Market systems and the poor

Market systems approaches, or Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P), reduce poverty by enhancing the ways that the poor interact with markets. They are increasingly supported by DFID, SDC, DFAT, Sida and others.

Market systems and the DCED Standard for Results Measurement

  • Click here to see how the DCED Standard helps

    Market systems approaches acknowledge the dynamic and complex nature of markets – making continuous measurement more important than usual. The Standard provides a flexible, theory-based framework for doing that, so that implementers do not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’. For an introduction, click here.

    For many interventions in complex adaptive systems, the most successful approaches will be based on measurement and data. We cannot predict in detail whether or how interventions will work, but we can (and should) measure effects of what we do, and we should adjust the interventions accordingly. Indeed, my view is that this approach to complexity is not only possible, but the only approach which is likely to be successful.

    Owen Barder


The poor are dependent on market systems in various ways. Changing those market systems to work more effectively and sustainably for the poor will improve their livelihoods and consequently reduce poverty.

“A market system is a multi-function, multi-player arrangement comprising the core function of exchange by which goods and services are delivered and the supporting functions and rules which are performed and shaped by a variety of market players.” Operational Guide for the M4P approach

This page includes selected, recent documents on the approach; older documents can be found here. Resources are also available on BEAM Exchange (not to be confused with Finnish BEAM).

Overview and Strategy DocumentsPotatoes truck

The M4P approach in context: How does it compare to other PSD approaches?

M4P, growth and poverty reduction

Design and ImplementationFarmer applying balanced fertilizer in his paddy field

This section lists generic documents on the design and implementation of M4P programmes.

M4P Case Studies

Below you can find case studies and overviews of selected M4P programmes and projects. For further programme- and project-specific information, please refer to

Discussions and Meeting Proceedings

Market approaches to social and basic service delivery

M4P in Education Programmes


M4P in Health Programmes


M4P in Water and Sanitation ProgrammesWater pipe

M4P in Environment Programmes

M4P Programme Websites and other Useful Links

M4P Programme Websites

Other useful links

Photo credits

Images courtesy of / 123RF Stock Photo; Katalyst; and Paul Prescott/ 123rf Stock Photo