Can You Reach Scale Using Facilitation? MaFI Member-Led Synthesis by Hannah Schiff, May 2011

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This document summarises a discussion between practitioners in MaFI between July and November 2010. The discussion is centred around projects that use a light-touch facilitation approach and its ability to achieve results on a large scale. It is felt that although projects initially intend to facilitate change from within the private sector without using subsidies, it can be difficult to balance long-term change with shorter-term pressures to reach high target numbers of beneficiaries. Facilitation, it is argued, leads to change over long periods of time that can be difficult to measure (e.g. strengthened relationships or trust) and donor requirements and indicators do not always align with these challenges and factors. (Final version finalised in May 2011).

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Can You Reach Scale Using Facilitation? MaFI Member-Led Synthesis by Hannah Schiff, May 2011

  1. 1. Hannah Schiff Can You Reach Scale Using Facilitation? MaFI Member-Led Discussion Synthesis This document summarises a discussion between practitioners in the Market Facilitation Initiative (MaFI) between July and November 2010. The discussion is centred around projects that use a light-touch facilitation approach and its ability to achieve results on a large scale. It is felt that although projects initially intend to facilitate change from within the private sector without using subsidies, it can be difficult to balance long- term change with shorter-term pressures to reach high target numbers of beneficiaries. Facilitation, it is argued, leads to change over long periods of time that can be difficult to measure (e.g. strengthened relationships or trust) and donor requirements and indicators do not always align with Hannah Schiff is a value these challenges and factors. chain development specialist at ACDI/VOCA. Based in Hannah Schiff, the initiator of the discussion, asks whether other Washington, DC, Hannah practitioners have experienced projects that have achieved scale through has conducted value chain facilitation and how they dealt with the pressure to meet targets without research and facilitated deviating from market facilitation principles. trainings on systems approaches in Ecuador, Managing Donor Expectations and Perceptions India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Paraguay A key point made early in the discussion was the need to manage donor and Tanzania. expectations and perceptions throughout market-led projects. Kamran Niazi noted that the donor-funded agency for which he works divided their activities into two categories: brief Short-term market activities which would meet numbers and make headlines. More focused on individuals rather than groups. Longer-term market activities which had a more successful and positive impact on the overall sector or clusters. Some USAID-funded projects also follow similar paths, often referred as a “portfolio approach” in which risks are spread through a variety of activities. Rajiv Pradhan drew from his experiences and recognized that when targets are clear in the beginning and the pilot and scale-up models contain clear entry and exit points, there is more understanding from the clients. Even when donors understand the needs of a facilitation approach, time frames often remain a difficult issue. Those in the field recognize that results based on pure facilitation may come long after the standard time scale of projects (3 years). Additionally Rajiv points out that ‘smart subsidies’ can help to speed up results during market facilitationi. What is needed is improvisation and adaptation of market facilitation principles rather than pure adherence to the guiding principles. There is a consensus that there is a need to advocate for longer and more flexible project time frames. November 2010
  2. 2. Targeting the Right People business. It will take a significant period of time to find out whether change happened at the point Another major discussion point was the need to where it was intended (the microenterprise level). target the right group of people in a market system to achieve scale. Shawn Cunningham argued that There is a need to go back to basics when planning facilitation can lead to scale on some conditions. He and designing projects and ask the question: “What takes a “transaction” approach, asking certain do we want to achieve?” Mary Morgan argued questions and allowing market actors (“transactees”) that attribution should be an embedded assumption within the system to find the answers. Questions when dealing with large-scale projects. Markets are include: dynamic and respond to many factors beyond supply and demand such as weather changes, What is needed to enable more transactions? fluctuations in disposable incomes, etc. Mary argued that if a project leaves an overall market How can costs of transactions be reduced? system strengthened to enable disenfranchised How do people who succeed in this sector transact? people to have access to goods and services as consumers and suppliers, then attribution to the He also noted that “it is impossible to reach scale project should be assumed. Mary went on to say when the interventions are not done in a systemic that for her the beauty of value chain development way, which in this case means that there is a clear is the ability to work anywhere in the market chain distinction between the beneficiaries and the target focusing on bottlenecks to improve access to levers that we must leverage.” For Shawn, markets. beneficiaries are those whose circumstances have changed for the better due to facilitation, whereas Hannah Schiff raised doubts that attribution should target groups are those who can effect or shape that be assumed when large-scale changes are seen in a specific change. market system in which a project works. In impact assessment terms, attribution requires a Rajiv Pradhan identified advantages and counterfactual to understand what change may disadvantages of this perspective. He noted that this have happened if the project did not exist. Because approach uses “leverage points” to reach scale, and is of the interconnected systems involved and the therefore cost-effective. It must be remembered that constantly changing contexts, this is rarely possible as scale increases, different market systems may to know. There was consensus that measuring the become more important. For example, if a project is results of market system development projects trying to strengthen the provision of information remains a challenge. through input suppliers, it may need to look at who has the incentive to train employees of the input supply companies, thus entering the training market Measuring Scale in Facilitation system rather than the information market system. Projects The disadvantage is that we are often far from the “beneficiaries,” and this leads to criticism about the In further discussion on measuring project impact, attribution of the intervention. However, as Rajiv Mary Morgan identified two main challenges: lack pointed out, attribution should not be a major of capacity and limited resources. Control groups concern if change was achieved, as change was the and quasi experimental models for measurement main priority. are critical to the process, but project budget constraints often prevent these from being Ruchi Prasad provided an interesting example from conducted. Results measurement, a methodology Kerala, where a group of management professionals that has been tested in various contexts, has been are currently delivering basic business management able to measure attribution. The Value Chain training to microenterprise consultants (MECs). The Initiative at SEEP has integrated the Results latter are then expected to pass on their new Measurement methodology in all their projects, and knowledge to a larger group of MECs. These MECs this should give the field a large amount of are expected to support women who run information regarding attribution and direct impact microenterprises and help them grow/sustain their of market development investments. 2
  3. 3. Hannah highlighted an impact assessment team impact assessment practice is linear and that is advocating for increased resources for mechanistic assumptions such as clear casual links; evaluation centralized within USAID rather than direct, proportional relations between inputs and impact assessments being funded through project outputs and a static system that does not react to budgets. The rationale for this approach is twofold: project assessments. This linear paradigm cannot cope with the nature of complex, open and1. Impact assessments could then be done by adaptive systems. independent entities rather than the projects themselves. Some good practices of facilitation are at odds with current impact assessment practice. For example,2. Due to budgetary constraints it would be better for self-selection of leading actors against randomized the evaluation group within the agency to decide on trials; need for scale up and diffusion of a sample of projects to evaluate that are innovations against isolated control groups and our representative of a certain model. role as facilitators against the need to assess “our” direct impacts on the system. Lucho noted there Marcus Jenal noted that two factors must be taken are two options: to ride the turtle till it bursts or to into account regarding impact assessments and ride a horse. The problem with impact assessment attribution: has more to do with the framework than with resources. There is a need to rethink afresh about1. The effect of the project on the system. This is very how we measure impact, taking as a starting point hard to measure from an external viewpoint as it the nature and characteristics of complex adaptive takes a long time to understand the system. systems. Therefore the DCED standard is giving more thrust on internal monitoring systems instead of Acknowledgements external, one-time evaluations. Special thanks to Hannah Schiff for creating and2. Impact assessments using semi-experimental spurring the discussion. designs are also important to evaluate if there is a change in beneficiary level. These two instruments To the following MaFI members for contributing together offer information on what actually to the discussion: changes at the beneficiary level and whether these changes were caused by the project.  Kamran Niazi  Rajiv Pradhan There is also a growing consensus amongst  Shawn Cunningham practitioners within the discussion that there is a  Marcus Jenal need to include more than just direct beneficiaries  Mary Morgan in the measurement of scale within projects that use  Ruchi Prasad facilitation techniques. Rajiv Pradhan put forward  Ravinder Kumar the need to identify the various enterprises as well.  Scott Merrill He goes on saying that since we are talking of  Mohammad Shahroz Jalil service delivery to move markets, identifying the  Luis E. Osorio-Cortes different levels of enterprises and the impact they have would be great to assess. Thanks also to Jack Matthews for producing the first synthesis draft and to David Brownjohn for Lucho Osorio-Cortes made the analogy of impact the graphic design. assessment in market systems development as the hare and the turtle. The intervention discourse is Technical support: Practical Action. evolving from linear, top down, direct provision iSee MaFI’s Online Synthesis on Smart Subsidies for into systematic, participatory and facilitative. This Agriculture Knowledge and Information Services at: evolution is happening faster in intervention than http://slidesha.re/mafisubsidies in the impact assessment field. The “turtle” of 3

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