adopt a Market Systems Approach

Market Facilitation Clinic 3: Case Study

SEEP BEAM Exchange

Developing a Learning Agenda
 Initial Participant Challenges
Participant Case Studies Expert Voice

 This group investigated how market systems programs can influence the approach taken by other donors and development programs in a given country context. The group is comprised of senior leaders of key programs who have exposure to a wide range of different development approaches being taken by different donors, and are seeking to align and influence others to adopt a more systemic approach. Group members are working in a range of sectors, from water and sanitation to agriculture, and are navigating the complexities of how a facilitative approach meshes with more direct delivery approaches.

Developing a Learning Agenda

In the first group call, the group got to know one another, and upon hearing about their individual contexts (and with some framing provided by the facilitator), they converged around the question they wanted to address together through this group.

Learning Agenda:

How can we align key actors in our country systems to understand the market systems approach? How can we convince them enough of the long-term sustainability potential to actually change their funding/implementation patterns?


Given the different specific contexts and challenges faced by each of the 3 group members, the different actor ‘types’ along with the specific challenge for each were defined as follows:

  • Donors - who may in theory support the approach, but then act in ways that are counter to this when it comes to implementation.
  • Market actors - who are enticed/influenced by the prospect of receiving direct support and subsidy, and are thus more skeptical/reluctant to engage with market systems programs.
  • Other development actors (NGO’s, government) - who have assumptions about what the market actors need/want, and act to directly address needs through large grants, subsidies and direct support, leading to massive distortions.

Given this shared learning agenda, each of the group members then prepared and share with the rest of the group a case study based on an ongoing challenge in their current work. They were given 10 minutes to explain the challenge, and then other group members asked clarifying questions and made suggestions on possible strategies they might test out. The cases are described in the sections that follow.

Participant 1: Tilaye Bekele

Intervention Manager
Enterprise Partners (Ethiopia)

Tilaye's Challenge:

  • Had been working with a large farmer’s cooperative union to develop a supply chain strategy. Built ownership in the cooperative to invest in machinery, while program would initially support the key training and capacity building needs including marketing and branding for processed products.
  • At the last minute, another NGO in the area (who had previously supported the union through a seconded extension expert) swooped in with commitment to share the capital investment for the key equipment that the union had committed to invest in.
  • This sudden subsidy caused the union to be less interested in Tilaye’s organization (what are you giving us?) and also eroded the union’s ownership over the new equipment.

Sample Group Questions for Tilaye:

  • How does the union see this?
  • How much have you talked directly with the other NGO?
  • Is it an institutional issue, or an individual one? What caused this to happen?

Tilaye's Key Insights:

  • Adapted support to the union to focus on organizational structures/dynamics.
  • Stakeholder analysis needs to go beyond "market actors" to include NGOs: anyone playing a role.
  • Listen here Listen here>>

 Decisions, Actions, and Follow-Up:

  • Shifted the intervention to a different part of the country with a private company interested to work through an outgrower scheme.
  • Always include donors and other development projects in the market system analysis - think about their capacities and incentives, as well as their role (current and future) and potential distortions.
Participant 2: Michael Kairumba

Executive Director
Agricultural Markets Development Trust (Tanzania)

Michael's Challenge:

  • Michael tasked with generating agreement on a strategy for utilizing the resources of AMDT, a new organization funded by four different donors?
  • Different perspectives on what to do: ranging from direct capacity building of the poor, to capital investments in one or two businesses, to working with a range of private sector partners to cost-share and test pro-poor business models.
  • Donors under pressure to be accountable for how funds spent, and need to make direct link to the poor.
  • Listen here Listen here>>

Sample Group Questions for Michael:

  • How do the donors see and understand sustainability?
  • What kind of data would be compelling enough for them to embrace a systems approach in practice?
  • How are donors themselves being evaluated?

Michael's Key Insights:

  • Rather than framing the evidence FOR a systemic approach, focus on the evidence AGAINST the status quo of direct delivery.
  • Seek to support field visits to market systems programs to show the difference in ownership and sustainability on the ground.

 Decisions, Actions, and Follow-Up:

  • (2 weeks later) Discussions with Tanzanian donors supported by Michael have kicked off planning for a cross-country exchange between donors from Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Participant 3: Geoff Revell

Program Director
WaterShed Asia (Cambodia)

Geoff's Challenge:

  • How to articulate and communicate to donors and other development programs how markets can work for the poorest of the poor.
  • Subsidy programs that undermine a market-based approach. Make other organizations grasp what we are trying to do, and the long term benefits of it.
  • How to deal with others asking, “What do you actually DO if you’re not giving away toilets?”
  • How to gain traction and credibility among other actors in the WASH sector - what words and arguments to create a compelling vision? Is ‘market systems development’ for WASH the right language to characterize what we do?

Sample Group Questions for Geoff:

  • How could you get other programs to recognize that they cannot reach scale using a subsidized approach?
  • Can you point to specific problems caused by subsidies?

Geoff's Key Insights:

  • Programs take cues from donors on program design - if the indicator is number of beneficiaries, hard to characterize how the system’s resilience has been improved.
  • Listen here Listen here>>

 Decisions, Actions, and Follow-Up:

  • Geoff has gone out and gathered people from other NGO's and other donors, to rally around a systems approach for markets in WASH. This has led to a conversation with USAID about funding an effort to align actors in the sector around a more systemic approach.
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