Honduras TMS woman in field farming
Photo credit ACDI/VOCA

Using Inclusive Market Research to Advance Business and Development Outcomes

By Meg Buckley, Associate Director, Private Sector Engagement

The Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) project is leading a global Learning Series to encourage collaboration between the private sector and development practitioners to promote the inclusion and empowerment of women and marginalized groups. The series’ second virtual “learning burst” in April focuses on conducting and using inclusive market research, sharing private sector insights on engaging with development partners for business and development impact.

Collaboration between donors, development practitioners, and the private sector holds tremendous potential to enact positive social change. The private sector plays a vital role in driving economic growth, job creation, access to financial resources, and inclusive product design, all of which are essential components of promoting social inclusion and advancing women’s economic security.

Recent research suggests donors and implementing partners need to examine how and why private sector-led strategies can scale inclusion results. Often, development partners make assumptions about what the private sector needs and values. For example, a case study on addressing ecological sustainability through private sector engagement in Southeast Asia highlights that the development program faced challenges when the implementing partner established the PSE design without fully understanding the private sectors’ perspectives on the incentive program’s activities. This gap in understanding resulted in a mismatch between market demand and the incentive program’s standards, making it challenging for the companies in the program to stay competitive in the market.

There is growing need for development practitioners to learn from private sector experiences to better identify win-win opportunities that have the potential to benefit businesses and transform social norms and outcomes. It is in this context that the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) project facilitated Learning Series with USAID missions in Latin America and Caribbean to explore the theme of collaborating with the private sector to promote greater inclusion and empowerment of women and systemically excluded groups. One of the three sessions specifically focused on sharing insights on how inclusive market research was critical to designing agriculture and market systems programs. Learnings from this session, including highlights from representatives from USAID/Colombia and USAID/Honduras, are shared in the AWE Mission Learning Brief 2.

AWE is now implementing a global Learning Series, expanding the discussion on collaboration with the private sector for inclusive development results to a worldwide audience. The series was launched with a kickoff webinar in fall of 2021, followed by a virtual “learning burst” in January 2022 of articles and online discussions about finding alignment and win-win opportunities among development and private sector partners. The Learning Series is now implementing its second virtual “learning burst,” throughout the month of April focused on Designing a Strategy for Private Sector Engagement: Conducting and Using Inclusive Market Research. This discussion shifts the lens to the perspective of the private sector, sharing examples of the private sector’s use of inclusive market research to better understand the economic incentives for inclusion and empowerment of women, youth, and other marginalized groups. Insights will be shared from conversations with select private sector companies representing a range of sectors and geographies on how they have integrated the perspectives of women, youth, and other systemically excluded groups into market research; how this has resulted in expanded market opportunities, revenue growth, or reduced risk along with greater inclusion outcomes; and examples of ways they have successfully engaged with development partners to create business and development impact.

AWE’s conversations with a range of private sector companies suggest that conducting inclusive market research is a key tool to strengthen core business operations and increase the profitability of companies’ products and services by meeting the needs of diverse customers, with a focus on underserved market segments such as women, youth, and other groups that are traditionally excluded from market systems. The private sector has the potential to strengthen engagement of women, youth, and other systemically excluded groups and increase their economic security by including them as suppliers and employees. By considering the incentives, capacity, and values of specific businesses, the private sector can effectively participate in and lead market systems that promote the inclusion of women, youth, and other excluded groups and create sustained engagement by local actors.

For those interested in engaging further, AWE will be facilitating a dynamic open-ended conversation from April 17-26, 2023, with leading private sector companies and inclusive market research experts who will share innovative approaches to utilizing inclusive market research and what areas of collaboration with development partners can be most catalytic in achieving business and development outcomes. We invite you to join the conversation by becoming a member of the AWE Virtual Learning Series Google Group. See more information on how to engage using the Google Groups Guide and Community Guidelines.

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