A new community of practice shines a light on the unique challenges of applying MSD to employment objectives.

Collective knowledge is a public good. It helps us all to deliver work that is higher-quality, better connected and more impactful. This is particularly true when applying MSD to newer areas, such as for employment-related purposes (job creation, labour market intermediation, and skills development).

Interventions in this space span a wide range of sectors, employment types, and target groups and practitioners are hungry for examples to draw upon. And yet, like most of us mere mortals, they struggle with information overload, limited bandwidth for reading and organisational incentives that encourage thought leadership more than thought followership.

The MSD for Employment Community of Practice (MSD4E-CoP) tackles these barriers by encouraging social learning about this technical domain. The CoP is a grassroots initiative built and run on the voluntary commitments of its members: no one has asked us to do it; we want to be here. We invite both active and reluctant writers and readers among us to join!

Building momentum

Since its launch in May 2023, the MSD4E-CoP has engaged nearly 100 practitioners of all stripes. More recently, the community held its second virtual meeting in September bringing together a global group of implementers, project staff, consultants and funders from over 25 organisations.

This session was a technical ‘deep dive’, focusing on labour market matching models being applied across projects, including digital job matching platforms in Ethiopia and Kosovo, and temporary worker intermediaries in Honduras.

These live sessions bring the CoP to life and set the stage for many other benefits for members. These include:

  • Space for participants to influence what we discuss, explore and collaborate on. Learning should be demand-driven, so knowledge products respond to real needs. 
  • Joint products to lower transaction costs, making it easier for practitioners to find out what is going on.
  • By curating and synthesising others’ resources, and sharing them through a newsletter, it’s easier to keep up with the field and prioritise what to read. 
  • Focus on application in project design and delivery. Members who share bring their tacit knowledge to life in a dynamic way, and others can go straight to the source – gaining immediate answers while building relationships.
  • A bridge between different groups of experts, including skills development, labour market and MSD specialists. Inter-disciplinary learning helps overcome blind spots. 
  • A sense of community, particularly for field projects. The CoP shows people they’re part of a larger cross-organisational, cross-funder global mission. This can validate frustrations and inspire optimism in the face of intense challenges.

The CoP is also producing joint knowledge resources with in-depth inputs from its members. The first co-produced resource is the upcoming global assessment of the MSD4E landscape, which is financed by Mercy Corps, ILO and Swisscontact, and will profile over 50 current and recent MSD4E interventions to showcase the diversity of activity. Readers will be able to zoom in on specific examples, and zoom out to see trends and broader lessons across common intervention types.

What have we learnt so far?

In some MSD4E quarters there’s a lot of knowledge ‘out there’ already. For certain strategic objectives and system functions, for example ‘access to jobs’ and ‘job matching’, there is an extensive track record already. Newer projects can leverage years of experience to understand what may or may not work.

Those considering new knowledge products in these well-trodden areas can start by exploring existing resources.

Meanwhile, there are obvious gaps. The work to date has helped to reveal gaps in evidence and practice, for example the limited scale of job creation interventions and the challenges of sustainability in skills development interventions. These highlight the need to deepen research, but also to gather practitioners together to dig into the reasons behind these persistent challenges.

The connections are real! The research for the landscape assessment discovered several ‘quick win’ connections between projects working on very similar interventions in quite different contexts.

LIWAY in Ethiopia and EYE in Kosovo have learned more about each other’s approach to labour market intermediation. Past experience in solid waste management from Mombasa was shared with a newer project in Harare. 

If you’re curious to follow along or join the CoP yourself, you can sign up for our newsletter, or follow us on LinkedIn.

The MSD4E COP will be running two in-person sessions at the 2023 Market Systems Symposium:
- a deep dive on MSD4E
- and a 'tools' session covering the MSD4E landscape assessment and Rough Guide to MSD for youth employment in sub-Saharan Africa.
If you're attending we hope to see you there!

This blog was written on behalf of the MSD4E Community of Practice by Justin van Rhyn, Mike Klassen and Daniel Nippard

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