The Market Corner: How Organizations Can Embrace a More Intentional Market Systems Development Focus

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Market Corner: How Organizations Can Embrace a More Intentional Market Systems Development Focus

This blogpost is one in a series of blogs sharing insights gained from the Market Systems Symposium 2023. The MSS blogpost provides a brief snapshot of key insights shared across a number of different sessions in MSS 2023 held in Cape Town between 13-15 November 2023.

As a systemic lens is being more widely accepted across development programming, organizations and programs have witnessed a notable shift towards embracing a more intentional Market Systems Development (MSD) approach. This transformation has been spearheaded by thought leaders and change agents who recognize the imperative of adopting a systemic lens. In this blog, we explore insights shared by some prominent practitioners in the field—on Day 2 of the Market Systems Symposium 2023—offering an overview of how their respective organizations have navigated this evolution.

Chemonics’ Intentional Integration of MSD

Garron Hansen, Senior Vice President at Chemonics, shed light on their journey, highlighting a deliberate move towards integrating MSD into various programs. Previously adjacent to agricultural initiatives, Chemonics now approaches MSD with increased rigor, weaving it into education and governance projects. Hansen emphasized the importance of working groups and trainings, sharing that Chemonics organizes its US-based technical teams to regularly engage in forums, fostering cross-sectoral collaboration and knowledge management.

ACDI/VOCA's Trajectory of Learning

Hayden Aaronson, Managing Director at ACDI/VOCA, reflected on their trajectory over the past decade within the USAID realm. ACDI/VOCA has been a key player in launching early MSD tools and frameworks, with each project iteration contributing to a deeper understanding of systemic change. Aaronson underscored the importance of a focused Theory of Change, balancing analysis and implementation, and the growing emphasis on Private Sector Engagement (PSE) within their projects.

Gatsby Africa's Embrace of Systems Thinking

Peter Roggekamp, Portfolio Director at Gatsby Africa, discussed the organization’s efforts to instill a systems-focused mindset within local organizations. Roggekamp emphasized the need for softer skills alongside analytical thinking, highlighting the importance of freedom to adapt and take risks for success in MSD. He challenged the notion that small and large organizations require entirely different models, advocating for the right people and a cultural shift towards risk-taking.

Habitat for Humanity’s Systems Lens

Pratik Singh Parmar from Habitat for Humanity International (Nepal) shared the organization's journey toward adopting a systems lens. Parmar underscored the significance of understanding the private sector's motivations and challenges, revealing a shift from viewing them merely as service providers. He discussed the internal restructuring within the organization, with The Center for Innovation in Shelter (TCIS) playing a pivotal role in driving systemic change internally within the organization.

Practical Guidance for Organizations Moving Forward

The speakers collectively offer practical guidance for organizations venturing into or advancing their MSD journey:

  • Identify Champions: Honest brokers and change agents who push for analysis and guidance are crucial.
  • Address Pain Points Collaboratively: Create cross-cutting teams involving MSD leads, grants managers, MEL leads, and other relevant stakeholders to address specific pain points.
  • Embrace Risk-Taking: Foster a culture of experimentation and risk-taking, with senior management leading by example.
  • Cultivate the Right People: Build a small club of risk-takers who are open to doing things differently and learning from the experimentation.
  • Learn Internally and Externally: Treat all implementation experiences as learning opportunities and encourage experimentation, and learn from ongoing broader research around MSD.
  • Define a Mission Beyond KPIs: Shift focus from chasing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to a more holistic mission-driven approach.
  • Engage Private Sector and Government: Ensure genuine interest and collaboration from the private sector and government for program acceleration.

Each organization will go through an individual journey to reorient itself—navigating HR issues, performance incentives, power dynamics, benefits structures, and others—to undergo a cultural shift toward more systemic lens approach. The process takes time. As organizations embark on this transformative journey towards a more intentional MSD focus, the shared experiences and insights from these leaders serve as a compass, guiding the community of practice towards meaningful systemic change