The MaFI-festo: changing the rules of the international development “game” to unleash the power of markets to end poverty

I am supporting great initiative of the Market Facilitation Initiative. Lucho submitted the online debate we’ve been having since 2008 into the annual Harvard Business Review/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation (called MIX). I am a member of the MaFI discussions.

Lucho provides the following short summary “Bilateral and multilateral donors and NGOs re-write the rules of the International Development Cooperation System to unleash the real potential of markets and the private sector to end poverty at a large scale… easier, faster and cheaper. How? Through trust-based partnerships, complexity science, effective organisational learning, systemic M&E and co-evolutionary experimentation.”

The solution offered by Lucho (based on the MaFI dialogue) is:

A series of national and international conferences, seminars and workshops to bring donors, NGOs and leading firms to identify the rules of the development “game” that need to change to make market development initiatives more inclusive, accountable, responsive, innovative, holistic and cost-effective.
MaFI (The Market Facilitation Initiative) started in 2008 and has more than 240 experts from all over the world working in NGOs, donor agencies, private firms and academic institutions. The aim of MaFI is to advance policies and practices based on facilitation and systems thinking to make markets work better for the poor and the environment. MaFI is a working group of The SEEP Network with the technical support of Practical Action.

After almost two years of of discussions, MaFI members produced a manifesto (The MaFI-festo) which has three main objectives:

  •  To focus the attention of key stakeholders on a set of strategic changes that are urgently needed if the international development system is to effectively harness the full potential of markets to reduce poverty at scale and protect the environment
  • To promote convergence and collaboration between bilateral and multilateral donors, practitioners and academic researchers working in the fields of “aid effectiveness” and inclusive markets.
  • To inspire NGO leaders to promote the adoption of systems thinking and facilitation approaches in their own organizations and networks to increase their ability to interact with the private sector and leverage the full potential of inclusive market development programs.

The MaFI-festo focuses on four areas (in no particular order of importance):

  1. Changing how we work in the field
  2. Balancing flexibility and accountability
  3. Building the capacity of facilitators
  4. Changing what and how we measure change

The MaFI-festo will give content and focus to the series of conferences, seminars and workshops mentioned above. These are called the MaFI-festo Dialogues.

What must you do?

To see the application go to

Find out more about the M-Prize go to:

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Published by

Shawn Cunningham

I am passionate about how organisations and institutions change in developing and transitioning countries. I essentially work between organisations, communities, industries and experts.

0 thoughts on “The MaFI-festo: changing the rules of the international development “game” to unleash the power of markets to end poverty”

  1. Many years of practice and application convince me that systemic thinking is certainly the way to go if we are to harness the power of the market to end poverty.

    1. HI Janeom: I agree with you to some extent with the idea that systems thinking is the way to go when we are trying to improve how markets work. However, it is still a mental representation of the real world. In that sense, I would advocate for caution whenever we get into the silver bullet mentality, even when the bullet is a “many bullets” approach like systems thinking… 🙂

      1. Very well put Lucho, but perhaps what we do not have is a documentation of real practical work done that depicts systems thinking. We would be pleasantly surprised that even though not systematically and deliberately applied, systems thinking has and still is guiding a lot of interventions on the ground. The bullet we need to bite is that of documenting evidence to ground systems thinking

    2. Hi Jane: nice surprise to know it was you behind “janeom”. I wanted to reply to your following message but for some reason WP does not let me. So here I go using your previous message: There are definitively examples of “systemic” practice out there. I agree with you that we need to document it better. That is one of the things that hopefully will happen with the MaFI-festo and the complexity dialogues… Let’s bite the bullet!

  2. Hi Shawn: many thanks for your great post promoting what I would call “Smart Aid” (which ironically, is much more than aid, but the label is catchy). Unfortunately, MaFI did not make it into the 24 finalists of the MIX contest but this cool network stayed on the top 10 in terms of popularity and relevance whilst the contest lasted. It was down to the judges to make the last decision. But hey; life is like that. I am sure that MaFI will keep on advocating for this idea, and with members like you, I am sure MaFI will achieve important things…

    PS: could you update the last part of your post accordingly? Many thanks!

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