Market Systems Development (MSD) is an approach favoured by many donors as a means to tackle poverty that taps into the potentials of markets. Thus, MSD generally replaces the term previously used: Making Markets Work for the Poor (or its widely known acronym M4P). It focuses on improving key supporting functions as well as rules and regulations relevant for the market transactions in question. This is done through promoting changes in actors’ behaviour and capacity, as well as their relationships with each other.

In our practice, we still differentiate between MSD and M4P (read our Annual Reflection 2018 article 6 on the topic). We see the former as being more about making the whole market system function better, targeting critical constraints and institutional capabilities – generally supporting economic development. The latter is more targeted, intervening in market systems in such a way that the poor can profit more directly from engaging in these markets and thereby increase their wellbeing.

We provide conceptual, design and strategic advice to donors funding as well as organisations implementing both MSD and M4P projects. We also directly work with teams leading MSD and M4P projects in project design, use of analytical methods for sector and stakeholder analysis and build their capacity in implementing the MSD and M4P approaches, adaptive management and monitoring. We provide leadership mentoring and coaching as well as management strategy and decision-making advice related to market systems.

The way we are engaged by MSD and M4P projects varies. We have been contracted as short-term consultants to support individual MSD and M4P projects over their whole lifetime. Alternatively, we have been asked to support MSD projects that are struggling to achieve their targets and help them in making sense of their situation and develop strategies to move forward or help them solve specific issues like how to measure systemic change. 

GRO Myanmar – continuous support during Inception Phase and Phase 1

Katalyst Bangladesh – developing and piloting a new approach to measure systemic change

M4C Bangladesh – developing a systemic change framework for the project

USAID MST Activity Honduras – supporting USAID in adopting a flexible learning approach in managing the MSD project