A tale of two market systems

I recently made two purchases, of roughly equivalent value.* Firstly, I rented a small flat in Bristol for the next 12 months. Secondly, I hired a developer to create a new online platform for DevLearn’s online training courses. In both cases, I was purchasing a service – but in all other ways, the experience as a consumer was completely different. Contrasting the two is a useful illustration of the different ways in which market systems can fail. As a prospective…

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How much money and carbon does remote working save?

Since March this year, I estimate that DevLearn’s switch to remote working has saved our clients approximately three quarters of a million dollars  and 500 tons of CO2. The emissions saved equates to the annual carbon usage of 80 people in the UK, or a small village in Bangladesh. The majority of this saving has come from growth in our online training courses. Our online training course has been running since 2015, and has always been popular with individuals looking…

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Why M&E is like social work

My wife started a new job as a social worker two years ago. As a long-standing monitoring and evaluation (M&E) consultant, I was rather jealous. Like many of my colleagues, I get tired of arms-length bureaucracy, managing data about projects in another continent. The idea of working directly with service users, being able to communicate and support them, was rather appealing. I’ve learned since then, however, that M&E and social work have a lot in common. Both professions frequently fail…

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How to collect data from market actors

DevLearn has provided online training on Market System Development (MSD) to over 400 people from around the world. Each participant has different experience and expertise that we could share among ourselves to broaden our knowledge. So when one of our participants took the initiative to arrange an ongoing community for participants to share their experiences, we were excited about the opportunity.   The first DevLearn MSD webinar was conducted on the 14th of July 2020 and the topic was how…

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Gender and political leadership

A recent flurry of articles have claimed that female leaders are better at fighting coronavirus. There are many things wrong with this statement – most obviously that it’s too soon to judge – but it did get me thinking about the connection between political alignment and gender. One possible interpretation is that left-wing parties are more likely to take positive action against coronavirus, and also more likely to elect female leaders. The former is currently unprovable, but is the latter…

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How to have a good online meeting or webinar

To run a good online meeting, you need to understand why most online meetings are so terrible. The first reason is that participants get distracted. Think of the slack-jawed, bored-looking participants of a typical in-person meeting. Now allow these people to sit alone, checking their email or browsing Facebook without anyone noticing. It’s no surprise that, in most online meetings, nobody except the speaker pays any attention to what is being said. Secondly, it’s difficult and intimidating to speak online.…

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A research agenda for market systems development

How much is spent on programmes that use the market systems development (MSD) approach? A quick guess (based on the BEAM Exchange programme index), is about a billion dollars over the last five years. Enough money to raise reasonable questions about the effectiveness, value for money, and impact of the approach. The BEAM Exchange led a response to these questions, putting together an evidence map of evaluations and assessments of MSD programmes which meet quality criteria. They’ve quickly amassed a…

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Recruiting: Private Sector Development Associate

Want to join a small, enthusiastic, and flexible team working on some of the most exciting challenges in international development? Then think about joining us – read the job description below, or click here for the pdf. 1.1         Introduction DevLearn is a consulting firm specialising in international development monitoring, evaluation, implementation and communications. Our work focuses on sustainable economic growth through agriculture, urbanisation, and industrialisation. We are particularly interested in solutions derived from systems thinking and how economic growth can…

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Tendering development programmes is a waste of time

Let me reveal a secret. When I worked as a freelance consultant, about five years ago, I was regularly included on multiple bids for international development programmes, mostly as a part-time monitoring and results measurement expert. If all had been successful, I would have been be required to work considerably more than the number of working hours in a day. Here’s another secret. The same is true of every consultant. Mostly, it works out – not all bids are successful,…

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Aid Reform in the Real World

I get really frustrated by aid reform think-pieces which offer lofty suggestions for improving the aid system, while ignoring the dysfunctional, messy reality of how the system actually functions. Many of the things we complain about – ludicrous accountability requirements, inflexible projects, and a neglect of local knowledge – are not bugs but features, adopted because they satisfy the interests of aid stakeholders. Duncan Green on From Poverty To Power offered some great suggestions on how to improve aid in…

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DevLearn LLP specialises in design, monitoring, evaluation, implementation and online training for private sector development, market systems development, M4P, challenge funds, and other economic growth programmes.

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