Wow- the last couple of weeks have been chaotic and outright crazy on the global scene ranging from Paris being the target of such violence and then turning around and hosting the 2015 Paris Climate Conference where over 190 countries, seemingly committed to making changes in the way we do business and live in our societies, are hammering out a commitment to guide the world through this next phase in our evolution as a species.
Many in the world are feeling helpless with what to do to contribute towards positive change. That is where those of us who are working in the area of developing inclusive markets can be rest assured we are contributing towards alleviating the pressure on these systems that are exploding all around and creating chaos and crisis. We have a rich experience at ground zero of collapse—poverty is just that—it is an indicator that systems are not working. Poverty is the fall out of unprecedented growth.
Times are a changing!
The time is ripe to change the way we are doing things because the way we have been doing things is not working too well for us right now. Climate change is exacerbating economic decline and food insecurity, which in turn is destabilizing societies. The environmental, economic, food, ‘happiness creating’ systems are all interconnected. Quinn and Roche creatively illustrate in a comic how the current violence in Syria is an outcome of a 6 year drought (yes, climate change again!), that destroyed crops, killed 85% of the livestock and forced nearly one million rural families into the cities. The overcrowding stressed the urban water supplies, food availability, and employment opportunities. People started to demonstrate, the civil war started which left a vacuum for extremists to enter the region, and today we have a migration issue unprecedented since 2nd World War! Who would have thunk that this instability could be traced to climate change? And I am sure there are many other systems at play, like power and the armaments system.
The projects that inclusive market development professionals are working on address the collapse of local economic systems, which provide goods, services and employment for better or worse. We are facilitating processes of how to re-imagine these economies so that they provide decent livelihoods to those who have been excluded from the exponential economic growth over the last few decades.
And this is where it gets complicated and complex. Many of our tools and frameworks have evolved over time, and some have been abandoned completely because they are no longer useful. It isn’t just a question of trends or what is sexy with donors at the time, although that for sure has an influence on how we proceed in our work, our frameworks and tools are evolving out of our experience and the availability of information technology. We are responding and adapting to what is going on in the contexts we are working.
We have learned hands down that economic activity, which is realized through markets, cannot be separated out of the social sphere’s context. The interplay between the market system and the traditional laws regulating gender, land rights, which ethnic groups can do what economic activity (pastoral and trading are often designated to specific ethnic groups in some parts of the world), formal laws that set the rules for how contracts are to be honoured and the consequences when they are not, the infrastructure capabilities (roads, internet, water delivery & sources) are just a few of the interplaying systems with markets.
So how do we move into this new paradigm of thinking in our field? To know and understand what systems thinking is, what complex adaptive systems really mean and how do they play out in markets where we work? Looking at the whole, where the market is greater than the sum of its parts instead of reducing the market into segments that are isolated and disconnected, requires new and/or adjusted frameworks, and tools and instruments that assist us to get the feedback from the market system, find the leverage points, adapt to what the system is capable of and then strengthening it, well this all requires us to Do Development Differently (DDD).
To be the leaders in doing development differently, and looking at markets through a complex systems lens requires that we are knowledgeable and have the capabilities and skills to address the complex world we are living and working in, and where still a very large percentage of the population are eking a living out in environmentally decimated environs.
Oxfam has produced a short video explaining how our field has evolved and how systems thinking is a way of doing things differently. (Check it out below). It is an excellent video. As a field, I get a sense that there is a general consensus that looking at the whole instead of the distinct parts is a good thing. What is missing, is that we need to arrive at consensus on what tools and frameworks can guide our market facilitation efforts during the implementation phase of the market development programme or project.
The Inclusive Markets Institute is Launched!
Education for Professionals who Influence Change
The Inclusive Markets Institute, IMI for short, is here to do just that--provide professional development opportunities that are online and offer practitioners the opportunity to not only get new information but to reflect on your experience, deepen your learning and provide a facilitated space for you to apply and test your new learning with frameworks, tools and processes. Our first course is Understanding Markets as Complex Systems. Check out the link to discover more out the content and full syllabus. Also sign up for news alerts to be the first to hear of other courses being offered. Ou can find the sign up form on the right hand side of this blog post!