Learning from Private Sector Approaches to Inclusive Market Research
The private sector plays a vital role in driving economic growth, job creation, access to financial resources and inclusive product design, all of which are essential components of promoting social inclusion and advancing women’s economic security.
There is recent research that suggests donors and implementing partners need to examine how and why private sector-led strategies can scale inclusion results. Often, assumptions are made about what the private sector needs and values, which may be incorrect or not fully understood. For example, a case study on addressing ecological sustainability through private sector engagement highlights that challenges were faced when the implementing partner established the private sector engagement design without fully understanding the private sector’s perspectives on the incentive program’s activities. This gap resulted in a mismatch between market demand and the incentive program’s standards, making it challenging for the companies in the program to stay competitive in the market.
Until development practitioners can begin learning from private sector experiences and bringing them into the conversation, we won’t be able to identify win-win opportunities that have the potential to benefit businesses and transform social norms and outcomes. It is in this context that the second learning burst of Advancing Women's Empowerment (AWE's) Learning Series on advancing women’s empowerment and inclusion outcomes in agriculture and market systems program, on inclusive market research, aims to increase the understanding and value of the perspectives of the private sector, including the markets in which they operate. This learning burst highlights how inclusive market research can be used to identify and pursue aligned opportunities and collectively address complex problems that lead to more competitive, inclusive, and resilient market systems.
AWE’s conversations with a range of private sector companies suggest that conducting inclusive market research is a key tool to strengthen core business operations and increase the profitability of companies’ products and services by meeting the needs of diverse customers, with a focus on underserved market segments such as women, youth, and other groups that are traditionally excluded from market systems. We will also include examples of how the private sector has the potential to strengthen engagement of women, youth and other systemically excluded groups and increase their economic security by including them as suppliers and employees.
By considering the incentives, capacity and values of specific businesses, the private sector can effectively participate in and lead market systems that promote the inclusion of women, youth and other excluded groups and create sustained engagement by local actors. Additionally, there is a need to recognize the role and value-add of collaborating with USAID through this process. According to one private sector interview:
“USAID has played an important role in the development of our SME Program with a gender focus. Their field experience in the needs of entrepreneurs, women promoting their businesses and their alliances with chambers of commerce have been important contributions.” – Ada Matamoros, Private Banking Manager and Leader of the SME Project with a Gender Approach, Banco Lafise (on collaborating with USAID/Honduras).
In this learning burst, we will share examples from the private sector of how inclusive market research led to greater inclusion of women, youth and other traditionally excluded groups as clients, consumers, and employees, resulting in beneficial outcomes such as:
- Expanded Client Base through increased customer loyalty, identifying customer segments that had not been previously targeted and improved product offerings by creating a more tailored approach to adding value for their clients;
- Reduced Risk through diversifying markets, customers segments, product offerings or sales and distribution channels; and
- Strengthened Business Operations through the identification and remediation of the barriers women face as suppliers or employees and sensitizing companies’ own staff on why market research is key to inclusive business growth, resulting in greater internal commitment to business operations and results.
Stay tuned for more!