Inclusive Systems Development Through The Looking Glass

United Kingdom
A new blogpost from Springfield Centre by Kate Fogelberg.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Lewis Carroll

The BEAM Exchange recently published a review of the evidence  in its Evidence Map, which draws on over 150 pieces of evidence on programmes using the Market Systems Development approach. As this review coincided with Swisscontact and the Springfield Centre formally joining forces, it prompted us to consider the current state of thinking and practice in the world of Market Systems Development. 

In the late 1990s, when it was proposed that micro and small enterprises – let alone farmers – could be supported sustainably and at scale there was overwhelming scepticism among aid actors. Two decades later, planning for sustainability is a prerequisite for any credible development effort and Market Systems Development (MSD) – an approach that makes sustainability and scale central – is, as the BEAM Exchange’s recent evidence review put it, “an established approach.”

For twenty years, Swisscontact and the Springfield Centre have played a key role in MSD’s evolution. We had learned that, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” To achieve sustainability, on the other hand, you must plan and strive for sustainable outcomes from the beginning of an aid intervention. Sustainability doesn’t just happen.

We have advocated for sustainability in our training, advice and publications, whilst pioneering practical approaches to implementation in our programmes on the ground. Three of the five case studies highlighted in this recent review as examples of high impact inclusive systems programmes – PRISMA, ENABLE, and MDF – are ones in which we have been deeply involved.

Read more: Springfield Centre Blogpost