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Participatory Market Mapping

PMSD Toolkit

In a nutshell: Participatory Market Mapping is central to PMSD. It involves organising and running a series of flexible workshops that bring market actors together to make sense of the market system and identify actions that support improved inclusivity and market growth. It is vital for the development of ownership and agency of local market actors in the market development process. It can also be designed to focus on outcomes that improve gender equity and resilience.

Status: Core Tool

Key principles: Market Mapping reflects Systems Thinking, as market actors themselves learn about their interconnections and relationships with one another. It also embodies Participation, as marginalised groups start to learn about market functioning and develop the conditions for trust with more powerful market actors. Lastly, the process of Market Mapping is one that requires good Facilitation so that market actors reach their own conclusions, collective visioning is instigated and potential conflicts are managed. It can support positive Gender outcomes by firstly, providing a platform for women to engage equally with other market actors (this can involve dedicated empowerment of marginalised women beforehand) and secondly, by facilitating analysis of gender dynamics in the market system leading to the development of actions designed to promote transformational change.

Timeline and resources: Traditionally, Participatory Market Mapping has been the central activity in a PMSD project, with substantial staff resources allocated for planning, facilitation and follow-up. Quarterly workshops are a loose guideline, but it works best when facilitators can move quickly to respond to market actors’ interests. Overall, this tool is an iterative process, following the cycle below.


A key focal point of this process is the Market Map itself. A key differentiator in PMSD compared to traditional market systems approaches is that the market map is actively shared and co-created with market actors themselves – reflecting the principles of Participation and Facilitation. It is not enough for the programme to understand the system, and rather, actors themselves should gain new insights that shift their perspective. The process also enables market actors to better understand each other and develop relationships. As a result, a participatory mapping workshop is not just about planning, it is a market systems development intervention in its own right.

Figure: Participatory Market Mapping is an iterative process

Outcomes/behaviour changes

The ideal Participatory Market Mapping process takes market actors on a journey of reflection and changing of perspective. This will differ based on context, but four key milestones to watch out for are shown below. These reflect four key changes in attitude:​

1. From an individualistic view of the market to a shared understanding of the market as a system. This is achieved as the market actors develop the Market Map together, based on a participatory visual of the market system (the Market Map).

2. From a perception of individual problems and blame to one in which it is recognised that each other’s problems are parts of the same system. This is achieved as market actors unpack problems and see how they are interconnected, ultimately affecting everyone. 

3. From many blockages and no common direction to common interests and a shared vision. Facilitation in Participatory Market Mapping aims to help market actors recognise that they have common interests in addressing the underlying problems in the market.

4. From brainstorm of ideas for solutions to clear coordinated plans of action. Participatory Market Mapping is not a talk shop. If well run, it should help market actors identify a set of coordinated actions that improve inclusivity and growth. The may be taken forward in Market Interest Groups – groups of market actors who agree to collaborate to address a specific constraint identified in the market system.

Figure: PMSD milestones