In search of the sweet spot in implementing MSD programmes

BEAM Grab the Mic webinar 

Date: 29 November 2018


Harald Bekkers, Director, Opportunities Unlimited B.V.
Marshall Bear, MSD consultant

What the handbook does not tell you: the importance of incorporating 'messiness' thinking when implementing market system development - and the implications for programme design and management.

Presented by the authors of the Messiness Series this webinar discussed the importance of an adaptive development approach that is able to respond to the divergent and complex messy contexts in which market systems programmes operate.

They share their experience of analysing 22 partnerships implemented in Phase One of the DFAT-funded Market Development Facility (MDF) in Fiji and Pakistan.

Fiji represents a thin market scenario in which opportunities for pro-poor growth are few and far between. The choice of partners to work with is also limited. As in many other countries, market systems are very unformed. What do you do when half the ‘donut’ is missing?

Pakistan represents a mix of thin and thicker markets. There are more opportunities and partners in thicker markets. Access to specialised support services is higher.

Harald and Marshal discussed the difficulties of managing partnerships in both countries. In thin markets the rides are bumpier and take longer. The business facilitator must work with relatively less capable partners on relatively more ambitious business expansion strategies. These are often unsupported by specialised services.

They explored the following concepts:

  • Flexibility. Stay flexible but prevent an ‘anything goes’ approach. Don't stick to the ‘proscriptive orthodoxy’ of the methodology handbook. And don't throw all principles out the window ‘because it does not work’ and settle for ‘anything goes’.
  • Context. It is key and informs the kind of support provided to partners - how long we should work with them and the kind of teams needed.
  • Creativity. Be guided and contained by core development principles but also informed by, and able to adapt to, the context.
  • Versatile, analytical teams. Important for the implementation of adaptive practice. These teams can only operate in an environment (defined by the programme, the contractor and the donor) in which all parties acknowledge the messy nature of the development process. They must work together to ensure a culture and structure in which learning and adaptability can thrive.
    (They didn't have time to address this last point - we hope to organise a follow-up webinar)

Watch the webinar