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“More than Micro” Milestone 4: Launch of the Value Chain Development Wiki (April 2009)

Authored by

Microlinks Team

The milestone.

USAID has long promoted the value chain framework as an approach to economic growth with poverty reduction. And, when the Obama Administration established the Feed the Future Initiative, the value chain approach was adopted as a key strategy for agricultural development that was inclusive of the poor.

You may be thinking, “It sure would be nice to have a one-stop platform where I can learn about this More-than-Micro approach to development.” Well, that’s where Microlinks’ Value Chain Wiki comes in.

Here’s the backstory, according to ACDI/VOCA’s Ruth Campbell. USAID articulated the “value chain approach” in 2005 through the Accelerated Microenterprise Advancement Project (AMAP). It involved “building on the work of a number of academic institutions and learnings from the field. By 2008, the value chain approach was increasingly accepted as an effective way of designing and implementing projects, and a rapidly growing number of tools, case studies, and training materials had been developed—many of them by AMAP.”

But until 2009, these resources were scattered. “Hence, the wiki,” says Campbell, “one comprehensive and internally consistent site with over 200 pages of material, over a thousand links, and scores of authors….A super useful – if exhausting – read!”

As Jeanne Downing, former Senior Enterprise Development Advisor at USAID, put it, “The Value Chain Wiki was an important resource and basis for the design of an array of investments across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The wiki not only offered practitioners important resources to selecting and developing value chains but also served to improve and harmonize practice across the industry.“

Its significance.

The Value Chain Wiki is the go-to resource on value chains for development practitioners, helping them troubleshoot on-the-job. It is the most frequently used resource on Microlinks. And, it is even being used by college students as a tool to understand value chains.

 “Each year, in my teaching at George Washington University, I assign the Value Chain Wiki, along with various articles on finance to my students," says Wade Channel, Senior Economic Growth Advisor in USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. 

So, if you haven’t used the Value Chain Wiki yet, go check it out! It is broken down into 5 learning paths for people with different amounts of experience with value chains. If you are fairly new to the topic, start with Path 1, which provides an overview. Looking for how-to information on designing or implementing a value chain project? Try Path 3. If you’re an expert looking for specific tools and resources, Path 5 is for you.

Looking forward.

Over time, the conversation around value chains and market systems has evolved. Experience has shown the need for an expanded framework that expresses the broader context in which value chains operate and interconnect - i.e. market system development.

This wider context is essential to look beyond moving a product or service from inception through to end market consumers. Rather, market system development aims to build processes that deliver a sustained flow of benefits from multiple value chains to market actors, particularly the poor. The market systems framework builds upon and complements the value chain framework. To learn more about the market system development framework, check out this brief!

Next Up - Milestone 5: Establishment of the GROOVE Learning Network