The Market Corner: Practical Insights at the Operational Level in Market Systems Development from Industry Practitioners

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Market Corner: Practical Insights at the Operational Level in Market Systems Development from Industry Practitioners

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.

Market Systems Development (MSD) is more than a technical approach—it demands operational adaptation to effectively drive transformative change. On Day 2 of the Market Systems Symposium 2023 discussions among industry experts, valuable insights were shared on practical steps organizations can take within the operational and grants arena to align with the principles of MSD. 

Understanding USAID Compliance: A Holistic Approach

A USAID program Grants Manager stressed the need to view USAID compliance through a holistic lens. Traditional templates pushed out to clients to comply with certain requirements may not align with the intricacies of MSD. Instead, organizations should engage with USAID to rethink the entire process flow. The suggestion includes making the Grants Under Contract (GUC) manual adaptive, mirroring a MSD project. Co-creation in the design of grants is encouraged, reflecting the evolving landscape of "renewal awards" recently initiated by USAID.

Adaptation in Co-Creation: A Critical Element

The perspective of a Technical Director from an implementing partner highlighted the critical role of adaptation, especially in the co-creation process with the private sector. Recognizing the private sector's need for speed, it is important to align people, partner, potential, and project within the broader framework of market systems. Simplifying internal processes and streamlining them as much as possible are crucial to be able to balance the private sector’s urgency while remaining internally compliant with donor regulations.

Aligning Project Focus with Private Sector Priorities

Another discussant shed light on the challenge of aligning project focus with the priorities of private sector partners. The conversation emphasized the necessity of educating the private sector about project priorities and fostering a mutual understanding of priorities. Transparency in GUC processes was highlighted to ensure that internal operational processes do not disrupt the private sector.

Transformational Change through Partnership Transformation

A Senior Technical Director emphasized the need for a shift in how organizations approach partnerships to achieve the desired transformational change. Drawing insights from internal learning across multiple MSD projects, the expert highlighted the journey from an assistance strategy to a clear pathway for change. The importance of early engagement with partners before co-creation was stressed, while also dispelling the notion that everything needs to be co-created.

Practical Tenets for Partnership Development and Grants

A Chief of Party for a USAID program provided practical tenets for effective partnership development and grants. Key considerations include finding committed partners, using grants strategically for impact, and avoiding undue competitive advantages. The expert stressed the iterative nature of partnership development and the crucial role of leadership commitment within partner organizations.

These insights offered practical experiences for organizations looking to navigate the operational complexities of MSD. By embracing adaptability, fostering transparent partnerships, while iterating on operational processes, organizations can effectively drive transformative change within the market systems development landscape

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