Our takeaways from Market Systems Symposium 2019

Last April, F&S Ethiopia sent one of its team members, Victor van der Linden, to the Market Systems Symposium 2019 in Cape town, South Africa. We are pleased to present his blog post on the symposium.

By Victor van der Linden

The Market Systems Symposium 2019 is unique in the world as it unites practitioners from around the globe, and is focused on peer learning and exploring cutting-edge market systems thought and theory.

Prior to the Symposium, one-day trainings were organized. I participated in the YOUTH EMPLOYMENT AND EMPLOYABILITY: Applying the MSD approach to labour market development training provided by Helvetas and focusing on Eastern Europe. Many useful parallels could be drawn with our own work on youth employment in Ethiopia for PerspActive. An interesting takeaway was the shift in mindset that has taken place, now seeing the employment sector as a market system and thus susceptible to market system development approaches. Also, the role TVETs, private sector companies and the media can play was especially inspiring.

The Symposium itself, which took place during 3 days, employed many different formats including plenary sessions, clinics and consultations to work on four main thematic areas: Adaptive Management, Market Systems Resilience, Application of Systems Thinking Beyond Agriculture, and Practical Application of MSD in Difficult Contexts.

The innovative formats and some very thoughtful facilitation allowed the participants to share their knowledge, to network among each other, but also get to know several organizations and their programs in a much more in-depth way than would have been the case in a standard conference. As MSD is very context specific the local reality of a project or program took center stage in the discussions.

F&S Ethiopia is involved as a technical partner in several MSD projects, among others in Ethiopia, on the border between Ethiopia and Kenya, and in the Eastern DRC. Hence, the application in difficult contexts (so-called thin markets with relatively few suitable market actors that can be employed for change) was of special interest and yielded some interesting lessons learned and best practices to take home to Ethiopia.

Another thing that resonated with our experience was the internal mechanics of MSD projects, including issues such as staffing, MEL system organization, and implementing practices. These should ideally be designed to allow for the much sought-after adaptive management that will create the necessary flexibility for successful implementation when working with non-traditional development partners in the private sector. This is an issue F&S Ethiopia encounters often, and which also comes up in the MSD work done by its mother company, F&S Consulting in the Netherlands.

F&S Ethiopia seeks to keep consolidating and broadening its knowledge on the MSD approach, to provide our clients with up-to-date practices and advice, and to realize our mission of assisting people in developing countries to improve their livelihoods.