This is the first version of MaFI's Learning Agenda. It describes the main questions that the three Learning Teams (formerly called Working Groups) are focusing on. It needs some updates but is still valid.
Market Facilitation Initiative (MaFI)
A joint initiative by the SEEP Network and the Livelihoods Network
Learning Agenda for 2008-2009: Concrete pathways to learn and contribute to the state
of the practice in Pro-Poor Market Development
Working Draft – 18 Nov 2008
Prepared by Lucho Osorio
The Market Facilitation Initiative (MaFI) aims to promote learning and knowledge sharing
amongst practitioners on facilitation of pro-poor market development programmes that achieve
sustainability and impact at scale. It also aims to assist them to move from design to
implementation by advancing practical principles, techniques, and tools.
In practice, MaFI will achieve its goals through the participatory identification of critical
knowledge gaps and issues that are important for its members and the promotion of highly
committed and effective working groups focusing on one issue each.
Main achievements so far:
• The set up of a web-based platform for knowledge sharing and networking
• An initial exploration of approaches and tools that led to the identification of key questions
and issues for discussion in the following three events:
o An online conference (29th Sep – 3rd Nov 2008)
o A face-to-face workshop with members of the Livelihoods Network (during the
Livelihoods Network Annual Workshop, 14th Oct 2008, East Sussex – UK)
o A face-to-face meeting with members of the Market Development Working Group
(during the SEEP Annual Conference, 5th Nov 2008, Washington DC)
Proposed Learning Agenda:
The discussions and reflections during the events mentioned above gave us a good
understanding of the burning issues and knowledge gaps. They also helped us narrow our
research scope down from eight thematic areas to three that captured the attention of the
majority of participants, namely1:
• Linkages (both horizontal and vertical linkages)
• Capacity building (of facilitators).
The following agenda distils discussions and reflections of the MaFI members and offers its
members concrete opportunities to learn and contribute to the state of the practice in Pro-
Poor Market Facilitation between now and Nov 2009.
The other areas explored were: M&E of the facilitation process, business or enabling environment, exit strategy,
and inputs and services.
1.1. Key insights:
• This has been the most hotly debated topic by the members of MaFI
• It is closely linked to the issue of “exit strategies” (wide consensus about the principle of “exit
before you enter”)
• Despite a lack of consensus there is a general acceptance that it is impossible to facilitate
pro-poor market development without them but that we should be cautious and try to avoid
them as much as possible. However, there is a lack of principles and tools to guide
facilitators in their use
• MaFI members want to be innovative about subsidies
1.2. Key learning questions:
• What types of subsidies work best in certain contexts and subsectors?
• How to target subsidies to the actors who need them the most?
• How to move towards zero-subsidy scenarios?
• How to use subsidies to reduce perceptions of risk and create incentives for market
stakeholders to innovate? (Issue connected to the Linkages Group)
• How to use subsidies to create conditions for a smooth exit (exit strategy)?
1.3. Concrete activities proposed:
• Develop a set of guidelines to help facilitators decide what type of subsidies to use, how and
when to use them (e.g. sequence, targeting, management of expectations, schedule), how to
reduce them and eliminate them, and how to monitor their effects in the facilitation process
(are subsidies actually helping?). This latter issue is closely linked to the issue of M&E for
• Identify and analyse case studies of successful use of subsidies both to stimulate supply and
demand, including hard evidence of the costs and benefits. Ideally, include cases of
successful pro-poor market development without subsidies. Comparing the two types of
processes (with and without subsidies) can help us predict when subsidies will be needed or
• Taking a thematic approach was suggested by Ben Fowler during the MaFI session in the
SEEP conference. His proposed focus on subsidies in the context of agricultural extension
and the process of moving towards sustainable ag-extension service provision.
1.4. People who have expressed firm interest in joining this group:
• Andy Jeans, ATP (UK)
• Annet Witteveen, Inter-cooperation (Switzerland)
• David Bright, Oxfam (UK)
• Ben Fowler, MEDA (Canada)
• Three SEEP Market Development Group members2
1.5. Potential synergies with other initiatives:
• Value Chain and Microfinance (around financial subsidies) – SEEP
• Agricultural extension evaluation – Practical Action
During the MaFI session in Washington DC (Nov 2008)
2. Horizontal and Vertical Linkages
2.1. Key insights:
• There is an agreement that these two types of linkages are synergic and therefore cannot be
approached in isolation.
• Not only external facilitators but also market stakeholders can facilitate the formation and
strengthening of horizontal and vertical linkages (e.g. lead firms, service and input providers
and government agencies)
• Role for Facilitators may be in building the capacity of these actors to better organize
linkages that promote scale, transparency, good governance, etc. Need to ensure that their
activities defined and implemented in awareness of the market, particularly if they are not in
the private sector. (Issue connected to Capacity Building)
2.2. Key learning questions:
• How to facilitate horizontal linkages that enable scale?
• What local actors may have the incentives to promote these linkages commercially?
• OR is this a necessary activity that facilitators sometimes need to undertake?
• Alternatively, promoting horizontal linkages through contracts and/or lead firms to may lead
to situations where producer groups become extremely dependent or vulnerable to buyers.
• What alternative tools/approaches have you used or would you recommend to reduce such
2.3. Concrete activities proposed:
• Build a set of principles and guidelines for facilitators around two aspects:
o Assessing and mitigating risks perceived by market stakeholders in the formation
o Awareness raising and creation of incentives for the formation of linkages
Note: This is closely linked to the issue of subsidies
• Assess tools that MaFI members are already using to identify critical market stakeholders
and facilitate linkages between them. For example, stakeholder analysis tools, capacity
assessments, approaching and engaging stakeholders (hooks), techniques and principles to
promote ownership of the process, management of expectations, etc
2.4. People who have expressed firm interest in joining this group:
• John Siodlarz, National Cooperative Business Association – NCBA (USA)
• Kirsty Wilson, Oxfam (UK)
• Nicoliene Oudwater, ETC (Netherlands)
• Darren Evans, Concern (Ireland)
• Three SEEP Market Development Group members3
2.5. Potential synergies with other initiatives:
• FIELD initiative on Lead Firms (see more details at: http://www.microlinks.org/ev_en.php?
During the MaFI session in Washington DC (Nov 2008)
3. Capacity Building4:
3.1. Key insights:
• Main focus of discussion was around capacity building of community-based (or local)
facilitators; such as grassroots organizations, local service providers, local government
• External facilitators (such as consultants or NGOs) face big challenges to effectively
communicate and train local facilitators
• Market assessment, potential for expansion and scale-up, leverage points, strategies and
business plans should determine the skills needed by community-based facilitators
• Market multi-stakeholder forums can be effective spaces to build the capacity of community-
3.2. Key learning questions:
• What are the principles and approaches and most effective techniques and tools to build the
capacity of community-based facilitators?
• How strategic, appropriate and feasible is a community-based or local approach to
• Can community-based facilitators contribute to sustainability and impact at scale?
• Is “responsive” capacity building (i.e. according to market vision and assessment) possible?
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
3.3. Concrete activities proposed:
• Analysis of cases where community-based market facilitation has been used successfully
3.4. People who have expressed firm interest in joining this group:
• Caroline Pinder, Consultant, WISE Development (UK)
• Thevan Naidoo (Khanya- South Africa)
3.5. Potential synergies with other initiatives:
• None yet
PLEASE CONTACT LUCHO OSORIO (LUIS.OSORIO@PRACTICALACTION.ORG.UK) IF
YOU WANT TO JOIN ANY OF THE GROUPS ABOVE AND/OR PROVIDE COMMENTS TO
THIS LEARNING AGENDA
Immediate next steps:
• Members will confirm and/or decide which group they want to join: Nov 2008
• Lucho will contact the members who are interested in being part of the working groups and
find out those who want to lead them: Nov 2008
• Lucho will work with the groups to help them come up with strategies and activity plans:
Nov – Dec 2008
This is a possible third working group. The final decision to promote it will depend on a clear leadership and strong
commitment of MaFI members interested in learning and contributing to this issue.