MaFI workshop report SEEP Annual Conf, 1 Nov 2010


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The key ideas from the plenary session at the end of a glorious day that will shape MaFI forever... and the work that facilitators do all over the world. This document and the experiences accumulated in the last 2 years are the basis for the strategies and action plan of MaFI in 2011 and beyond.

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MaFI workshop report SEEP Annual Conf, 1 Nov 2010

  1. 1. MaFI Workshop during the SEEP Annual Conference, 1 Nov 2010 Report with a focus on the points that were discussed by the breakaway groups during the final plenaryThe SEEP Annual Conference is over but its implications are just starting to take shape. Andthey will be many and good for all facilitators of inclusive market development. On the week ofNov 1, approx. 400 experts, practitioners, academics, and policy-makers from all over the worldgathered in Arlington, Virginia (USA) to celebrate SEEP’s 25th anniversary, share knowledge,network and imagine innovative and bold ways to reduce poverty at a global scale.On Monday, 1 Nov, MaFI had its own session. A whole day filled with great people, energy andideas. This report is intended to be a record of of the main lessons, issues, and challenges thatemerged from that day and as a reference point for the new strategies and work plan of MaFIfor 2011.1. The morning session:In the morning, the discussion touched on different aspects of MaFI: what it is; how it hasevolved; its learning agenda and its vision, amongst other topics. At the very beginning we hada check in session where we all shared how we were feeling. The feelings ranged fromsuspicion to excitement; including optimism, pride, uncertainty, happiness, and even tiredness(lack of coffee and jet-lags)!Time ran out fast and the discussions evolved in exciting and sometimes unexpected directions.The original agenda had to be modified because we had to finish the session one hour before tomake space for an additional session in the SEEP program. We needed to speed up. However,despite the time pressure, and thanks to a great spirit of cooperation amongst all theparticipants, the conversations demonstrated the interest, experience, passion and commitmentof almost 30 leaders who are working to improve the lives of millions worldwide and who wantMaFI to succeed.What makes MaFI unique? This is what the participants came up with:MaFI is a learning network that: ● is trying to go beyond the learning and also into the peer-support and joint action ● is working to build reciprocity and trust between its members ● is working to build a sense of community and friendship ● is promoting iterative learning as opposed to one-off learning events ● is working to connect practitioners and donors 1
  2. 2. ● is open to both flexible and planned learning agendas and discussions ● separates committed members from listeners. (LinkedIn was praised during the meeting as a "good choice") ● is working to strike a balance between virtual and face to face interactions (first local learning group in Bangladesh is showing signs of sustainability). ● is spontaneously becoming a think tankChallenges/risks: ● trying to cover too many things for too many different audiences. We need to stay focused. (I believe that what gives identity to MaFI is its focus on the practicalities of facilitation of market development, and on practitioners) ● avoid reinventing the wheel ● be aware of where the pro-poor market development sector is going and stay relevant (one step ahead of the game) ● How to get the big picture without loosing the smallMain lessons and insights from the morning: ● The definition of “facilitation” should not be taken for granted. MaFI needs to find ways to make this concept more explicit and clear to all (members and non-members alike). ● The focus on the MaFI-festo and the International Capacity Building System were still relevant. ● A focused discussion about MaFI as a group was also necessary (which I had not considered in the original agenda) ● There is much more energy and interest in MaFI than expected ● What is our theory of change? There was an interesting agreement about the possibility of putting the focus on the capacity of the market system to adapt. What needs to happen for this change to take place? ● What are our theories of change? Are they so similar that we can come up with one or a few as a group? There seemed to be a broad agreement amongst the participants about the importance of focusing on contributing to the adaptive capacities of market systems. ● What needs to happen for that change to happen?2. The afternoon session: Subgroups and PlenaryDuring the afternoon, the group split into three subgroups to talk about challenges,opportunities, and strategies on three areas: (1) MaFI as a group; (2) the idea of increasedinternational coordination and synergies to build capacity of facilitators worldwide; and (3) theidea of promoting/advocating for facilitation-friendly principles in international development (TheMaFI-festo). Here are the notes from the first subgroup: 2
  3. 3. 2.1. MaFI as a group/network. Reporter: Christian Pennotti, CAREChallenges: ● What levels of staff are we targeting or should we target for the learning? ● Field practitioners are influenced by their managers and leaders. ● Should MaFI consider targeting and influencing also senior levels and if so, how? ● What kind of help should MaFI seek from other members? ● Don’t let the lowest common denominator win out: we should not become too generic or want to be everything to everyone. ● We need to find ways of producing targeted products and discussions to target different audiences. ● Organizations of different sizes have different stakes in MaFI and can get different things from it. The assumption is that the larger ones should contribute more. ● (Comment from the facilitator: So far, there is no correlation between the size of organizations and the level of engagement in MaFI). ● Let’s figure out what MaFI is doing and what it is not ● Let’s try to come up with a value chain map of knowledge around market facilitation. ● Let’s look at all the actors [of this map], what value they add; what their qualities are; and how they can articulate to MaFI and other actorsIssues/opportunities: ● How do we effectively communicate with those we aim to work with and/or support? ● We need to communicate clearer ● Let’s create “lenses” to share with people beyond the agriculture sector how market facilitation applies to other fields (e.g. case studies). ● MaFI could work to position facilitation as a revolutionary approach to development. ● Facilitation is a revolution. It is not about introducing minor adjustments in practice practices. It means a totally different way of making development happen.Strategies: ● Case studies to back up what we try to advance ● Principles that we all share ● Investments in local champions and local networks. How to facilitate the creation of an enabling environment for more facilitation to happen at a national level ● Scale up of MaFI: we need to open source some of the things we are trying to do with Local Learning Groups; package the model and share it with other local networks that can learn from this to also become good environments for learning. ● Leveraging SEEP’s resources and networks. ● Technology and its role in MaFI’s development. How to use it beyond what we currently use? 3
  4. 4. 2.2. The International Capacity Building System. Reporter: Hannah Schiff, ACDI/VOCAChallenges: ● It is beyond just building technical capacity and more about changing the mindsets and institutional cultures that have an impact on practitioners’ actions and thinking ● How to move towards a higher level of standardization? How to come up with principles that work in different contexts?. (This needs clarification) ● Question the idea of building capacity through an online course. These things are better learned thorough experience and practice; in-person training is also appropriate. ● This system needs to be both decentralized and coordinated.Strategies: ● MaFI could play a role as a hub to connect the different institutions and organizations that are doing capacity building of practitioners ● The system cannot focus only on the entry level course. [Comment from the facilitator: the description of the system explicitly agrees with this. We need to revise how the systems features are being communicated to make sure this is clear to key stakeholders]. ● At the same time there should be a variety of courses and methods to cater for different audiences and ways of learning (for some people, online learning works well). Mentoring and conferences are also important. Example of CARE’s new e-learning course was mentioned. ● Who are the different audiences? ● What is “basic level”? ● Guest lectures in the online course ● Case studies ● There should be a dedicated discussion space and group to further the discussion on this idea ● Experiential learning: can we come up with simulation games? Very expensive but it is possible to join resources and try to find who can design these games for us… ● Video: when did you have your “aha” moment? When did you really got the difference between direct service delivery and facilitation? ● Growing learning hubs around the world. CARE, AED, ACDI/VOCA. Thought leaders and learning hubs. Who are they (current and in the pipeline)? ● How can MaFI become both a recipient and provider of case studies, training materials, etc? ● How do we have more of these networks [which can help scale up and promote contextualized learning]?. How can we franchise the model of successful networks to help others? ● SEEP could support network development. 4
  5. 5. 2.3. The MaFI-festo. Reporter: David Sturza, EcoVentures InternationalChallenges: ● How to avoid creating something entirely new. Instead we could re-visit some existing guidelines and take the process from there (e,g, donor guidelines 2001 on BDS). ● Standards: how do we standardize something but at the same time make sure that they [the MaFI-festo rules/principles] are clear, adaptable and flexible to local contexts. ● The language dilemma: how descriptive do we need to be but maintaining some level of generalization. Do we want commonality in language? Are organizations using language as a competitive advantage when they go after projects? How much as a working group can we agree on language in a way that is beneficial for our practice? ● It could be important for us to understand how mindsets and practice have changed in the last 10 years? How can we capture different experiences about this evolution? ● Assuming that the MaFI-Festo is possible (i.e. that some sort of standard principles/guidelines can be produced and agreed upon by a large enough group of practitioners, donors and even social investors), then we need to find out how to do dissemination and advocacy. How do we get the MaFI-festo out and put it to use. How do we leverage practitioners’ power? As practitioners we have learned quite a bit and we have empowered ourselves over the last 10 years as to what makes good practice. ● How do we influence increasingly diverse funders (e.g. social investors, venture philanthropists)? Can the MaFI-festo become a guide for intelligent, high-impact social investment?Opportunities:How to engage with donors: ● Ten years on Conference (for 2011) - looking at the donor guidelines. Opportunity to target to advocate for the MaFI-festo ● What’s going to happen post MDGs? Conference led by DFID, SDC M4P Conference in the following year(s). ● Targeting new fundersLocalizing MaFI: ● A localized network can respond better to challenges and opportunities to influence funders/investors at national/local level than a centralized one. ● How to take advantage of existing learning systems such as The Groove or the idea of an International Capacity Building System ● How to learn from or link with the data coming out of the DCED results assessment? 5
  6. 6. Language and communication: ● Improved visualization and storytelling as part of how we use language. ● Does (should) MaFI set its own tone in terms of principles, standards, guidelines and then take these to the donor community or should MaFI anticipate donor needs and respond to those? ● Do a survey to MaFI members. There is a huge contact list that we can use to be demand-driven to get input on the guidelines from a large number of people. It can also sensitize people and get the voice out there. ● Look at the components discussed throughout the day (i.e. MaFI as a group, the capacity building system, and the MaFI-festo) as a system that can reinforce one another. For example, how some of the things proposed in the MaFI-festo can contribute to a better system of capacity building; how MaFI as a group can become an important space for practitioners and donors to build trust and collaboration; how the Capacity Building System can help to reinforce the new principles and rules for smart investment in inclusive market development; etc…Comment from Alison Griffith (Practical Action), posted via LinkedIn after the workshop:“It was great to see many MAFIers face to face. There were more than 20 people, which is agood number for a working group meeting, in previous years we have been lucky to get 10!What was striking was the number of people who said they didnt really like virtualcommunication and face to face was far better for them. This encouraged us all to think abouthow we might invest more in local MAFI groups. The MDF in Bangladesh is a great example ofthis and Marcus Jenal came armed with a new promo leaflet about it and their work. SEEPsambition is to be a "network of networks" and this has been successful with micro-financenetworks, but we need to do much more to promote market development networks - localMAFIs.In the afternoon when we were discussing how MAFI might influence donors we agreed thathaving stronger local/regional groups will be more effective in reaching out to regional ornational donor groups - we all know that many donors are devolving decisions so this is wherethe action is.SEEP continues to be impressed by MAFI as a working group. It was ironic that those whoattended the MAFI session were then somewhat disappointed with the value chain/mkt devcontent of the conference over the next two days. As a board member I had plenty of peoplesaying to me that MF was dominating and we needed to have more, cutting edge mkt dev workshow-cased from our field. Lets work together to ensure that next year we change that!” 6