“Practical Action wants market systems and the private sector to work for people living in poverty - enabling the poorest and most marginalised to access the opportunities, technologies, products and services that will improve their livelihoods and well-being.”


Agenda for Change

Practical Action wants market systems and the private sector to work for people living in poverty - enabling them to access the opportunities, technologies, products and services that will improve their livelihoods and wellbeing.

farmers women agriculture markets
Farmers sell their produce at market in Nepal

The private sector and markets can be an effective means to deliver opportunities for people in poverty, with aid money increasingly directed to ‘enabling’ this to happen. Donors and development practitioners seek partnerships with large-scale businesses because of their potential for reach and scale. However, to deliver development outcomes what is needed is a holistic approach to building fairer and more inclusive market systems that work better for those living with poverty.


Participatory approaches

Practical Action is known for its approach to pro-poor market development, Participatory Market System Development (PMSD). We understand that if markets are working effectively they can enable people to improve the quality of their livelihoods. And if people are fully involved in processes that shape market systems those markets are more likely to innovate and deliver affordable and appropriate technology that meets their needs.

New forms of finance and investment for development are expected to be critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We will explore this challenge through our involvement in ACRE, our impact investment consortium. We will use our experience to engage in the global discussion on what forms of financing are most likely to have positive impacts on the lives of marginalised people.


Goals for Market Systems and Private Sector

  • We will lead practice change and advocate for participatory approaches to market systems development. In particular we will promote approaches that deeply engage system-actors so they shape and lead the processes of market development that matter to them. Most importantly this will involve empowering marginalised actors to fully engage in these processes.
  • We will continue to facilitate market system change by working with government and private sector partners. We donors to concentrate on economic opportunities for the excluded, those who are vulnerable and marginalised, in particular a focus on the specific market systems that are most important to those living in poverty. A broad spectrum of the private sector needs to be included, not just the bigger players. This means small and micro businesses and those operating in the informal sector who are fundamental for economic growth.
  • We will continue to influence development strategies and policies. We are influencing the World Bank’s indicators for Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA). With the African Smallholder Farmers Group, we have set out the conditions that we believe are necessary for smallholder farmers to benefit from investments in agriculture. We are asking for more recognition of women smallholders in EBA and a focus on enabling environments that will deliver sustainable –not just profitable- agriculture.


Flagship Projects

hibiscus farmin in Sudan

Hibiscus in Sudan

Participatory market chain analysis
Cold milk for hot profits

Cold milk for hot profits

New life to the forests.jpg

New life to the forests

Chinchipe, Amazon

Markets blog posts

  • Enhancing Flood Resilience through Livelihood adaptation
    “The 2014 flood was worse than the 2009 flood but the loss and damage was less because people had learned from the earlier event.” Dinanath Bhandari I am currently visiting the Practical Action Nepal flood resilience project in the western region, which has been supported by the Z Zurich foundation for the last five years. The project is working in 74 flood vulnerable communities adjacent to the Karnali River, located in the Terai plains, the flat lands that connect Nepal […]
  • Financial capital and development, where’s the problem?
    When Fritz Schumacher wrote “Small is Beautiful” he used the book to highlight two key challenges. The first that traditional development wasn’t working, he highlighted that it was failing to overcome pervasive and underlying challenges and second, that the economic assumptions guiding this development were flawed. He argued eloquently for a new approach to development, an economic development model in which finite resources were recognised and that the aim wasn’t capital accumulation but human wellbeing. Development in which people not […]
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