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The ‘Market Systems Development for Decent Work’ project, known as the Lab, is a global project implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

The purpose of the project is to institutionalise and mainstream a market systems approach to decent work, both inside and outside the ILO. The rationale for this is that by working to improve market systems, development projects will be able to deliver more and better jobs, more sustainably.

The project seeks to achieve this firstly by partnering with projects to apply components of a market systems approach to job quality, and in doing so show how sustainable market systems solutions can be delivered to improve working conditions, and secondly by generating and institutionalising knowledge that plugs key gaps, both inside and out of the ILO. The Lab targets three key beneficiary communities with research findings and support to apply a market systems approach to decent work: the ILO, SECO and the wider market systems development (MSD) community.

Purpose and primary use of the evaluation

The purpose of this final independent evaluation of the Lab’s Phase II is to contribute to both accountability and learning. From an accountability perspective, the objectives of the evaluation are to explore the performance of the ILO Lab in Phase II (Lab 2) through five key criteria, specifically its relevance and strategic fit; progress and effectiveness; management effectiveness; impact orientation and sustainability; and efficiency (see ‘Evaluation criteria’ in Section 3.1). From a learning perspective, the objective of the evaluation is to understand what worked, what didn’t work, and why, in order to inform the design and implementation of future knowledge generation projects.

The primary clients of the evaluation and the main audience of the report are SECO, the ILO including the Lab project team, and the wider Enterprises Department. Secondary clients of the evaluation include other key market systems donors and MSD practitioners, as well as the ILO’s Governing Body.

The evaluation covered the whole period of Lab 2; from its design in the first half of 2017, to its implementation from October 2017 to present. There is no geographical coverage for evaluating this global project.

Evaluation methods

Information was collected using four methods: a self-assessment exercise, a review of project documents and monitoring and results measurement (MRM) data, an anonymous online survey, and remote semi-structured interviews. These methods were chosen to address the evaluation questions in a way that captured a wide range of perspectives, allowed for both anonymous and situated responses, and enabled triangulation between sources, method and types of data.


Lab 2’s niche focus on the application of a market systems approach to decent work has enabled it to perform functions that have been relevant and strategically important to the ILO, SECO and other donors, as well as being useful to the wider field of MSD implementers. In particular, Lab 2 has been able to both leverage and build the ILO’s comparative advantage by positioning the ILO as the sole multilateral with MSD competency and the ‘go-to’ resource for donors interested in funding systemic approaches to decent work.

As a knowledge generation project, Lab 2 has been successful. The Lab has produced numerous publications and hosted more than forty events and training sessions, on relevant topics, at an exceptionally high standard. In doing so it has become a respected technical expert among influential donors and implementers and has contributed significantly to debates on how a systems approach can be used to address decent work deficits, both within and beyond the ILO. This impact will likely last and, were the Lab able to continue, is poised to grow.

Full report originally published on the ILO website

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