What does ownership look like? How do you create a sense of ownership? How do you get actors within the system to drive their own change? For me, I think these are fundamental questions that development projects should be asking themselves.
From working within and interacting with people in this sector for the past month, I have observed and seen the aftermath of numerous development projects. Many of these approaches were riddled with handouts and a one size fits all solutions leading to a mentality that development projects come and go, as does their money and their solutions.
But what if a project decides to take a different approach; can it stick? Likely these players have been exposed to development projects that have been functioning in a certain way for many years and are currently embedded in a system that continues to perpetuate a lack of ownership. This hinges on the idea: how much power do the players have over the system vs. the system on the players?
So from all these questions and variables, what do you see? What can you make sense of in defining a way forward? For me, it appears that long-term change is about impacting the pressure points (players) that hold the right amount of power; in way such that the change is driven by them and not by outside actors. “Light-touch”, an idea that I introduced in one of my first posts – What is market facilitation and why does it matter for smallholder farmers?., is fundamental to this idea of creating ownership. Light-touch is defined by remaining outside the system; not creating dependency but stimulating innovation.
So if creating an enabling environment for ownership can be achieved through a light touch approach, projects must: continually question their approach, assess its impact and choose a way forward that leaves any solution owned by the system and not outside actors that temporarily inject themselves into the system. Ownership of the system over the change is crucial to its adoption, validity and sustainability.
Now it’s time for you to share your thoughts. What triggers an idea? What key assumptions are being made? How do you think that development projects need to adjust their approaches? What is the way forward?
I have been doing a lot of reflecting recently on the idea of perspective; hope you like analogies because this post is jam-packed! At both work and home and life in between, my perception and what I learn about different things moulds and adapts. Like a lava-lamp, it is building into something fascinating and intriguing as I meet different people and am exposed to more and more perspectives. At work, I have been diving into the Village Agent Retail Model (VARM) from the business’s perspective; learning about how it works, how it is monitored and evaluated and its general effectiveness. Now, I will be going into the field and living with an agent; looking at what makes a high capacity agent and gaining farmer insight on the service. It will be very interesting to see how these ideas align or potentially where the misalignment occurs. Fundamental to the idea of perspective is its impact on the ‘story’- what you hear, what you are told, how you are told, how you see, what you choose to see/not see etc. This filter built up from our past, present and future is the one thing standing between you and me, between me and the ‘story’ I am trying to piece together. Every extra day I spend in the office, I become more and more persuaded that my value-add is in the field. My value-add is to piece this puzzle together with a wide variety of perspectives. Hinging on my conviction that the pieces of the puzzle should not be forced together but rather should naturally align, I am wondering how my perspective impacts the puzzle I am making. Further, if recognizing the distortion that exists is the first step, how do I account for its magnification?
This summer, I am working with an early adopter firm in Iganga, Iganga District, Uganda. Sukura is owned and managed by a lovely, energetic man named Godfrey Butoto. As an early adopter firm, Sukura is adopting the village agent model through the assistance of the LEAD project (Livelihoods and Enterprises for Agricultural Development). The village agent model looks at bringing inputs closer to the farm-gate through the use of agents. Agents are farmers selected by the community and serve as the link between farmers and stockists. I am working with this firm to see how to assess agent performance, how to remunerate agents in a standardized and transparent way and more generally at how the agent network can be effectively managed. It is fascinating to dive into this system and work to understand perspectives of the firm, agents and farmers. Currently, I have been working with the business to better understand the model from an organisational and implementation side. In the coming weeks, I will be working more closely with agents and farmers to better understand other key limitations and leverage points.
Written on June 7, 2012
Market facilitation is a type of market intervention, agent or action, which works to stimulate markets while still remaining outside of the market themselves. This approach targets relationships, ownership, incentives, light touch intervention and continuous exit strategy. Through improving commercial relationships between market actors and actors seeing these new relationships and activities as beneficial, market facilitators invest in resilient interventions. Incentives can be used to “buy down” risk but careful consideration must be made about how this stimulation impacts the system (including type of incentive, who offers the incentive and how long it will last). Market facilitators think about market intervention strategically, getting actors to change behavior in a way that leads to on-going upgrading and increased competiveness.
- Facilitate linkages
- Separate from system/intervention
- Improved relationships
- Ownership of actors over relationships and activities
- Less attributable but more sustainable solutions
Why does this all matter anyway?
Market facilitation takes a broad systemic approach to analyzing what key constraints face smallholder farmers and works to connect and reconnect market actors in a sustainable way where actors see and believe in the benefits of these relationships, NOT just the facilitators. Also, rather than servicing one farmer or one community for over the short-term, market facilitation allows NGOs to upgrade the whole chain and linkages, allowing not only farmers but ALL other players to benefit.
I am extremely excited to work with Engineers Without Borders in Uganda this summer and be introduced to market facilitation in practice, gain insight on the barriers that limit this approach from being implemented and to explore the effectiveness of this approach as an intervention method.
For more information on the Agriculture Value Chains (AVC) team and market facilitation: