The Market Facilitation Initiative (MaFI) The Complexity Dialogues: embracing complexity to boost the impact, efficiency and sustainability of inclusive market facilitation Project document, short version (Mar 2012)1. The core idea: Let’s bring together the communities of practice of complexity science andVCD/M4P/inclusive markets to learn from one another and test methods & tools in the field.2. What for? To boost the impact, efficiency and sustainability of inclusive market systemsfacilitation and to influence donors and policy-makers to embrace complexity as part oftheir frameworks, rules, procedures and investments (synergic with The MaFI-festoDialogues http://slidesha.re/mafifesto2).3. The core problem: In the field of inclusive market development (especially when usingfacilitation) there is a lot of talking about the importance of complex systems. It is generallyaccepted that markets are complex systems and that we need to plan, implement andmeasure our interventions using the “lenses” of complexity and systems.It is not unusual to hear that complex systems are “composed of many actors who interactin many ways and that there are feedback loops that produce weird behavior”. However,knowing how complex systems work is much more (and much more challenging) thanknowing how they look like. Intuitions and experience are important but not enough.Effective facilitators of inclusive market development need to gain a better understanding ofthe science of complexity;be able to identify the concepts, frameworks and tools that workand do not work for them; and even create new techniques and tools. But this has to bedone in collaboration with complexity experts. Furthermore, it is critical to build theevidence to demonstrate to practitioners, donors and policy-makers that the “lenses” ofcomplexity and systems boost our impact, outreach and cost- and time-efficiency.4. Proposed solution: To create a systematic and well-documented process of interaction,action-research and learning between the communities of practice of complexity scienceand VCD/M4P/IMD with a strong focus on practical applications on the ground and on theproduction of evidence of the effects of complexity on real programs.After the complexity workshop during the SEEP Annual Conference in 2011, it was possibleto tell that there is a strong demand from economic development practitioners to knowmore about concrete tools to apply complexity in their work. It was also clear that experts inthe complexity field and some cutting-edge donors like USAID are interested in promoting amore systematic learning process that involves economic development practitioners andpolicy-makers. 1 Page
5. Proposed strategy:Phase 1: Building mutual knowledge and trust: Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest thatmost VCD/M4P/IMD practitioners do not know what complexity science has to offer to theirpractice. Conversely, most complexity experts (many of whom come from biology, physics,mathematics, transport/crowd management, neurology, etc.) do not know what inclusivemarket development practitioners do or want to achieve. A first series of “dialogues”(meetings, seminars, workshops, webinars, e-consultations, etc.) will be required for thetwo CoPs to know what they need and what they can offer to one another, and for them tocome up with a learning agenda.In this first phase,the following groups will be identified: complexity experts in different parts of the world who are keen to contribute and participate MaFI members who want to lead, mobilize and facilitate the learning process in different countries Potential funders of the interactions, pilots and knowledge products(with special emphasis on development agencies who fund market development programs)Phase 2: Defining and implementing the learning agenda:In the second phase, the participants will convert the learning agenda that came out ofphase 1 into an action plan. Concrete activities (e.g. seminars, webinars and workshops),tools and products (e.g. guidelines and even training courses) around concrete issues will beidentified and explored. MaFIand the partners will play a crucial role in capturing anddisseminating the knowledge produced by this initiative.MaFI members who are keen and in a position to pilot new approaches, techniques or toolsgrounded on complexity science and to produce evidenceof impact will also be identified.(Some pilots may start during Phase 2).Phase 3: Piloting approaches, techniques or tools in the field:This phase is dedicated to the application of concepts, approaches, techniques or tools fromthe complexity field in VCD/M4P/IMD programs. The members who will implement pilotswill have the support of research institutions and other experts to design and implementthem in the most robust ways possible.The end of phase 3 will also include activities related to the systematization of lessons andevidence of impact.6. Potential Partnerships:This initiative requires a good balance between practitioners and academics. The followingis a proposed line-up of key partners: 2 Page
The Santa Fe Institute as the academic institution connecting the initiative to a core group of complexity experts. These experts will help us to connect with other peers in other countries and to design the learning agenda and the field pilots. USAID as a cutting-edge donor who is already working in the issue of complexity and development. USAID will provide advice about how to design and implement this initiative in ways that can influence the wider donor community to incorporate complexity and systems thinking in their rules and procedures (synergic with the MaFI-festo Dialogues). SEEP/MaFI as the practitioners’ network that makes sure that the initiative is relevant for the market development practitioners worldwide. MaFI will also coordinate the members who will be involved in the field pilots.Other organizationsthat can be considered are the Institute of Development Studies (IDS)and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) from the UK. The former could bringacademic expertise in development issues and social research related to the field pilots. Thelatter can be an appropriate funder of this initiative given their strong interest in promotinglearning between academics and development practitioners.7. Outcomes:It is impossible to predict the specific changes in practice and thinking that will come out ofthe Complexity Dialogues. This will be a highly interactive and complex process where, forexample, changes in practice that seem to make sense for complexity experts are notappropriate in the field or not accepted by practitioners. However, it is safe to assume thatthe following outcomes will result out of this initiative: A more enabling environment: improved donor policies, rules and procedures that are more open and supportive of practices and policies of inclusive market development based on complexity and systems thinking (synergic with the MaFI- festo Dialogues). Stronger networks and communities of practice:complexity experts and market facilitators share knowledge and collaborate to address critical challenges and questions in the field of inclusive market development Complexity-based thinking and practice: facilitators of inclusive market development are aware of the importance of complexity issues in their work, invest time and resources in learning about them, and find new ways of putting complexity in practice in their work (e.g. through new frameworks, procedures, techniques, tools,etc.)8. Outputs or products: Reference materials for practitioners: books, wikis, websites, MaFI syntheses, Breakfast Seminars, Speakers Corners, manuals, guidelines, videos, podcasts, training courses, etc. Evidence and case studies that can be used by practitioners and policy-makers to 3 advocate for more complexity science and systems thinking in inclusive market Page development.