LIVE Markets During COVID Discussion Three #GETTINGBUYIN [CASH]

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MiC online discussion series - What does market-based programming look like in the age of COVID?

29 Jun 2020, 10:41 a.m.

Paula Gil

Hi everyone

I’ve been following this thread with great interest. Thanks for all the brain food!

While I agree that markets thinking assumes looking at the system, in practice it doesn’t always translate in true systems thinking. We don’t aim to transform markets but to use them as a channel for delivery of aid. We don’t tend to look at markets to understand how to transform them but to define our point of entry.
We would need to replace the linear paradigm that defines the way we think we should create value with a systemic understanding of it. Until we do that we will continue to use cash grants in the same framework we designed for in kind assistance and therefore have similar impact. Imagine if using markets thinking truly meant finding leverage points to transform them?

The challenges behind this seem huge because a move to a systemic understanding of needs would move to questioning our own centrality in people’s well-being ... but I think it is about time we get real.

Have a great day

Paula

Paula Gil Baizan / +4122 548 0472 / +33 6 84 00 5814 [Hidden email]

https://paulagilbaizan.youcanbook.me

29 Jun 2020, 5:39 a.m.

Mike Albu

Excellent points Mary.
For anyone interested in the interventions in the dairy / cheese market that you mentioned, you can find more information here:
https://beamexchange.org/resources/1355/
best
Mike Albu

29 Jun 2020, 12:49 a.m.

Mary Morgan

Lili, I think you are onto something here when you write “ Due to the initial panic around getting responses ready & in place”. The world was not prepared for Covid (despite the warnings of a pandemic for years by scientists and epidemiologists), and panic, fear ensued— (The best prepared were Asian countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore)

I have been surprised by the minimal to no partnering between public health NGOs and market based programs, and humanitarian programs. We have the experience of AIDS, Ebola and FGM activism where creativity and public education teaching about the harm the viruses or cultural practice of FGM do to people. Popular theatre, songs, peer counselling, so many things emerged. And it worked.
The beauty of systems thinking in market based programming is that the boundary of the system for each market analysis can be different. In one MBP in Georgia, where women collected milk to sell to cheese factories, it was found that they did not have access to participation in municipal decisions— and because of that there was no money every allocated towards water infrastructure so the milk was unhygienic and the cheese quality was poor. So lobbying and advocacy for civic participation of women in line with the existing laws began and the cheese market system took off.

COVID is a health crisis that is now spilling into economic and social systems, Protection of economic actors, and consumers is essential to keep people healthy so that they can participate in the economy as suppliers and buyers. The WHO has only presented one covid response which is based on the global north’s response and capabilities. This excludes the global south. To me this is racist— you cannot ask a household that earns less than $5/day to stay at home for 3 months. Period. In the north they can do that because citizens are receiving money (in Canada $2,000/month per person who’s income has been reduced or terminated by covid).
I am brainstorming here—
1. IF MBPs partnered with health organizations to do education with communities about the virus- how it spreads, how to contain it with cartoons <https: www.centerforfinancialinclusion.org="" q-and-a-using-comics-for-covid-19-awareness="">, theatre, videos-
2. and some initial investment was provided by MBP projects to a few women entrepreneurs or self help groups to sew masks  <https: oxfamblogs.org="" fp2p="" voices-from-the-ground-stories-of-community-resilience-entrepreneurship-in-the-pandemic=""/> hat could be sold at a cost effective price to all community members, and education was provided on washing the masks and use of masks-
3. and lobbying began with local government authorities on making hand washing possible in markets, on streets (Rwanda  <https: www.youtube.com="" watch?v="Ws0Jf8P6vGc">has foot pump hand sanitizers throughout their capital) and communal toilets and latrines were properly cleaned daily—
4. and lobbying was done with local governments to allow those who have been prepared with public health education, masks and markets with hand washing capabilities, with the caveat that market participation would be based on these factors, South Africa <https: oxfamblogs.org="" fp2p="" covid-advocacy-in-south-africas-shanty-towns-what-works=""/> was able to do this and also Myanmar <https: oxfamblogs.org="" fp2p="" how-adaptive-are-adaptive-management-programmes-in-a-crisis-like-covid=""/>,

Governments would be able to allow market activity which would mitigate the economic fallout of a pandemic. Cash transfers would then work very effectively.

Mary Morgan
225-7575 Duncan Street
Powell River, BC V8A 5L1
Cell: 604-314-8376
Email: [Hidden email] <mailto:[Hidden email]>

23 Jun 2020, 6:32 p.m.

John Hoven

Sophie says, “when markets are volatile and complex our immediate reaction
is not to understand how to work with them and how they might respond but
to jump back to familiar ground.”

Understanding how to work with them is localized development. Here is a way
to think about it:

In a market economy, every problem is a business opportunity. Even (or
especially) when the economy is being trashed by natural disasters or the
coronavirus pandemic, entrepreneurs think of ways to alleviate the problem
and make a profit.

If we talk to these entrepreneurs, we can learn what they thought was
difficult but doable. (Economists call these “barriers to entry.”) For
example, one of these difficulties is building trust relationships with
prospective partners and customers in a new trading area. NGOs and CSOs can
help with that.

How do we identify these entrepreneurs? Start by talking to local traders.
They are middlemen, so they have their eye on what is happening both
upstream (suppliers) and downstream (retailers). Ask about new entrants
into their trading area, and ask those new entrants how you can help them,
and others like them.

John Hoven

On Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 6:53 AM [Hidden email] <
[Hidden email]

23 Jun 2020, 6:32 p.m.

LIli Mohiddin

Hello there

I am not going to answer all the questions you ask Sophie, just add a few of my own reflections. I imagine that there are a number of reasons behind the humanitarian actor's thinking and yes, the reasons you list below could be some of them.
I am all in favour of taking a systems thinking approach (thanks for the ILO article Karri)- especially as Covid has exposed cracks and gaps in some crucial market systems and highlighted the importance of various actors. When we speak of resilient markets, isn't this what we should be looking at?
Generally speaking, I think there has been a lack of confidence in markets and their capacity to cope and respond favourably to the cash assistance (the little that has been provided... especially in the early days when border restrictions were being enforced). Due to the initial panic around getting responses ready & in place, maybe managers/ decision makers felt more confident with procurement requests for in-kind assistance? There has also been a lack of consistency in approaches - in a given area, cash being provided to meet some needs (where there is more confidence and historical learning) and in-kind tending to be used for needs in sectors that have less experience, confidence and learning. Places with a history of weak/ fragmented supply chains, price rises and poor cash liquidity were hesitant to consider cash - too many unknowns and risks to deal with, especially when having to think 3-6 months ahead. The lack of precedence was an issue as has been the global scale of Covid.
At times it has felt as if the right hand is/was not listening to the left - one says "use cash", the other hesitates, pontificating... I would have thought that the use of flexible modality options in proposals and project design would be an option.
We rely, perhaps too much, on "guidance" or "technical nudging" from donors on what modalities are most appropriate. Not so sure I had my hearing aid in or on...
Lili

23 Jun 2020, 4:38 p.m.

[Hidden email]

Great discussion. I’m very much a business oriented person and have struggled with the humanitarian programms in many countries. But we have always sought the dialogue. Because while business oriented interventions in many instances do not address the needs of the poorest of the poor we need to be reminded to ensure they still can benefit. While the beneficiaries of the intervention make good profits (yes profit, profit is not a bad thing, it is essential for businesses) But on the other hand humanitarians have to be reminded that the poorest of the poor in many cases can’t be helped with business interventions. So I would advise everybody does what s/he can do best and we join forces. And we all need to educate ourselves.

23 Jun 2020, 10:46 a.m.

[Hidden email]

Really interesting. I ask the following in all innocence as a non- markets expert. Do you think part of this is down to a skills gap in the humanitarian system? We haven't prioritised hiring economists, training ourselves to think like economists or really even incentivised looking at our contexts and programmes through that lens. So when markets are volatile and complex our immediate reaction is not to understand how to work with them and how they might respond but to jump back to familiar ground. The reflex is not "how do we support and strengthen markets in tough times" but "cash is too hard and risky right now".
I've worked in several contexts where humanitarian leadership has asked what we do if markets fail, and what warning signs should we look for. How do we know that "over-reliance" on cash isn't too great of a risk. And honestly we've struggled to answer the question as well as we might. What brains/ resources/ organisations have helped others answer this question well? Who do we need to work with to educate ourselves on this?

23 Jun 2020, 9:31 a.m.

[Hidden email]

Sophie and Sasha,

I'm struck by your story Sasha... about the explanations people have for
why we need to revert to distributions. I worry that we are just taking the
easy route, or being unimaginative, when we all know crisis is often an
opportunity for change.

I was really struck by an article I read yesterday where ILO went back and
looked at its programmes 10 years later (!!) to see if they were
sustainable. Here's the article:
https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_743429.pdf.
What struck me when I read it is the thought that we are really failing
people if we are not trying to *change the system*... So distributions may
be the right thing, but as your example shows, we must change the system to
make it more sustainable (and apparently many of those changes will
stick!) This quote resonated with me in particular: *"The goal of
sustained systemic change is for a system to work differently than it used
to, in such a way that it no longer perpetuates an identified problem."*

Don't we want humanitarian systems that work differently? Systems that
avoid perpetuating the problem? If we really want that, why are we doing
the same old thing now?

Karri

23 Jun 2020, 9:25 a.m.

[Hidden email]

Sophie and Sasha,
I'm struck by your story Sasha... about the explanations people have for
why we need to revert to distributions. I worry that we are just taking the
easy route, or being unimaginative, when we all know crisis is often an
opportunity for change.

I was really struck by an article I read yesterday where ILO went back and
looked at its programmes 10 years later (!!) to see if they were
sustainable. Here's the article:
https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_743429.pdf.
What struck me when I read it is the thought that we are really failing
people if we are not trying to *change the system*... So distributions may
be the right thing, but as your example shows, we must change the system to
make it more sustainable (and apparently many of those changes will
stick!) This quote resonated with me in particular: *"The goal of
sustained systemic change is for a system to work differently than it used
to, in such a way that it no longer perpetuates an identified problem."*

Don't we want humanitarian systems that work differently? Systems that
avoid perpetuating the problem? If we really want that, why are we doing
the same old thing now?

Karri

23 Jun 2020, 7 a.m.

Sasha Muench

Thanks Sophie for posing this question. It is one I have been wrestling
with and sadly only have failure to report. A humanitarian actor here told
me with pride recently that COVID-19 reinforced the need for in-kind
distributions (all goods imported directly) as it kept people home and safe
during the pandemic. There was no mention of the risk to the many workers
required to import, package, and hand deliver food parcels to individual
households, or the immense cost of this process, or how many other
households were suffering from income loss as a result. At the same time
Mercy Corps successfully managed to remotely top-up our cards-based cash
transfers, allowing cash recipients to get cash from a wide range of ATMs
(avoiding crowded times) and then purchase the items they needed most from
nearby shops who were also struggling to survive (but had plenty of
inventory). And we were able to easily add additional funds so people
could purchase hygiene supplies, including masks produced locally.

I do sense a shift back to in-kind donations from some implementing
agencies who are understandably struggling to find operating modalities in
these crazy times but sadly are reverting to our humanitarian instinct to
“solve the problem” rather than spend a bit more time facilitating a better
solution. *I would love to know if anyone has been able to persuade other
actors not to revert to direct distributions. What arguments/incentives did
you use?*

But it is not all negative, I did hear of a wonderful program that
purchased produce from farmers unable to sell it and distributed it to
individuals stuck in quarantine centers. That is the kind of in-kind
distribution that makes sense, and it still benefits local suppliers.

Thanks,

Sasha

*SASHA MUENCH*
Country Director, Palestine

*MERCY CORPS*

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