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Participatory Market Systems Development


Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD) was developed by Practical Action in the early years of the twenty first century following decades of experience of working with smallholder agriculture and energy markets. It is an approach for working with markets that has been used by Practical Action programmes around the world. In 2021 PMSD was revised to take into account learning and changes to the internal and external environments. The new guidance includes a mixture of Practical Action developed tools and to avoid replication, tools developed by other organisations which fit into an overall PMSD approach. The main purpose of the toolkit is to act as a resource for Practical Action programmes but it is available freely for anyone else who wishes to use it.

Introduction to PMSD

Watch this video to learn more about PMSD and how this process can influence markets to make a positive change.

PMSD draws on four principles that can be applied to a varying degree according to context:

  • Systems thinking
  • Facilitation
  • Participation
  • Gender

Systems thinking helps teams to understand the relationships and dynamics that determine how inclusive markets actually are, ultimately enabling the root causes of market system problems to be addressed.

Facilitation ensures projects play a temporary role that encourages behaviour change and ownership amongst the individuals and institutions that determine how markets work.

Participation from a wide range of players – from businesses to marginalised groups – reshapes power dynamics and creates new types of relationships that aid the development of inclusive and resilient markets.


Gender aware strategies ensure that interventions benefit women, while gender transformative strategies tackle power relations to change the rules of the game.


Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD) is an approach that can support you to understand and influence markets to make positive changes to the lives of marginalised groups.

PMSD vs. market systems

PMSD shares many common features with the wider Market Systems Development (MSD) sector, but the key difference lies in the Participation principle.

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How to use this toolkit


This toolkit is a one-stop shop for anyone wanting to apply PMSD or learn more about it. It is designed to be used like a tool box – you can select and use whatever tool suits your context and need, rather than as a traditional linear step by step toolkit. To achieve this it offers you three different entry points from which you can get started. The entry point that is best for you to use will depend on your particular need and your level of exposure to market systems development.

The three entry points are: a Tools Directory, most suited for those with market systems expertise and who have a well defined need; a set of Use Cases – or scenarios that showcase how tools can be used from the perspective of different parts of the programme cycle; and a set of case studies and adaptations that showcase how tools can be used in different programme contexts, something that would be of use to practitioners keen to understand how to relate PMSD to their context.

Tools Directory

This tools directory gives you direct access to all of our PMSD tools and guidance in one place, allowing you to pick and choose what you need to use for your context. This is very useful for advanced practitioners who are already familiar with PMSD, have a well defined need and want to add something new to their repertoire.

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Use Cases

These show how the tools are relevant to different stages in the programme cycle; design & proposal writing, market analysis, facilitating interventions and monitoring systems change. This is particularly useful for people who are new to PMSD, or who have a very specific function or assignment to accomplish.

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Case Studies & Adaptations

These showcase the use of different combinations of tools in a variety of contexts. Users can focus on case studies relevant to them and see how the PMSD process has been applied. This is very useful for people who want to get a more practical sense of PMSD in the field, and for those who are operating in a range of contexts beyond agriculture.

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