What does "market assessment" mean to you?

Reply on Discourse | 14 comments

March 23, 2023, 8:50 a.m.

Md. Rubaiyath Sarwar

Fascinating discussion. This also relates to the discussion we used to have in early days on how we differentiate between market assessments or market systems analysis and value chain analysis as we transitioned from value chain development to market systems development in many of the projects worldwide in early 2000. Most projects undertake the market assessment at the inception period of the project once they have targeted a prospective market to intervene in. After several years, the community agreed that it is important to define what the market means as the broad definition of markets created lots of confusion. So for instance, a project working on malaria elimination, analysed the markets for diagnostic test kits, preventive products and curative products or medicines. Three separate market assessments were undertaken. Again, another project that worked on livestock, undertook market assessment for animal husbandry services, livestock inputs, livestock output markets separately. The purpose in all cases are tied to the goal- define market growth opportunities and the relevant systemic constraints which, if addressed, can help to achieve the desired impact - for instance, jobs, income, empowerment.. Within this scope, the extent of analysis varied and continues to vary depending on the need, which is what I believe others have already pointed out. It is also important to note that market assessment in market systems development is not a static process but rather a dynamic ongoing process driven by the need to design and facilitate interventions to achieve the desired outcomes~

March 14, 2023, 5:31 p.m.

David Elliott

Hi Emily, An interesting question and discussion. M4P talks of a ‘diagnostic process’ which aims to take us from observing symptoms to understanding root causes. As we progress through our journey the things we need to know change, as therefore does the data we need to make the decisions we need to make. The types of data, where we get it, how and who we get it from, what it’s purpose is and how we intend to use as factors which change as we move through our diagnostic process. For what it’s worth here’s the terms I use to describe the key categories / types of data I need to take the decisions I need to take through through the process. In case useful: Information (where to look): concerns the low resolution data we use to choose development problems, populations and markets of interest. Relevance, opportunity and feasibility ‘stuff’. Intelligence (what we’re seeing): concerns our core market assessment. Structure, performance and inclusion issues. This is consistent with the economics term - market intelligence and all this implies. Insight (why are we seeing it): concerns our wider market systems assessment and understanding why things are the way they are. A much higher resolution assessment seeking to explain why things are the way they are, and what / who needs to change to affect improved performance and inclusion. I use these terms as definitionally I think they’re quite tight. Information - pretty general and about orienting. Intelligence - more specific and analytical trying to understand what’s what. Insights - informed perspectives helpful to understand why things are they way they are and what can be done in response. Hope that’s helpful. David Kind Regards David Elliott [**thegallusedge.org**](http://thegallusedge.org/) Mobile +44 (0)7725 640086 Office +44 (0)191 3084717 Skype david.andrew.elliott The Gallus Edge CIC, Ground Floor, Finchale House, Belmont Business Park Durham, DH1 1TW, United Kingdom ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– The Gallus Edge CIC is a Community Interest Company registered in England and Wales. Company Registration No. 12092385. Registered Offices: Ground Floor, Finchale House, Belmont Business Park, Durham DH1 1TW, England

March 14, 2023, 3:53 p.m.

Daniel Langfitt

Thanks for the recap, Emily, and sorry for being late to the conversation (getting settled with the new platform, a bit belatedly). I like Karri's point about "dinner". In particular I was struck by the point about asking basic questions and taking a broad approach based on what you are actually trying to "assess" for... not capturing the totality of an economic system. I have a couple journalists among my family and close friends, and when I was in my late teens and early twenties and would occasionally hear them work (or listen to them talk about work), I would think "wait, what are you doing, you've been reporting on _____ for five years, you're basically an expert, why would you ask that question? it makes you sound dumb! Don't you want your sources to take you seriously?" And of course that's not the point. I suspect in our field when we (often parachute in to) do a "market assessment" as an "expert", we are subject to some of the same pressures. And so it's important to ask some of those really basic questions, because like my journalist friends and family, sometimes you get an answer that surprises you (and even when you don't, you probably need the quote anyway for your report). I would think that asking childish* questions of market actors of all levels (+1 to @corrie.sissons comment on including traders!) would be an important part of getting an assessment that doesn't just tick the donor deliverable box, but actually delivers new insights about the market. *Or I think I mean child-like questions. As in (as many have observed) children often ask the best questions.

March 14, 2023, 3:53 p.m.

Rachel Shah

Good question! A related challenge - at least in MSD - is whether a "market systems assessment" refers to just one part of the whole process from programme launch to intervention design (including, for example, context scoping, sector selection etc etc) or whether it just very specifically includes a deep dive into relevant systemic constraints in one particular market system. I use it the latter way but I see others use it more broadly. I prefer a narrower definition because otherwise, as you rightly say Emily, it becomes so broad as to become meaningless.

March 14, 2023, 2:40 p.m.

Emily Sloane

Others may disagree, but my understanding of this is that "assessment" typically implies the collection of data (primary and/or secondary), whereas analysis is more about what you do with data once you have it. Analysis would be looking at information/data and using it to try to answer questions, understand trends etc. So you could conduct analysis without doing an assessment (if sufficient data is already available), but you normally would not do an assessment without also conducting analysis.

March 14, 2023, 1:31 p.m.

Emily Sloane

Thanks for all of the great comments, everyone. @MikeAlbu, I like your very broad definition of "market assessment", and @KGByrne, I like the "dinner" analogy. The challenges I've encountered with this term can be summed up as follows: * In reality, the term "market assessment" is so broad as to be pretty meaningless. * As several of you have noted, to start giving shape to a market assessment, you have to think through and clarify what you are trying to find out and why. * Based on your answers to the above questions, a market assessment could take many different forms, and different tools/approaches will be more or less appropriate! I think the struggle we often encounter is that some people may mistakenly assume that there is a uniform approach to "market assessments"; that they may not quite understand what they are doing or why but that they are too intimidated/shy to ask questions; and/or that they end up conducting a market assessment without really understand why/what for. My imperfect advice is: don't be afraid to ask (even basic) questions, and always develop a clear understanding of what you are trying to find out and why before you begin any market assessment (or other data collection exercise!).

March 6, 2023, 11:18 a.m.


Thanks for the question Emily. It made me think of what are the major outcomes I am really on the hunt for, whenever conducting a market assessment. Two things popped out: 1) What are the roles and relationships of the actors directly and indirectly involved in the market? 2) What are the behavioural patterns and incentives for these actors, and how does that impact the system? I agree with @corrie.sissons ; it's ALWAYS useful to talk to the traders. I haven't found another actor in the market who is more candid about 'how things work'.

March 2, 2023, 3:37 p.m.

Jimena Peroni

Yes, I much agree with Mike, in the field handbook for rental markets, we also gave a lot of focus on the key analytical questions steps. Once you get that right, you can extend MBP to any sector. Focus on that step, build it bringing different perspectives, and then you can tap into many methodologies and tools that are out there!

March 2, 2023, 7:51 a.m.


Thanks Emily for the insightful discussion. Although market assessment is an important aspect of our work, but it can be difficult to define exactly what it entails. In my view, the approach to market assessment depends on the purpose of the assessment, as Mike has explained, and the timing of the assessment in relation to our programming. When it comes to understanding the market assessment, I think there are two key aspects to consider: the structural side and the behavioural side. The structural side involves identifying the key actors and their linkages and of course the position of our target group in the market. The behavioral side is all about understanding how the market functions and what factors influence its performance (whether how itis working or not working) I agree with Jo on the confusion about using the term market assessment, and it is different from market system analysis, market system assessment, value chain analysis ..etc This is really confusing when you are working on consultancy work in particular

March 1, 2023, 9:08 a.m.

Karri Byrne

Excellent point Emily! In nearly every training I do, I make the point that saying "market assessment" is a lot like saying "dinner"... it means different things to different people. It could mean a really simple dinner with your children, or a 7 course candle-lit meal. As soon as someone says "market assessment" you really have to ask what they mean, what they want to get out of it...

March 1, 2023, 7:44 a.m.

Jo Zaremba

Really good discussion and the 'Research Question' is central and critical for any assessment design. Before chipping in with my thoughts may I add a question to Emily's which I come up against frequently, namely what do you understand as the difference between a market 'assessment' and market 'analysis'? Jo Jo Zaremba Auto-correct errors possible

Feb. 28, 2023, 10:27 p.m.

Mike Albu

Great question Emily. The answer, of course, is… it depends! In particular, it depends on the purpose for doing a market assessment. For example, an assessment to establish whether cash is viable as an emergency response to urgent needs, is going to be a very different from one exploring how to support a critical market system to recover quicker from a shock. So perhaps it should no surprise to find diversity in the answers people give. In the [EMMA Toolkit ](http://www.emma-toolkit.org)we suggested an essential step in market assessment is identifying your ‘**key analytical questions**’. These are the specific and tangible queries that guide the design of information gathering processes; determining not just who to talk to, but which kind of methods to use and what enquiries to make. We gave a few practical examples in section 2.4, on page 55. As you can see, there is much variety. In conclusion, I would say a market assessment is any process of information-gathering undertaken with the purpose of better understanding how a market system functions now, did function in the past or could function in the future…. … so that one can make better response decisions.

Feb. 28, 2023, 12:37 p.m.


This is a really good point Emily! I find as well that program and operations staff often have their own interpretations, with operations teams sometimes just meaning ' price surveys' whilst program teams care more about market access issues for households, whether goods are available etc. I am also surprised how often market assessments dont include trader surveys! Its always good to talk to a trader :)

Feb. 24, 2023, 7:04 p.m.

Emily Sloane

One of the recurring themes I've encountered ever since joining MiC is the vastly different interpretations of seemingly simple terminology. You ask 10 different people what "market assessment" means, and you seem to get 10 completely different answers. I'm supporting a couple of initiatives right now that are intended to help bring some clarity to this very topic, so I think it might be a good time to put the question to the MiC community, to better understand the range of interpretations that are out there: What do you understand by the term "market assessment"? (And this is not a trick question; there is no "right" or "wrong" answer.) And what questions do you have about what "market assessment" does or doesn't mean?