Sustainability, effectiveness and scale

Effectiveness, sustainability and scale are significant concepts in development, but they take on a unique meaning for market systems practitioners.

Once you have your initial strategy design and market diagnostic, it is time to design a vision for a more effective market system based on these three concepts.

Effectiveness can be defined as a programme’s ability to create meaningful behaviour change across a market system by working with a limited number of partners. An informed programme can leverage key relationships to achieve greater impact with the same number of project resources as its direct delivery counterpart. 

Sustainability is the capability of a market system to continue to adapt and provide the means for poor women and men to derive social and economic benefits beyond the period of intervention. This is different from the sustainability of any one model or way of working. For example, one coffee buyer and one cooperative having a pre-determined contractual relationship that stays in place forever. Sustainability in market systems approaches reflects a state at which markets are more responsive to the needs of the poor. This concept shares attributes with thinking on resilience as opposed to continuation.  

Interventions in interconnected markets

Scale, when understood within a market systems approach, implies that entire markets will behave differently when a tipping point is achieved from multiple interventions, rather than from a single project working with a few market actors. Scale reflects a desire to create deep social change, not just the replication of business models. For example, USAID/Uganda Feed the Future Agricultural Inputs Activity focuses on changing industry norms so that retailers and suppliers become more customer-oriented. Promoting the village agent retail model was one way of achieving this end, but not the focus of the intervention.

M4P Operational Guide, Chapter 3: Vision

Core principles and frameworks for defining and planning an intervention.