Participatory Market Mapping
People within a market system – such as small holder farmers, traders and processors – tend to have different perspectives of their market system, which are shaped by their own experiences, roles and relationships within it. For this reason, in dysfunctional markets, the people who work within them, or the market actors tend to view problems affecting the system in terms of blame and mistrust, rather than framing them as blockages and opportunities that can be solved together.
Participatory market mapping workshops are part of a process that aims to change this, by helping market actors to gain a broader understanding of their market system – the relationships between the other actors; the different needs and interests that other market actors have, and the advantages that can come from building trust and collaboration. Through this process, small-scale farmers who were previously excluded from business opportunities can access better functioning markets and sell their produce under much more stable and equitable conditions.
Facilitators in the field use participatory market mapping workshops to bring public and private market actors together to address blockages and exploit opportunities through increased coordination and collaboration. The focus of these workshops is for market actors to work together to create a visual representation of the market system, known as the market map, which can help market actors to visualise the relationships, money and product flows, service providers and the contextual issues that affect all of these, such as policies, infrastructure and social norms.
The process of mapping the roles of the market actors, the connections between them, the issues that affect them, and the services that support them can – if conducted in participation with market actors themselves, be a powerful method of building understanding, trust and collaboration between the actors.
Working towards a more efficient, fair and profitable market system takes place in several stages for the participants of market mapping workshops: By first visualising where problems lie within the system and where potential opportunities can be created, and by secondly building the understanding of how actors are connected to each other, it becomes possible for the participants to work together to create strategies and action plans to improve the system. These benefits can be felt by all of the stakeholders, but by the most marginalised in particular.
How to organise a participatory market mapping workshop
Organizing a participatory market mapping workshop takes place in three stages:
Preliminary Mapping - Setting the ground strategically
The first stage prepares the ground to bring the right actors – those with the most influence and relevance to the market system – together in one place in order to find successful solutions. The preliminary stage allows the project team and partners to get a better understanding of the blockages, needs and opportunities in the market system; to engage the strategic actors who will lead the process of transformation; and to plan the structure, format, intensity, and sequencing of the participatory market mapping workshops.
Bringing the actors together – the participatory market mapping workshop
In the second stage, the participatory market mapping workshops are facilitated by the project team who help participants to have productive dialogues, establish connections and build trust. The focus in this stage is on how to create momentum towards changing the market system, so detailed commitments to action are very important.
The participatory mapping workshops creates a space and opportunities for both public and private market actors to come together to build a joint understanding of the market system, analyse problems and possibilities, create a joint vision of a more functional market system and propose viable strategies and activities to achieve that vision.
Analysis to Action - Transforming market dynamics and outcomes
Finally, in the third phase, market actors actually bring about changes in how the market system works in terms of inclusion, productivity and competitiveness. For this to happen, the project team monitors and facilitates the implementation of action plans agreed upon by the market actors themselves.
According to the action plans and the available funds, the team may facilitate the activities and may support them with specific resources (funds, labour, materials, etc) including the use of specific subsidies at critical moments where otherwise market actors may be unwilling to experiment with new ways of doing things (e.g. using new techniques, technologies or business models).
From workshops to new business arrangements, the groundnuts market in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, Practical Action used a series of participatory workshops to change the way market actors handled issues of quality control, pricing, and processing in the groundnut (peanuts) sub-sector. During a large participatory market mapping workshop attended by around 30 market actors, the team noticed a lot of energy and interest among a small group of traders, producers, a processing firm and the local government extension office. This group of actors were all interested in the quality of groundnuts from different perspectives. Practical Action’s team encouraged the group to meet again. Early on in the subsequent meetings the market actors decided to use the meetings as a space to share pricing information from four nearby markets. This was valuable information to share in its own right, but the transparency it encouraged in the way price was set against quality played a very important relationship-building function and uncovered opportunities for the market actors to reduce transaction costs and coordinate their operations.
With a better understanding of the pricing system, farmers actively sought out technical training to increase the quality of their groundnuts, and traders offered above-market prices to producers to encourage higher quality and long-term trading arrangements. Coordination of value addition activities such as grading, cleaning and preservation became more efficient and traders and producers worked together to forge better linkages with Government extensionists, the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institutes.
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Mapping the market: a framework for rural enterprise development policy and practice
Learning from practice: lessons on facilitating Participatory Market Mapping Workshops
Podcast: Participatory Market Mapping in Kenya’s charcoal market (PISCES Project)
PMSD guidelines - Participatory Market Mapping: detailed guidelines that outline the techniques and processes of participatory market mapping, taken from the PMSD Roadmap