A study into how contractual and management features influence implementation of ‘Making Markets Work for the Poor’ projects.

by Victoria Lyon Dean

This document is a dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the MSc in Sustainable Development for Distance Learning Students of the University of London, Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Systemic approaches, such as Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P), are becoming increasingly prominent in the poverty reduction programmes of influential international donors. These approaches aim to facilitate changes in market or other systems to sustainably benefit poor people. Market systems are complex and dynamic and predicting how they change is extremely difficult. Working with such uncertainty poses new management challenges for both donors and implementers. How a project will achieve its ambitions can rarely be fully known in advance, yet there remains a requirement to demonstrate accountability for how tax payers’ money will be spent through setting and reaching pre-defined goals via defined causal pathways. This study examines how contractual and management arrangements between DfID and its implementing partners affect the successful delivery of M4P projects. It finds significant relationships between the success of an M4P project and the length of its contract and the specificity of its objectives. It also finds that management skills and behaviours play a significant role in enabling or constraining M4P projects to reach their goals. These behaviours and practices, however, may be influential across a broader range of development approaches, rather than unique to M4P. While contractual and management factors are found to influence M4P project success, external factors related to the project’s operating context – business environment, political context and particularly the engagement and capacity of market actors – are reported as having greatest impact on whether or not an M4P project achieves its goals.

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