Business Models for Decent Work

  • Date Posted: October 18, 2019
  • Authors: ILO The Lab
  • Document Types: Case Study or Vignette, Evidence or Research
  • Donor Type: Multilateral Organization


Photo: Two men from the Yapasa Project standing in a store. Photo Credit: Photo Yapasa Project 2017
Photo Credit: Yapasa Project 2017

Market systems development aims to catalyse private sector investments into new or improved products, services and practices. Too often, however, interventions fail to scale or be sustained because they do not generate profitable returns for market actors.

Understanding the mechanics of business models is at the heart of programme success. After all, innovations will not be sustained unless they align with the core incentives of companies to continue to deliver value after programme support ends. But understanding partner motivations can be tricky. Programmes operate in data-poor environments, have to navigate complex relationship-building processes, and often lack the skills to interpret commercial performance from the private sector perspective.

Programmes need to get better at unpacking business models and looking more closely at core drivers of company decision-making that shape whether innovations are likely to become embedded in the market system.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) Lab paper “Business models for decent work” presents a framework for assessing the efficacy of business models. To help future practice be grounded in reality, we have included detailed business model case studies from market systems programmes in Afghanistan, Zambia, Kosovo and Nigeria. The paper ends by extracting five key lessons for implementers to improve the way in which they engage with the private sector in building ‘win-win’ models.

No time to read the full report? Have a look at a brief summary version online.