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PMSD Toolkit

In a nutshell: Preliminary Market Mapping builds an initial picture of the key players and dynamics in a market system.

Status: Core Tool

Key principles: The main point of Preliminary Market Mapping is to draw on systems thinking to understand the complex relationships between market actors, in the form of a Market Map. All Market Mapping presents an opportunity to better understand gender by looking at where women are in the market, their relationships with other market actors and the structural constraints they face. To a lesser extent, it draws on the participation of market actors themselves in conversations and interviews to learn about their view of the market system and their plans and ideas for their own business.

Preconditions and preparation: Any available background information, secondary studies and prior experience with the market system in question.

Timeline and resources: Preliminary Market Mapping can vary greatly in the intensity and level of effort depending on the experience of the team and the needs you have. An experienced team with in-depth existing knowledge of a market could probably complete the exercise in a couple of days of intensive work (mapping and follow up consultations). Whereas for a less experience team, it may take more background research and so may stretch out for several weeks.

The first attempt at Market Mapping will expose knowledge gaps, but also help to consolidate the country team’s existing knowledge about a sector.  A large sheet of paper with movable coloured notes makes it easy to capture all ideas, and to rearrange them as the understanding becomes clearer. The basic sequence to follow is:

  • Start with the market chain, from both ends (local producers, and end-market demand at national or international level) and work inwards.
  • Consider the supporting inputs and services, by asking about each core chain actor: “What inputs, services and advice does the core market actor use or need?”.
  • Consider the enabling environment: what issues shape how the system works (e.g. policies, standards and norms)?

With an initial Market Map, the next step is to identify key actors – a crucial participatory element which is at the heart of PMSD. Additionally, interacting with some of the most influential and relevant actors will help to ground your analysis. This helps to focus on the incentives and capacities because ultimately, the individuals who own or lead key organisations and businesses, will be the ones that determine what level or scale of change is possible, and its long-term sustainability.

Field teams should make the effort to meet with a few key market actors to understand how the actors see the problems in the market system and their own interest and ability to take action to create change.


The primary output of Preliminary Market Mapping is a draft market map, and a list of key market actors, possibly with a categorisation using the Influence-Relevance matrix. Additional outputs include a set of research questions for gathering further information.

​The Market Map differentiates presents three distinct areas:

  • The core market chain: producers, consumers and all involved in the good or service along the chain.
  • The supporting inputs and services: which support the core market chain actors to perform their roles.
  • The enabling environment: the rules of the game (formal and informal) which shape how core market chain and supporting inputs and services operate.

Outcomes/behaviour changes

As a market analysis tool, Preliminary Market Mapping is not expected to generate significant behaviour change. In some cases, teams can do a preliminary mapping without directly engaging external actors, when they have significant knowledge of the market system. In other cases, where actors are engaged, the mapping may help to prompt some initial reflection by market actors, and helps the project team to align with the dynamics of the current market system. Participatory Market Mapping is a more active and involved process, which itself is an intervention.