Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Practical  Approaches to  Youth and  Women’s  Inclusion in  Market  Systems

This blog was originally posted on Agrilinks and was written by Jamie Holbrook. 

In our recent webinar discussing the findings from the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) landscape analysis and case studies on women and youth inclusion in agricultural market systems, we were joined by RisiAlbania and ELAN RDC, two of the activities featured in the case studies. The following questions, asked by webinar participants, take a deeper dive into the landscape analysis findings and real-world experience of working with the private sector to increase gender and youth inclusion in market systems development (MSD) activities.  AWE, RisiAlbania, and ELAN RDC share lessons learned that can be applied to MSD activities around the world. 

Enabling Environment and Development Context  

Where the enabling environment seems difficult, such as in developing countries like Nigeria where female employment is as low as 13.1 percent, how could we achieve gender inclusion and balance in the market value chain?   

AWE: Many activities in the landscape analysis shared similar challenges around facilitating changes in the broader enabling environment, especially those related to gender and social norms. Please take a look at Exhibit 9: Classification of Sector-specific Tactics and Illustrative Interventions to learn more about what approaches and interventions other market systems development activities have used to facilitate greater market inclusion of women and youth. The UK aid-funded PROPCOM Activity in Nigeria was also included in the landscape analysis. They may have context-specific information and learning that would also help you think about how to achieve greater gender inclusion through market-based solutions in Nigeria. Their details can be found in the landscape analysis.  

How would inclusion work in sub-Saharan Africa when the enabling environment is dire? Did you address lack of infrastructure and food security (i.e., malnutrition)? Education (i.e., literacy and numeracy)? Finally, what would motivate the private sector for inclusion?   

AWE: Many activities in the landscape analysis shared similar challenges around facilitating changes in the broader enabling environment, especially those related to gender and social norms. Please take a look at Exhibit 9: Classification of Sector-specific Tactics and Illustrative Interventions to learn more about what approaches and interventions other market systems development activities have used to facilitate greater market inclusion of women and youth.   

Please see the landscape analysis (especially Finding 7 and Finding 8) for a range of tactics, including making the inclusive business case, that activities have used to motivate the private sector to engage women and youth. For a more in-depth look at how two activities facilitated private-sector engagement to achieve inclusion outcomes, please read the RisiAlbania case study (Case Study 3) and the PRISMA case study (Case Study 4).  

The biggest gaps are low income and rural communities where business viability is normally challenging. How do projects help deal with such populations with that challenge in mind?   

AWE: Many of the activities included in the landscape analysis worked in extremely thin and sometimes very volatile markets across rural contexts. While solutions look different across contexts, they often start with solid analysis of constraints and opportunities and build out pilots and other interventions to test approaches. Please take a look at Exhibit 9: Classification of Sector-specific Tactics and Illustrative Interventions to learn more about what approaches and interventions other market systems development activities have used to facilitate greater market inclusion of women and youth, including approaches around last mile distribution networks that can reach and benefit more marginalized and remote groups. We also found that some activities collaborate with other development or humanitarian programs to leverage work being done at multiple levels.    

ELAN RDC: ELAN RDC has approached this problem by being creative with the types of businesses with whom we partner. For example, ELAN has previously looked for reputable businesses seeking to enter the DRC market and has supported national and provincial business incubator and accelerators. 

RisiAlbania: Demand-driven service provision systems in Eastern Europe have proven to be an opportunity for companies to reach the workforce from smaller towns. The system is also able to attract labor that is often overlooked; for example, single parents whose care duty doesn’t allow them to apply for on-site and/or full-time job positions. The focus has been put on improving the practices that will transform the market incrementally or substantially, thus supporting the growth in the long-run.  

Approaches to inclusive Market Systems Development  

What does "higher intensity approach" refer to exactly?   

AWE: Market facilitation — or working through market actors to achieve change — is a fundamental principle in market systems development. While market systems development aims for low-intensity, or light-touch, facilitation, many activities needed higher-intensity facilitation tactics especially in addressing youth-specific barriers. As an example, a youth agent model piloted by private input supplier companies was a lighter touch facilitation tactic, while direct training of peer educators that cascade training to other youth on business and life skills is a higher-intensity facilitation tactic. You can read more about it in the landscape analysis.      

Based on the findings, where gender and youth experience challenges, will this be a case of unified tools or frameworks to encourage aggregation and what would be the next steps?   

AWE: Tools and frameworks for “how you do this work” were something we were interested in capturing as well. In the landscape analysis, we’ve tried to provide as many practical examples of how activities use these tools to achieve inclusion outcomes. We’ve also compiled these in Annex 2: List of Select Resources, which is organized by resources for 1) Planning for Inclusion, 2) Implementation, 3) Adaptation and Learning, and 3) Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning. The four case studies also have a robust set of tools that are expanded on, including ÉLAN RDC’s role change framework which can be found in Case Study 1.   

We’ve also explored what is still needed to move work forward on women’s and youth’s inclusion in market systems development, especially in agriculture and supporting markets. You can find a complete set of recommendations in the landscape analysis.  

Could you elaborate on which youth development needs seem to be within the reach of an MSD approach vs. those beyond the reach?   

AWE: In our research, we found that there are some youth development components that are considered out of scope by market systems development programs, most significantly, basic education. There are other areas where it is less clear whether they can be addressed through market-based activities (leadership, sexual and reproductive health, life skills, etc.). This uncertainty is largely because the primary youth development outcomes that are being measured in market systems development programs largely focus on employment, income, career progression, technical and vocational skills development, and to a much lesser extent, youth agency. Other outcomes aren’t being measured, making it difficult to know whether MSD approaches can deliver on broader youth outcomes. This is discussed more in Case Study 2. This is an area for more in-depth research and learning, potentially prioritizing impact evaluations to understand the broad range of benefits (or limitations) MSD has on youth’s development.  

By service sector, do you mean tourism, food and rest, or...?   

RisiAlbania: With rural communities’ aging and young people migrating to urban areas (and abroad), the role of agriculture in economic stimulation lies in services that mediate the “plot to plate” (from “grape to glass”) process — packaging, transportation, processing, marketing, quality assurance, etc. In other words, there’s a huge off-farm employment and income generation potential within the food system. The service sector has been the largest contributor to economic growth in Eastern Europe countries (e.g., financial intermediation, transport and communication, education, healthcare, hospitality related sectors, and other services) doubled and now accounts for almost half of the total value created in the economy. Economic growth could accelerate dietary transitions and drive up agricultural demand, which in turn stimulates growth in services to keep up the pace.  

 

Approaches to working with the private sector  

What kind of strategy would be helpful to motivate the private sector to engage youth and women in their business development plan or strategy?   

AWE: Please see the landscape analysis (especially Finding 7 and Finding 8) for a range of tactics that activities have used to motivate the private sector to engage women and youth, including making the inclusive business case. For a more in-depth look at how two activities facilitated private-sector engagement to achieve inclusion outcomes, please read the RisiAlbania case study (Case Study 3) and the PRISMA case study (Case Study 4).  

What are the incentives for the private sector to have a gender and social inclusion strategy?   

AWE: The incentives for the private sector to engage in more inclusive business models and practices are often context-specific. Please see the USAID Leveraging Economic Opportunities resource on Making the Business Case: Women’s Economic Empowerment in Market Systems Development, which includes six primary types of incentives that drive the private sector to change their practices in a way that is more inclusive of and empowering for women. The UK aid-funded Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund also has a resource called Working with the Private Sector to Empower Women that also explores incentives. There is also valuable learning on this in the case studies.   

RisiAlbania: When MSD projects implemented by Helvetas design gender and social inclusion strategies, the projects have to make an appealing offer to businesses and articulate clearly why it is in their interest to consider gender and social inclusion. One way to do this is by talking about the business case for women, youth and other disadvantaged groups, i.e., why greater inclusion is good for business. Gender-diversity is known to improve business performance. Greater diversity = wider range of viewpoints = greater creativity and innovation = better products = happier customers = greater sales = more for businesses.   

At Helvetas, we strongly believe that we need to be honest and recognize when market system development is the best and most realistic way to make meaningful impacts on the lives of disadvantaged and excluded groups, and when it is not. While there aren’t “ready-made solutions” to exclusion and poverty, the projects in Eastern Europe implemented by Helvetas have made good progress in including women and other social groups in labor market systems.   

The work of these projects also shows that gender and social inclusion isn’t simply aiming for equal numbers of men and women and social groups in all interventions of projects or treating them in the same way. Rather, the projects seek to understand better the key institutional barriers to inclusion and design solutions to facilitate transformative changes – in the behavior, relationships, actions, activities, policies, or practices of an individual, group, community, organization, or institution.  

ELAN RDC:  Rather than develop a GESI strategy for the private sector, we focus on sharing commercial market insights (e.g., women are an underserved market segment in Pico renewable energy) with them and providing technical assistance to help these businesses identify and become more responsive to underserved consumer or supplier segments.  

When have you found it appropriate to tell our health/nutrition/WASH/gender colleagues that "MSD can't really do that" such as trying to compel businesses to take on unprofitable ventures?   

AWE: This is a theme explored in depth in the landscape analysis and case studies.   

Businesses are unlikely to take on a venture that is unprofitable. This is why the starting point in a lot of MSD activities’ work is attempting to make the business case. However, in our review of 15 MSD activities, it was unclear to what extent investments in making the business case were actually clearly capturing the data necessary to build convincing and compelling business cases for inclusion (see Finding 8 in the landscape analysis). Activities need to examine how they are supporting data capture to prove the business case, what partner engagement in that process looks like, and how they share out business case data and evidence.   

Other interesting models surfaced in the landscape analysis include multi-actor partnerships, where Activities analyzed the incentives of a variety of system actors and aligned them to achieve outcomes around women’s economic empowerment. You can learn more about this in Finding 7 of the landscape analysis.  

ELAN RDC: The starting point for ELAN’s GESI work is the business case. However, it is clear that existing inequalities in the DRC and around the world mean that women and other excluded groups may not participate at the same levels or derive the same benefits as men from market system changes without additional, complementary activities that target specific constraints such as lower literacy rates, reduced mobility, and higher unpaid care responsibilities. In ELAN we are exploring the potential to introduce constraints targeted activities such as tailored training and services for women sales agents and entrepreneurs.  

RisiAlbania: One of the “biggest mistakes” that development organizations make when it comes to the private sector is “to see business as a homogeneous entity.” In a stricter sense, the private sector means a whole range of actors (individuals and companies) that are involved in and run initiatives or enterprises with the purpose of making profits. It’s synonymous with businesses.  

Facilitation pays off when one finds the right partners, business models that address their incentives, and when one has the credibility that gets partners to accept that large sums of profits aren’t what they only seek. While there is nothing wrong with profits, it’s also part of our role to offer alternative or improved business models or ways of doing business for private sector actors. What’s in it for them?  

 

Unique opportunities and constraints for women in market systems development  

In involving women and youth in market development, particularly in rural smallholder farming communities, how does the market development effort integrate with the traditional role of women and their responsibility for daily domestic chores?   

AWE: This is a very important point - unpaid care work is often a large constraint for women across most operating contexts. Not recognizing this has the potential to do harm, either through increasing women’s workloads or displacing workloads onto others (e.g., female youth). Some activities choose to address it head on through promoting childcare services and more flexible forms of work for women and introducing labor-saving technologies. Others choose to influence social norms, encouraging men and boys to take on these roles to lead to more equitable distribution of household labor. Please see the landscape analysis and case studies (especially Case Study 1 on ÉLAN RDC’s role change framework) for more information on how this has been addressed in market systems development activities.    

In Liberia, women constitute more than sixty percent of the agriculture workforce, and most of them are not literate. What suitable methods of agri-value chain development can be adapted to help advance production and productivity, considering the idea of moving from traditional to non-traditional technologies?   

AWE: Please take a look at Exhibit 9: Classification of Sector-specific Tactics and Illustrative Interventions in the landscape analysis to learn more about what approaches and interventions other market systems development activities have used to facilitate greater market inclusion of women and youth, including expanding access to technology for women to realize improved productivity gains. In the interventions section of this table, you will find some important gender considerations that activities took into account as they thought about development and deployment of agricultural technologies — ranging from how they package and market products to female farmers to time and labor burdens of technology for women.  

ELAN RDC: Yes, market development interventions must take into consideration prevailing social norms that influence the roles and responsibilities of women in the design of interventions. This is ideally done at the outset during the initial market systems assessment and added to over time. Through our role change framework, ELAN monitors changes to the working conditions and status of women, among other areas, in the system in which we are working.  

How do you engage young women in market development when mobility is restricted due to marriage?  What are some ways to help identify ag-adjacent opportunities for young women?    

AWE: This is a great point, but it is not something that came out strongly in the research. Most activities weren’t actively making this distinction in the reporting that we reviewed for the landscape analysis. Where it did show up most strongly was in gender analysis and formative research, and to a lesser extent in gender strategy documents. However, it was largely left unaddressed in interventions as far as we could discern from document review. Where approaches were employed, it included work around social norms, but even this was less clear about how this work was targeting young women whose mobility was restricted due to marriage. This is an area where likely more work and nuance are needed.    

We did find evidence of opportunities in supporting markets for young women, although relatively limited when compared to opportunities generated for young men, especially in sectors like input supply. There are some interesting approaches to identifying these opportunities for young men and women explored more in the Case Study 2.  

RisiAlbania: Understanding how social norms work and navigating them carefully for effectively influencing positive changes is highly important. How often are we paying good attention to such factors?  

It’s critical to facilitate change or improvement in social norms at the community level through interactions between opinion leaders and other men and women. For instance, to address the issue of mobility of women, projects in Eastern Europe found knowledge exchange relatively effective.  

Men and women don’t exist in isolation from surrounding informal rules and social norms. In other words, it isn’t simply the interaction between men and women that determines the outcome of gender equitable relationships. Complex networks of social norms are often at play. Another example is in the skills development area. In the Balkan region, a pattern has been emerging in the skills development area in which more and more training providers play a critical role on job matching. Such a trend is also playing an important role of lowering the risk of unemployed youth to invest in new training programs, as training providers are involved in ensuring the job placement of trainees.  

Data and monitoring, evaluation, and learning  

Can you expand more on the innovative ways you saw of collecting gender and youth data? What were some of the lessons in establishing new systems/strategies, especially for non-traditional development organizations?   

AWE: Please see Section 4: Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) under Key Findings in the landscape analysis for a discussion on how activities capture data around women and youth. Exhibit 12 in the report provides a sample of custom indicators that activities reported collecting at the individual, household, enterprise, sector/value chain, and enabling environment levels. Exhibit 13 also presents a grouping of MEL methods that were used, ranging from annual surveys to more robust data capture and learning. We also provide an example in the MEL section on the Market Development Facility’s Women’s Economic Empowerment change tool which is an interesting way to think about measuring changes in women’s empowerment in market systems programs.   

In terms of lessons learned in establishing new systems/strategies, there was evidence that when market actors are central to MEL efforts, and own data collection, management, and decision-making processes, it tends to accelerate buy-in and win-win outcomes. This suggests that it’s not just about what data you are collecting and how you are collecting it, but also who is involved in that process and how it can be transformative in shifting mindsets. 

What is meant by “curiosity at values” and how is that curiosity piqued?   

AWE: When activities employed more robust collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) principles in their programming, it tended to favor a culture of learning where curiosity around inclusion was piqued. This, when combined with effective capacity building measures, was an important piece of building staff buy-in, commitment, and curiosity around inclusion. A whole host of CLA resources can be found here, and staff capacity building resources can be found in the landscape analysis (Finding 13) and in the ÉLAN RDC case study (Case Study 1).   

ELAN RDC: It starts with demystifying gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) and demonstrating its relevance to their work. To keep GESI top of mind and encourage curiosity we are using a few different tactics: 1) facilitating quarterly GESI pause and reflect sessions; 2) highlighting commercial relevance of GESI-related data and packaging information into concise briefs that can be shared with business partners; 3) providing supplemental guidance on areas where staff members have shown interest (e.g., financial inclusion for women, women as extension and sales agents, etc.); and 4) providing coaching to the senior program leaders.  

Limited standardization of data seems to be a global problem due to poor funding support in most developing countries like Nigeria. Could there be global cooperation on this problem?   

RisiAlbania: The issue of data for inclusion of women and youth is critical. Many women and young people remain at risk of being invisible. Established methods aren’t always enough to ensure understanding and taking measures on issues such as unpaid work, intra-household income and resource allocation, and access to education. The methods often fail to capture women’s perspectives and their needs and priorities. The implications are huge – limitation to inform policy interventions, and track and evaluate progress.  

What defines CLA and MSD?   

AWE: USAID’s CLA approach is a set of principles for enhanced development program effectiveness. It emphasizes intentional collaboration with stakeholders, systematic learning, and strategic program and policy-level adaptation. For more on CLA, there are a host of resources here.    

The market systems development (MSD) approach targets the root causes of poor market system performance to enable market actors to foster more competitive, inclusive, and resilient market systems. Implementing partners do not intervene directly in the market system, but rather prioritize working through market actors. For more on USAIDs approach to market systems development, see their framework here. 

Landscape analysis  research approach  

What were the criteria for younger and older youth? Did the studies cover how they differ across regions?   

AWE: The landscape analysis looked at 15 Activities across 17 countries. Youth definitions were typically defined by the activity, country, or donor, with the age range extending from 10 to 35 years. While USAID defines youth as those aged 10-29, nearly two-thirds of the activities included were also non-U.S. Government (USG) funded programs. Younger youth were typically characterized as those between 10-14 years old, while older youth tended to fall into the 20-35 age range. There was recognition across youth-serving activities that age and developmental stage are critical as you think about which interventions best serve which groups.

We often group women and youth; however, they are two very different categories. How did the study think about these two groups differently, and are these findings specific to each group?

AWE: In the landscape analysis, we defined women as female individuals of child-bearing age and older. While age of women was often not specified by activities in reporting, we did find references to pregnancy and maternity. For youth, we did look at young women and men as distinct groups, exploring differential impacts on these two groups. Age ranges for youth were defined by the activity, country, or donor and ranged from 10 to 35 years. We used activity definitions for youth in our analysis. 

In the landscape analysis and accompanying case studies, we have called out where findings are specific to each group – not only where findings are distinct to either women or youth, but also differences and/or commonalities between young women and young men. As called out in the landscape analysis, approaches tailored to young women’s inclusion in market systems are still limited.