Guidance + Tools

Comparing standard and market systems development approaches to rural employment

Published by
Mercy Corps / SCALE

Current approaches to supporting rural employment are having a limited impact in terms of supporting large numbers of new or better income-generating activities, in particular when compared to the scale of rural unemployment.

As a result, there is increasing interest in alternative approaches, including those that incorporate the principles of MSD into rural employment programmes. This approach focuses on bringing about sustainable systems change to maximise impact. Though there is limited evidence to date, there are promising signs, and the approach has been successfully used in agricultural development programmes to improve the incomes of hundreds of thousands of farmers.

However, efforts to bring MSD principles into rural employment work have led to some confusion, in particular on the key differences between standard approaches and MSD approaches.

In response, this document clarifies what an MSD approach to rural employment looks like. It describes how MSD approaches differ from standard approaches, as well as the resulting implications for the implementers, funders and advisors that support rural employment programmes.

Through this, it aims to help rural employment programmes identify opportunities in which taking an MSD approach could maximise their impact on rural employment.