MaFI Quick Chat, SLA-M4P, Mike Albu, June 2009, updated Jan 2011
MaFI Quick Chat: SLA and Pro-Poor Market Development Approaches - four principles to build bridges between them -These are take away ideas from a conversation with Mike Albu (note 1) on 17June 2009. Free adaptation by Lucho Osorio (note 2).1. Everyone agrees that markets matter to the poor. Though not central toSLA, markets are considered by experienced SLA practitioners.2. Both approaches (SLA and pro-poor market development) recognise thatpeople’s livelihoods are multi-dimensional and complex. Therefore, in orderto have a good understanding of problems and possible solutions, we need touse systemic thinking.3. We need to find ways of working together with these two approaches. Itis not possible to subsume one approach into the other. Instead, what we needto do is to find some deeper-level principles that might become the foundationstones for more effective synergies between the two approaches.The four principles:Principle 1: Poverty reduction at large scale: Many SL projects do notaddress this issue very effectively. Conversely, by nature, market-basedapproaches have impact at scale at their core.Development work is characterised by very small budgets compared to the sizeand complexity of the social problems that it tries to address. In average,USD25-50/year are invested by development organisations per person livingunder one dollar a day. Even the poorest person has more resources than that!Impact at scale may require more or less participation (see principle 4). Forexample: Rice Intensification System (RIS) vs. treadle pumps. In the former,intensive participation is required in the transfer of the techniques (they spreadfrom farmer to farmer through observation, discussions, etc). In the latter, thefarmers are reached by one or a few manufacturers through marketingstrategies.Principle 2: Institutional change: Both SLA and M4P recognise this explicitly.SLA tends to see institutions as sources of social power whereas M4P focusmore on “the rules of the game”. However, for both approaches, changinginstitutions is at the heart of poverty reduction.Principle 3: Sustainability: pursuing deeper change in complex systems. Theconcept of “sustainability” is used in different arenas: environmental, economic,social. This is normally taken for granted and many battles occur between peoplewho say that one type is more important than the other. At the end of the day, all
of those dimensions are equally relevant. More important is the depth ofsustainability; in other words, underlying changes in the structures rather thansuperficial outcomes. For example, in education you can talk about a donor whopays a teacher to give a class. This is not sustainable. If the community findsways to pay for the teacher, we start to see sustainability. But one can go evendeeper and start looking at the training systems that need to exist to train currentand future teachers, and the institutions that are needed to produce pertinentpolicies for education.Principle 4: Empowerment and Participation: empowerment is an importantform of poverty reduction because it brings about inclusion, collaboration andcoordination to influence others or to solve problems.Participation is also important but we need to avoid confusing participation as afundamental outcome (e.g. participation that empowers people to influencepolicy-makers or the quality of a service in the market) and participation asmethodological issue (e.g. participatory assessment as a method used inprojects to obtain rich information relatively quickly). The former is fundamental tosustainability because it is related to governance, the sources of power and therules of the game; the former is not; it is a means for the project team toimplement the project.The four principles interact. For example, the interaction between participationand impact at scale is important because it gives us clues to know whenparticipation is a fundamental outcome or a methodological issue: if participationis a key prerequisite to achieve impact at scale, like in the case of the RIS, then itis a fundamental outcome. On the other hand, if impact at scale can be achievedwithout participation (e.g. the design of a vaccine by researchers), then it is amethodological issue (a process we may use to achieve a project objectiveeasier, cheaper or faster).Notes:1. Mike Albu, International Projects Manager, Markets and LivelihoodsProgramme, Practical Action. Mike is the author of the paper “Comparing M4Pand SLA Frameworks: Complementarities, Divergences and Synergies”(www.deza.admin.ch/ressources/resource_en_168295.pdf).2. The ideas expressed here are interpretations made by Lucho Osorio,(International Coordinator, Markets and Livelihoods Programme, Practical Action)from a phone conversation with Mike Albu. Any mistakes are the soleresponsibility of Lucho Osorio.