Alan Gibson

Last week a light went out in our world. A light for which there is no replacement. Alan Gibson spent his life shining this light into so many areas and illuminated so many mysteries for us, in a profession that has so few certainties. To many Alan was known for his lucid and eloquent writing, facilitative teaching style, and hard-hitting frankness in his consultancies. But, for me it will be his quick wit, public repartee, and incisive humor that will forever stand out, as quintessentially Alan.

In the 18 years that I knew him Alan was always somehow a critical influence on my thinking every time I started a new project and needed an impartial confidant to sort out what should and should not be done; an oasis of reason in a desert of confused and disparate interests.

A memorial service will be held for Alan on Wednesday 7th March, from 2pm until 6pm at the Radisson Hotel in Durham. There will be a mix of personal friends, family and professional colleagues. The event will not be overly sombre or religious; it is intended to be relatively informal – a few tributes, followed by lots of chat, drinks and nibbles (of a suitable unhealthy Scottish variety!).

Alan’s family have nominated three worthy causes for anyone who would like to donate in his memory – Torridon Mountain Rescue, Search and Rescue Dog Association Scotland and Trees for Life.

Alan remains my first Springfield teacher. There’s only one thing to do: tomorrow, go out and bat for Alan; tell it like it should be told; never give in; serve those that don’t yet deserve it; all with a grin. Will miss you, Alan. Why do all the good people go?

Julian Hamilton-Peach

My heart breaks and yet I’m filled with so much gratitude to have had Alan in my life for so many years as a friend and colleague. Please forgive me Alan this last indiscretion by quoting the words of the English poet John Keats what you came to mean for me and so so many people around the world: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all Ye know on earth”.

Marshall Bear

It’s a very sad day for so many people around the globe who were touched by Alan’s work. Alan wasn’t just an excellent trainer, he was a great supporter & mentor when asked for guidance. I was privileged to be trained by Alan in May 2017. Alan’s style, extensive knowledge, and sense of humour were key to making the training a transformational one.

Safa’ Abdel Rahman-Madi, Palestine

Alan’s absence will no doubt leave a huge hole in many people’s hearts, but his charisma, wit and warmth will certainly continue to shine in our memories. I know that many at FSD Kenya benefitted from his guidance and mentorship, and I was lucky to have him as my teacher at the M4P workshop in Bangkok in April of 2016. You will be missed Alan, thanks for all you’ve given.

Paul Gubbins

Mourning the loss of Alan Gibson… Reflecting on how much we learned from him & his 10 year review of @FSDKe – Can only imagine what a review of his life & work would be!

Tamara Cook

Tragic news about Alan Gibson; he made a huge contribution to market systems development, through his commitment, courage and clarity. Also through his wonderful sense of humour. Our condolences to his family for their loss.


Very sad news.

He had untold passion and faith in doing development “the making markets work” way. Trusting that the knowledge he imparted will outlive him.

Felistus Mbole

We are deeply saddened to hear of Alans’s unexpected death. This is tragic loss for all of us who knew him as great professional whose achievements are truly inspirative. We join you in honoring his memory.

Private Sector Development Project team, Zlatibor Serbia

Alan is one of those people you meet in life that the more you know them/spend time with them the more thankful you are. Hearing the news was really a jolt and made me pause and reflect on what is really important such as families and friends.

Mike Field

We are deeply saddened to lose such a unique person. He was indeed a gem, and his teachings and sense of humour during the training will be greatly missed. Spending two weeks with him at Springfield was life-changing – his wisdom shed light on so many wonderful things we could do with M4P.

Mandeep Shah

It is with a heavy heart that I write to express my condolences for your loss and our loss of a great visionary. I cut my pathways into the market systems work via Alan, and I shall forever miss his guidance and encouragement.

Golden Mahove

I was shocked by the news of Alan, it is absolutely devastating. Alan’s contribution to development over his career is immeasurable and inspiring. I know that Alan was a dear colleague and personal friend of all of you and my heart breaks for you and his family as you deal with this tragedy.

Alyna Wyatt

Always one of the more blunt members of your team, I’ll never forget bumping in to him (in my earlier days within the sector) at the Fairview Hotel, Nairobi and grabbing a dinner at which he essentially told me that until I had served at least 10 years as a volunteer in the field I couldn’t be considered a true “international development professional”. It provided an interesting stimulus for debate for the rest of our evening and as always I took something away from the conversation.
Thoughts are with you all at this time.

Rachel Lock

I am so saddened by the news of Alan’s death. My thoughts are with you during this difficult time. Alan, as you know, had such a profound impact on so many people and on good practice in our sector – including in my organization. This morning we (at WUSC) are thinking very fondly of our interactions with him and the learning that this engendered in us.

Chris Eaton

I’ve known Alan as a friend since the end of the last century when he was a consultant on our GTZ project in Zimbabwe. I like so many have sat in a lecture room in Glasgow and watched him weave a web of the intricacies of business development in a market driven way that helps the poor through days of PowerPoint slides that all came together in the final presentation. Leaving us all to marvel at the clarity of the reasoning and the presentations – truly brilliant.

Kevin Billing

Can’t comprehend this would happen to such a gracious personality. Alan was so humanely and professional who build knowledge of many development practitioners from the world corners. We miss him. May his soul R.I.P.

Tilaye Bekele

This came as a terribly shocking news. Deeply saddened by his untimely demise. He was an institution in all true sense. May his soul rest in peace.

Nusrat Nahid

His virtuosity was remarkable and will always be remembered. Deepest condolences for his family, friends and loved ones.

Sarah Ayu

I feel very privileged having had him as a teacher, it was a transformational experience. The guy was energizing. Prayers goes to his family and all the others he’s leaving behind.

Yonas Mekonen

Indeed a true loss for the development world and for all of us who had the opportunity to meet and enjoy time with Alan. My condolences and thoughts are with his family and friends at The Springfield Centre, R.I.P

Ivan Idrovo

Alan was and remains a towering giant in the world of development policy. Whether or not he coined the M4P term, he and close colleagues certainly were responsible for much of the thinking and insight that gave rise to this paradigm. As a result, governments, development practitioners, policy makers and funders are able to work more cost-effectively and with greater impact in applying public resources to overcome poverty.

Paul Zille

I hugely admired him for his extraordinary frankness and fearlessness – he put me well in the shade. And also for not taking a swing at me in Kampala in the late 90s, I think, when we had the most ferocious of arguments about the value of what I was encouraging DFID to do with the Ugandan extension service. That blazing row was the beginning of my enlightenment. And in later years I revelled in wheeling Alan in to deliver the necessary hard message medicine that our world of development ******* so often need, but fail to hear…

Alwyn Chilver

My heart sank when I saw the news about Alan’s untimely death. He was a keen spark, igniting and illuminating the field of market system development: always challenging, acutely articulate and full of passion. I was constantly inspired by his incisive writing – his ability to communicate the critical messages with wit and precision. Alan will be very sorely missed.

Mike Albu

He made an enormous contribution to the field. I personally learned a great deal from him. But, more importantly, I was – and will continue to be – inspired by his unwavering passion for helping poor people.

Aly Miehlbradt

Bad consultants give the answers. Good consultants help you find the right answers. It’s a gift when you can teach someone how to think differently. I am so grateful to Alan for sharing that gift with me.

Christine Piper

He was a legend and an inspiration to many, many people and I will always consider myself lucky enough to have interacted with him.

Richard Waddington

He has been such a thoughtful and articulate presence in the industry for the past 20 years, but also one from whom I have learned a lot and enjoyed working closely with.

Bill Grant

Alan used his knowledge and leadership to systematically inform and educate so many people and facilitate social change.

Jane Lowicki-Zucca

He was such a force of nature. Passionate, funny, combative and thoughtful in equal measure.

Adrian Stone

Very few losses in our lives leaves behind such an immense void that is hard to fill.

Raji Rajan

Alan was a/the Lodestar of the extraordinary ecosystem that you and he, with your colleagues, have created.

William Morrison

It is just so sad to lose such a brilliant person who has done so much.

Mayada El-Zoghbi

He pioneered what we regard today as our daily business and influenced the livelihood of millions.

Goetz Ebbecke

Everyone needed, and benefited from, a bit of Alan Gibson.

Sarah Barlow

So many of us learned so much from him. We will miss him.

Mark Napier

I remember him as a brilliant and ground-breaking thinker.

Frank Matsaert

One of a kind. He will be missed.

Jane Gisin

It goes without saying that work means even more this morning.

Dan Nippard

A bright light is snuffed.

Jon Burns

He made a mark on thousands. Positive about a better world.

Robert Luzane

Epitaph On A Friend – Robert Burns

An honest man here lies at rest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so inform’d;
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.

David Elliott 

Alan was the person who unlocked the world of M4P for me and set my development journey on a different trajectory. For all of Mercy Corps, he was instrumental in pushing us to adopt M4P widely, by training many of our staff over the years and providing his trademark thoughtful, blunt, and honest advice. All of the market systems development work we do is a tribute to Alan’s impact and the best honour we can pay him is to never stop thinking critically and honestly about the impact we are having in the world. Thank you, Alan, for your passion, integrity, and sense of humour.

Sasha Muench, on behalf of Mercy Corps

What a contribution, what a legacy. A wonderful guy. Our work in Lagos was a special piece for me. Alan’s clarity of thought and writing, his convictions about good and bad development have endured far beyond the short time we worked together. Above all it was his irrepressible wit and wicked humour that just shone through, often with caustic honesty. How can I forget “wholesome and meaningless” describing some new policy pronouncement? Alan – so long, and thanks for all the fish!

Roger Cunningham

Alan led the design of the first ever programme using the market systems approach to deal with challenges being faced by private schools in Lagos, Nigeria and as this programme was coming to an end in 2018 with ground breaking outcome and impact we heard the devastating news of the sudden demise of the man who led the design, the drafting of the appraisal of the business case and the initial logframe. Your footprint is indelible, the children in Lagos and Nigeria benefited and will continue to benefit from your ground breaking insight and design of DEEPEN funded by UKAid. Adieu the purist M4P practitioner. Adieu Alan…..You are a great loss.

Gboyega Ilusanya PhD

Alan was a mentor, a teacher, and a friend to many in our field. At the SEEP Network, we consider ourselves direct beneficiaries of his influence. Our learning agendas have strived to incorporate much of the practice and theory that Alan worked so hard to promote. Similarly, many our members have been influenced by his passion and insight. Together with our staff, Board of Directors, and organizational members, we express our deepest appreciation. We are certain his legacy will continue to inspire.

Sharon D’Onofrio

A truly unique person to enjoy learning from. A true thinker- constantly thinking while doing. When working with us at the Small Business Centre at DUBS he would regularly challenge with his colleague Mark Havers the attempts at ‘wisdom’ that in academe seem only too often to come from papers and not from the equal ability to learn from experience. We had a motto at the time drawn from TS Elliot’s Four Quartets that ‘it is possible to have the experience but to miss the meaning’. This meant that it was our comforting task to try to provide, through reflection, greater meaning to the experience of entrepreneurs.

… Yet Alan, I always thought, saw it the other way round, that we ourselves would only gain true ‘wisdom’ not through’ knowledge alone’ but through its application in practice.

He was a great person to debate with as long as you did not have the expectation of winning except by means of later reflection. An equally robust (but not unskilled) centre half on the football field! I was always glad I was never a Centre Forward!

I know that all his former colleagues from the Centre will really miss him.
That he should die challenging nature is truly tragic but perhaps unsurprising.

Allan Gibb

Alan’s clarity of thought, fluency of expression and keen sense of humour were inspirational. The qualities that impressed me most, though, were his courage and leadership: when enthusiasm for market systems cooled in the mid-noughties, he continued to bet the firm on it. When uncomfortable things needed to be said in evaluations, he said them. The inevitable pushback took its toll, but Alan’s life was an example to us all. He used his talents well.

Jim Tanburn

Alan exemplified moral courage in our field; he stood by his principles even when it made his job harder.
He brought intellectual clarity and originality into every assignment, always daring to ask big questions.
Combining his talents with humour and modesty, Alan was also excellent company. I’ll always respect how he valued people for their character and not their rank.

In so many ways Alan was, and is, inspiring.

Kevin Seely

I feel incredibly fortunate having had the opportunity to meet and work with Alan earlier this year, and to benefit from his clarity of thought, ability to help us navigate complex issues (with humour and grace), and his deep, irreplaceable expertise that has had such a profound impact on our sector over the years.

Camilla Nestor

The field lost a great leader, an original thinker, and a mentor to so many people across the globe. I am privileged to have known Alan and learned so much from him. I regret others will not have that very precious opportunity to emulate his crunchy-ness.

Heather Clark

It is difficult to find the right words. Alan was brilliant, funny, knowledgeable and always so very interesting. Being a mentor is a challenging path but Alan had the gift. I think about him often and remember what I learned during the program. Alan, you will be missed. My deepest sympathies go out to Alan’s family and friends.

Aida Musagic

I found Alan such a remarkable man, so intelligent, so witty, a wonderfully fair and respectful trainer who found something in all of his students. All of our core skills class were so happy to have landed in his class, and felt we had won the jackpot (no offense to the other great trainers!).

Alan was so very generous with his knowledge and ideas of how I could progress in the world of market systems development. In addition I sensed he was quietly watchful of my health during the course, and I am quite sure he got a kick from the fact that my baby’s first kicks occurred during his session.

I will try to honour Alan’s commitment to long-term systems development through my work in the future, while also remembering to keep a twinkle in my eye. Finally, as a hiker myself, I truly hope Alan could find some peace in his last hours in the beauty of the Scottish highlands.

Susan Hennessy

Alan Gibson was my facilitator for training in Bangkok. Alan’s face was the first I saw, and I was immediately introduced to his wit and sense of humour as he cracked a Trump joke after he learned I was American (a theme that was repeated throughout my two weeks with him). He had a unique ability hold our class’s attention while discussing some admittedly dry topics. I admired Alan’s willingness to embrace every question and response from participants while challenging responses that were inadequate or incorrect without stepping on anyone’s toes. I spent time individually with Alan, and he readily answered my every questions and made connections with others that could help me on some of the thornier problems we faced. I have thought of Alan every day since I learned of his passing.

Sheldon Yoder

Alan was visionary with a passion for the market systems methods and principles but a flexibility to imagine, to create and to envision a future where low income people were better off, had better access, had more information, had better lives. Alan was intuitive. I sat across from him in November in Bangkok and I poured my work out in front of him with pointed questions. He listened patiently and then he gave me such honest, distilled advice. Like he could see between all that I was getting caught up in and open a path forward. We are currently
taking that advice but I wish he was there to share that process. I immediately missed his wit and humour, the way he kept everyone on the same page despite at least 10 countries represented in the room. After the course, I followed up with him by email to continue to learn from him. He offered a lot of himself in doing that. He is sorely missed but he left glimmers of his vision and optimism in each person he taught and met.

Jennifer Oomen

I first met Alan in 1992 when I was unemployed, and he and his colleagues granted me a free place on a one day course. Then I joined David Wright at DFID, Alan set up Springfield with Mark Havers, and Alan, Rob and all at Springfield generated a disruptive buzz in our then rather complacent “small business in development” world. Springfield has always since had an “edge” that bureaucrats and governments need to step up to, rather than drift back to ignorance and inertia. Alan’s drive was invariably in top gear, and I have been very privileged to see him in action across the globe, and reaching out to hundreds of colleagues. And I’m personally grateful for knowing him and his generosity of spirit, e.g. when, with no notice, he and Rob once dropped everything and rescued my southern daughter from Durham station platform when a piece of northern grit had disabled her! A very special man.

Richard Boulter

I met Alan at a time in my career when I was searching for that something that would last beyond serving the common good of the people, for a while. I sought a legacy for the many poor people of low income, in communities far from the centre of key resources. It had to be managed by them and making a difference in their lives and earning power. Meeting Alan and the Springfield team of M4P Purists changed the story for the communities in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa states of Northern Nigeria impacted by the ENABLE MEDIA work. It’s only natural to continue to do it the purist way, right? Exactly. It has always been about empowering local people and tangible, long-term benefits. That was Alan’s heart. He believed and lived to guide people like me to work with the grassroot people to light that one lamp. Alan, you brought the light, you helped light the lamp, we carry on because, in that light, your greatest moments shine through beyond today.

Helen Bassey-Osijo

I first came across Alan Gibson through the cases he wrote for the Katalyst programme. From then on I followed his cases for thier articulate examples and his soap box articles for their frank, hard hitting and conceptual clarity. When I met him at a Springfield training, overwhelmed by the ‘wow factor’, I barely managed a hello. Sadly that was the last I would see of him. I will miss having something to read that is able to express our frustrations as practitioners so clearly. It is a great loss to lose a voice like his in this field.

Sadia Ahmed

Alan’s intellect, challenge and wonderful cynicism made the world of private sector development and our commitment to poverty reduction a better one. The world has lost a great thought leader. Long may his great passion for growth and ideas for continued improvement in our business live through the work of all of us committed to this great cause.

Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi

Alan was a mentor to me. In my very first job in Katalyst back in 2004, I was given a pile of reports to read. There was one Alan Gibson who was cited every now and then. I asked my manager, who is this person? I was told, he is the man behind what we are working on. We met several times since then. In 2008, the OP guide was being written and Alan was in Bangladesh to hear from us. We spoke wholeheartedly about our experience, our failures. Alan with his bright wide smile continued probing and I learnt that day the power of listening and the power of being inquisitive. Cheers to Alan for leaving behind a legacy!

Md. Rubaiyath Sarwar

Alan was a friend and a highly respected professional that led many of us down a market systems adventure that defined much of our work over the last 20 years or so – quite a legacy to leave behind.

Hugh Scott

I knew Alan since Uganda in 1999 – and I’m sure he always knew more than I did. He offered straightforward advice based on wide experience and you took it seriously.

Anthony Way

I will remember Alan as a hugely valued colleague but also for his sense of humour. I was once going through Nairobi airport without the required dollar notes to purchase a visa and the man in the queue in front of me lent me the $20 to get me through to the cash point. The gentleman who graciously lent me the money was in fact from the IMF and so Alan and I had a great discussion that we had witnessed a World First: a loan from the IMF with no conditions attached.

David Smith