New Growth

ABOUT US

OUR MISSION

Vikāra Institute, formerly operating as EcoVentures International, is a non-profit, process-driven learning and technical inquiry organization accelerating inclusive development to support resilient and growing systems.

For International Development, the evolution of systems thinking has been somewhat erratic. As these pockets have evolved, a gap in the way to connect, learn and combine advocacy efforts has evolved alongside them. The Vikāra Institute has evolved, primarily as an informal network that has connected these various pockets, developing learning and sharing tools and tactics, and actively communicating about and advocating for the value of systems thinking. The Vikāra Institute is now formally organized around a combination of support services that are central to creating a more powerful attractor around how to deal with complex social challenges, including market, political, health, education, youth and environmental challenges. 

 

MEET OUR TEAM

MEMBERS OF THE BOARD

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Dumisani Nyoni

Harare, Zimbabwe

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Dr. Ted Thomas

California, USA

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Nancy Fischer

Washington D.C., USA

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Dr. Gwen el Sawi

Maryland, USA

TEAM MEMBERS

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FOUNDER, BOARD MEMBER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Cape Town, South Africa

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Michael Field

SENIOR SYSTEMS THINKING SPECIALIST

Philadelphia, PA, USA

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Caroline Allen

INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Quintana Roo, Mexico

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Suzanne Brennan

OPERATIONS DIRECTOR

Washington, D.C., USA

Sabrina Haque

Sabrina Haque

AGRICULTURAL & CONSERVATION ANALYST

London, UK / Bangladesh

Andy Hunter

MARKET SYSTEMS SPECIALIST

Melbourne, Australia

Abigail

Abigail Martuscello

PROGRAM OFFICER

Atlanta, GA, USA

Bronté McDonald

Bronté McDonald

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER
Cape Town, South Africa

Katherine Stahl

Katherine Stahl

LEARNING SUPPORT

Washington, D.C., USA

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Katende Robert

ASSOCIATE​

Kampala, Uganda

Elizabeth Dunn

Elizabeth Dunn

MONITORING, EVALUATION & LEARNING CONSULTANT

Gainesville, Florida

Jim Wallace

Jim Wallace

FINANCIAL ASSOCIATE​

Washington, D.C., USA

 
WHAT IS MARKET SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT?

Market systems development (MSD) is a relatively unexplored area in development. While it builds on market development, it addresses the capacity of a market system to absorb, adapt, or transform in the face of shocks and stresses. Within the broader economic, political, socio-cultural, and environmental systems in which they operate, markets are a means of allocating resources to solving system problems, such as those related to shocks and stresses.

Market development typically involves working within economies and societies at the level of the value chain to shape poverty alleviation and economic growth opportunities for the vulnerable, poor and disadvantaged, be these smallholders, producers, the ultra poor, or others in society. Generally speaking, beyond a focus on specific value chains, MSD activities are increasingly focused on strengthening the broader market system in which value chains operate. 

You can visit our blog for additional resources and learning on MSD. 

The main features of the market systems approach include (but are not limited to): 

  • Addressing the underlying reasons, incentives, and biases for how and why businesses, people, and networks (i.e., the systems) are operating as they are and have not adapted to develop a solution to the problems they are facing themselves. 

  • Extending beyond individual value chains to build the capacity and resilience of local systems. 

  • Considering behavior patterns, flows of information and finance, relational networks, trust and dispute patterns, and interconnectivity and patterns of influence between market systems and other social systems (i.e., political, civil society, communal friends & family, etc.). 

  • Market systems are structurally complex with many interconnections, making it difficult or impossible to isolate changes in markets from political, cultural, natural resource, and other systems or changes at the governmental level from the household level.

  • Systems thinking makes clear that the emergent patterns we see in market systems are the result of a complex and dynamic network of interactions among individuals, households, communities, value chains, other interconnected systems, and so on. These interactions include feedback loops filtered through systemic biases or mental models, which in turn shape how systems respond to stimuli, such as shocks and stresses. What this means is that the complexity of the interactions, the synergies among them, and the embedded biases of the different actors make systems different from simply an amalgamation of all the parts of the system. Thus, in the short term, individual market actors may thrive at the expense of the wider-community or market-system resilience. Conversely, actors may fail but the system could become stronger.

  • ​Understanding system biases (i.e. slow-moving variables) can be critical to achieving longer- term resilience and transformative change. Fast-moving variables should not be ignored but rather understood for what they are (i.e. while they can change quickly, they can also change back quickly without meaningful change in the system).

  • Market systems are dynamic and constantly evolving. Thus--in those contexts where the system is producing outcomes that are less than ideal for individuals, households, and communities— the objective for practitioners should be to catalyze a shift in the orientation and direction of the market system that aligns with better outcomes, including improved resilience capacities.

  • ​Facilitation needs to guide market systems in a direction that enables individuals, communities, and systems to solve their own problems and allocate resources--through market mechanisms--to better absorb, adapt, and transform in the face of shocks and stresses over the long run.

 
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS:
Market Systems, Value Chain & Entrepreneurial EcoSystems:

In our work, we aim to use systems lenses to catalyze change in value chains and entrepreneurial ecosystems leading to more competitive, inclusive and resilient market systems that can deliver more varied pathways out of poverty.

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  • NO POVERTY - End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

  • DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

  • INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

  • REDUCED INEQUALITIES - Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Agriculture, Food Security & Nutrition:  

Our work in food security and nutrition often interconnects with our work in value chain and agricultural market systems as we focus on using system lenses and thinking to leverage market forces to deliver improved outcomes in food security and nutrition. 

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  • NO POVERTY - End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

  • ZERO HUNGER - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

  • DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

  • INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

  • REDUCED INEQUALITIES - Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Health & Social Systems:

Similar to our work in food security and nutrition, we use system lenses and thinking to leverage market forces to deliver improved outcomes in health and social wellbeing.

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  • GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

  • CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

  • DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Market-led Education, Livelihood, Enterprise & Workforce Development:

Our work in market-led education, livelihood, enterprise and workforce development is interconnected with our work in market systems.  Through the application of systems thinking approaches, we leverage change in market systems that better align market forces leading to improved outcomes in education and labor market systems.

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  • NO POVERTY - End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

  • QUALITY EDUCATION - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

  • DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

  • INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

  • REDUCED INEQUALITIES - Reduce inequality within and among countries. 

  • PEACE, JUSTICES AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

  • PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
     

Climate Adaption &  Natural Resource Management:

Similar to our work in food security, nutrition, health and social systems, we use system lenses and thinking to leverage market forces to deliver improved climate adaptation and natural resource management outcomes. 

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  • AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

  • SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

  • RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

  • CLIMATE ACTION - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

  • LIFE ON LAND - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Youth, Women & Other Vulnerable Groups:

Central to our application of systems thinking and approaches is the understanding that market systems require increased inclusivity in order to be competitive and resilient.  In this regard, we also use systems lenses and frameworks to understand and lower barriers for improved access and equal rights, all leading to greater inclusivity.

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  • GENDER EQUALITY - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.