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The Challenge of Scale – It’s about Markets

By Sharon D’Onofrio, Executive Director, Seep Network

The Challenge of Scale – It’s about Markets

The SEEP Network is a global network of practitioner organizations dedicated to combating poverty through promoting inclusive markets and financial systems.

Members are active in 170 countries and engage with nearly 100 million households worldwide. From September 22-25, practitioners and thought-leaders from around the world will gather outside Washington, DC to discuss the challenges and opportunities for growing the poverty-reducing impact of market systems.

Nearly 30 years ago, the SEEP Network was formed to bring together experienced practitioners working to promote small enterprise in developing countries. A great deal has been discovered in the process. Over the last three decades our members have pioneered innovations in microfinance, value chain development, market facilitation, and minimum standards to reengage business and the financial services sectors following the onset of disasters.

We continue to strive to understand more about the complexities of poverty and the myriad of constraints that limit the livelihood potential of entrepreneurs and their enterprises. We recognize the size of this challenge. Around the world, one in three people live in poverty, one in five live in extreme poverty. Transformative solutions with potential for large scale impact are necessary. This means going beyond the promotion of inclusive businesses. Our focus must be on promoting inclusive market systems.

Our 2014 Annual Conference on Scaling Impact in Inclusive Market Systems will focus our attention on the implication and strategies for achieving scale. Solutions are built on understanding of market systems, particularly the constraints that inhibit optimal functioning and the opportunities that can be leveraged to overcome key barriers. When employed effectively, these strategies can lead to more active participation of the poor as market actors and ensure broad economic development benefits, such as increased private sector investment, business expansion, and job creation.

As market development practitioners working alongside investors, donors, private companies, and entrepreneurs, SEEP members draw from a vast base of experience. The conference will serve as a platform for learning and exploration around the challenges of achieving impact at scale. Together we will address question such as- What are the greatest barriers to reaching scale? Which innovations in products, delivery and partnerships promise the greatest results and are likely to endure? How can market facilitators be more effective in this context? Are there potential trade-offs between reaching very large numbers and achieving impact?

Specifically, we will look at proven and emerging strategies to use information communication technology (ICTs) to facilitate market development including financial services, agricultural development, and other key sectors.

We will explore how market based solutions can expand access and quality of basic services such as energy, water, and sanitation, and how combining both “push” and “pull” strategies in market development can remove barriers for still marginalized households and enterprises. Likewise, we will look closely at the information we need for scaling up inclusive solutions including the processes for effective research and measurement.

We invite you to engage and contribute.

We are currently inviting proposals to lead sessions on the four conference learning tracks.

Sharon D’Onofrio is the Executive Director of the SEEP Network. The SEEP Network is a global network of practitioner organizations dedicated to combating poverty through promoting inclusive markets and financial systems. See SEEP Network Annual Conference for more details.

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