Shifting the Locus of Learning: Catalyzing Private Sector Learning to Drive Systemic Change

  • Date Posted: January 23, 2023
  • Authors: MarketShare Associates; Ben Fowler; Vivekan Jeyagaran; Anna Garloch; Meghan Bolden; Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships
  • Organizations/Projects: MarketShare Associates, Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships
  • Document Types: Case Study or Vignette, Guidance, Evidence or Research
  • Donor Type: U.S. Agency for International Development


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Learning is at the heart of the process of economic development—it drives more competitive, resilient, and inclusive firms and systems. Yet learning is less frequently seen as a critical function within systems that can catalyze and quicken systems change and enable adaptation.

This brief makes the case that programs can and should shift the locus of learning from being only program-focused to system-focused. This implies a shift in agency away from a program directing the learning process to strengthening the capacity of market actors (e.g., firms, other organizations) and the system itself to better learn and adapt on their own. It represents an evolution in the focus and purpose of learning from being oriented primarily towards funder reporting (i.e., “prove”) and program improvement (i.e., “improve”) to also focusing on system transformation (i.e., “transform”).

The brief then spotlights 10 proven strategies for action across two pathways to support learning:

  1. at the market actor-level (e.g., building capacity for customer centricity and supplier insights and then applying amplification strategies) and
  2. at the systems-level (e.g., strengthening institutions that build trust and feedback loops, enhancing system performance data, and improving the reach and capacity of learning service providers). 

These strategies are anchored by specific examples from 13 programs doing this work now across 11 countries, including programming in Uganda, Honduras, Mozambique, Vietnam, Nigeria, and Serbia.