Market systems and people in poverty

Market Systems Development (MSD) reduces poverty by enhancing the ways that poor women and men interact with the markets that provide them with jobs, income and access to services. This page gives access to key documents on the MSD approach.

The BEAM Exchange website hosts a wealth of resources about the MSD approach, including a 4-minute introductory video. BEAM Exchange is supervised by the DCED’s MSD Working Group.

Markets and the private sector provide a direct means for people to participate in economic activity – to find jobs, earn income and access services. All too often, people living in poverty are excluded or disadvantaged by the way that markets operate. MSD is a coherent approach to understanding and intervening in markets so that they perform more beneficially and sustainably for the poor. It works by identifying the root causes of weak or exclusionary performance in particular market systems.

The MSD approach is adaptive: reflecting the dynamic and complex nature of markets. Good monitoring is therefore essential to its implementation. Learn more about how the DCED Standard helps achieve that.

For more specific resources on adjusting MSD programmes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to the DCED knowledge page on Adjusting PSD interventions in the short term.

Rationale and key features of Market Systems Development

Practical implementation guidelines and advice for MSD

Applying MSD to social and basic service delivery

It is widely debated whether social and basic services should be free at the point of access, or whether private low-cost services can be a solution where the public system does not work effectively. In the health sector, for example, the first point of contact for low-income groups is often with commercial health care providers, in one form or another. Some therefore suggest to upgrade existing service provision, until it is possible to provide free universal coverage.

Resources in this section explore these debates and provide practical advice for developing inclusive social and basic service markets that work for the poor.

MSD Programmes and Case Studies

MSD Programme Websites

See the BEAM Programme Index for more programmes using the MSD approach. Programme evaluations can be found within the profiles in the Index; alternatively, go to the BEAM Evidence Map for a wider list of resources that describe the impact and effectiveness of programmes that use the market systems approach.

MSD Case Studies

See also BEAM’s 2021 Evidence review for more case studies.

Photo credits: Katalyst;; Mirko Eggert/; Paul Prescott/ 123rf Stock Photo; Joseph King/