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Step 6 - Effective communication

Effective communication is not only essential for market systems to work well; it is what makes markets such a powerful means to empower large numbers of people and reduce poverty at scale. Communication for uptake is at the heart of roadmap process!

Market System Importance: Markets are not just important because they are embedded in everyone's lives, or because they can make people a profit. Markets are important because they connect people with ideas and resources, allowing them to create value that people, organisations and governments need or desire. Value is not just money or other financial assets, but also the social and business relationships, knowledge, services, influence and recognition that improves organisational processes and people’s lives, including their natural environment.

Knowledge Flow: The production of new ideas and solutions requires access to knowledge that has been communicated and adopted by different actors in the energy system, and can then flow through the market through effective communication channels. Generally the more functional a market system is, the better knowledge flows and is used by public and private market actors. The more inclusive a market system is, the more marginalised actors can access knowledge and take advantage of it, including women.

Appropriate Conditions: To make this happen facilitators need to help create appropriate conditions for market actors to disseminate knowledge about new value that they are creating or evidence of its impact, through the following actions:

  • Helping public and private market actors coordinate their efforts and collaborate to create pockets of value (i.e. localised creation or increase of value).
  • Creating the conditions for the value from these “pockets” to spread throughout the wider system as fast and as far as possible, and in ways that the most marginalised actors can access it and use it to improve their lives.

Roadmap Process: All the steps of the roadmap process can help inform, strengthen and enable each other, through a gradual increase and improvement in more effective and efficient communication between the actors. This is through collecting information, assessing it, and coming up with collaborative solutions. In a well-facilitated roadmap process, the market actors themselves communicate the benefits of the newly development energy system to other market actors beyond the direct reach of the project, through a range of communication types - formal or informal, quantitative or qualitative, empirical or anecdotal.

Communication Types: The facilitator needs to continually build the capacity of market actors to communicate evidence of benefits and impact to their own networks or peers, including market opportunity groups (MOGs), focus groups, local media, extension agencies, shop owners, lead firms or research organisations, and monitor how these communication processes develop. The roadmap process uses 2 main types of communication for scale-up as follows:

  • Systemic Communication: where the market actors share knowledge amongst themselves.
  • Strategic Communication: where facilitators share evidence of impact with peers and donors.

  • Systemic communication +

    A functional energy system communicates knowledge effectively by getting it to actors who need it in the right moments and at relatively low costs. In contrast, a dysfunctional system has either limited knowledge or knowledge that is too expensive or remains locked in by certain market actors and doesn't reach the rest, particularly the marginalised and women.

    Systemic communication requires the facilitators to identify the communication blockages in the system and identify what is required for relevant knowledge (e.g. prices, quality standards, the arrival of a new technology) to be regularly and effectively communicated to the actors who need it most. This information includes the access to technologies and services and how to use them, and their ability to build trusting relationships, coordinate and collaborate with other actors, including building their own self esteem to engage as rightful market actors.

    Note: getting the right information to the right market actors is half the battle, and getting the market actors to use the information is equally important, and requires effective facilitation.

    It is useful to identify knowledge as one of the critical products being produced, exchanged and consumed in the energy system, and to assess the following criteria:

    • The actors are who produce, exchange and use knowledge (e.g. consumers, government agencies, researchers, manufacturers, media, training institutes etc.).
    • The relationships, networks and spaces that enable or hamper the exchange of knowledge (e.g. business transactions, informal conversations in the local cafe, cooperatives, fairs).
    • The norms, incentives and infrastructures that enable or hamper the production, dissemination and use of knowledge (e.g. training curricula, standards, the belief that “women should not learn about certain types of businesses”, evidence that knowledge can solve real problems or lead to increased incomes, mobile phone networks).

    Action: Facilitators can complete the Template in Annex 7 to assess a number of the key or marginalized actors to understand what and how they communicate knowledge, and to identify recommendations on how to empower and engage them within the facilitation process so they can carry out systemic communication more effectively.

    The goal of facilitators is to create positive conditions for marginalised actors to interact, coordinate and collaborate with other public and private actors, adding value to the system and benefitting them and others. The process of knowledge production, sharing, use and adaptation are all critical components of this.

    Marginalised Actors: Facilitators must regularly empower, train or raise the awareness of the marginalised actors to allow them to engage better with the other actors - a form of empowerment. However, it is important to note that the more marginalised the actors, the more facilitators will have to invest in building the basic minimum level of knowledge, attitudes and skills to allow these actors to engage on a equal footing with other market actors.

    Facilitators need to leverage the many opportunities for empowerment that exist when engaging market actors. These are often not complex or difficult, such as communicating small successes and including actors in networks and groups with a shared mission. The following are some of the transferable skills and attitudes that marginalised actors can gain through the process:

    • Negotiating with other market actors
    • Pitching their products or services
    • Building trust, networks and partnerships
    • Building alliances, or other advocacy processes to influence policy-makers
    • Identifying key issues to improve the forecasting of trends and shocks
    • Identifying business opportunities
    • Detecting detect good and bad intentions of others

    Knowledge Flows: It can also be useful to identify the flows of knowledge through an energy system between the actors. This can help identify how knowledge does, or does not, flow and where the blockages might be. This can be carried out by using a knowledge market map as shown in Figure 3, with the red arrows showing the direction of the knowledge transfer.

  • Strategic communication +

    Strategic communication is used by facilitators to inform or raise the awareness of key groups of stakeholders about what is working well, or the challenges, of the roadmap process, with the three most important being other market actors, donors and peers.

    Action: Facilitators can use the template in Annex 8 to try and keep track of the different types of communication materials they need to develop on an on-going basis, as well as the methods of reaching each of them. It is useful to update this summary table at least every 6 months.

    Step 6.5.2.1 Communicating with Other Market Actors

    The main goal is to raise the awareness of the public and private market actors who have not yet been a part of the roadmap process, but should have, in particular the benefits that they could gain by participating in the process. This communication is often most important during the facilitation of market opportunity groups and interest forums. It is very common for some actors to stay totally outside or in the margins of the process before they decide to invest time and effort in it, so it is important to regularly keep them informed about benefits, results, challenges or impacts related to issues that matter to them. It is also important to select the messages carefully depending on the actor.

    The market actors who are already engaged and interested in the roadmap process are often the greatest communication asset, as experience has shown that they’re the most effective at communicating with similar market actors who are hesitant or unwilling to engage. Facilitators can support the engaged market actors to reach out to other market actors in the following ways:

    • One to one visits: such meetings can be time-consuming and expensive, so need to be focused and constructive, but getting a lead firm to reach out to another market actors can be very effective
    • Conferences or Seminars: Either organizing one or getting invited to one, they are good venues to share lessons and evidence of impact of successful innovations and can be useful networking events to attract other market actors.
    • Field Visits: Getting new market actors to visit the engaged market actors who are already doing things in new and successful ways can be very effective.
    • Knowledge Products: this includes all packaged information materials including brochures, reports, videos, podcasts etc. produced for different audiences.
    • Media: local or national media can be very useful in spreading the work about the roadmap process, including through field visit to interview key market actors and highlighting recent successes, to attract new market actors.
    Note: It is important to try and find ways to maximize the time the market actors spend with each other to allow them to interact, to get to know each other and come up with ideas to improve their system, even such as travelling together in the same vehicle!
    Step 6.5.2.2 Communicating with Donors

    The main goal is to keep those who are funding the roadmap process informed about progress and challenges and, more broadly, to inform the policies and practices of other donors to get them interested in using the roadmap process.

    As well as providing funding, donors play a critical role as makers or promoters of policies and practices that influence the work of market system facilitation, as well as learning partners and catalysts to spread the lessons and success stories more widely.

    Although formal donor reporting is typically required, it is also important for facilitators to develop relationships with donors. This includes explaining to them the complexity of the process but also the opportunities for impact at scale through a more flexible approach. Facilitators should start communicating progress more informally and regularly, including successes and challenges, and even involving the donor in the process so they become a future advocate. Attending donor events to showcase the work and providing knowledge products can also help.

    Step 6.5.2.3 Communicating with Peers

    The main goal is to share knowledge and promote collaboration and coordination with those in your team and organisation, as well as your partners and peers all over the world working on inclusive market development. It is very useful to communicate experiences of the roadmap process to communities of practice, informal peer meetings, in-person and virtual seminars (including MaFI (The Market Facilitation Initiative), M4P Hub and Business Fight Poverty). This knowledge, even informal, can contribute to scale-up and efficient use of resources of other projects through more coordination and collaboration.

    Note: Such knowledge platforms offer great opportunities to share experiences and learn from others, so it is important for facilitators to ask questions or share their challenges as others may be able to offer advice and support, while your experiences can help others. As well as virtual events, it is also useful to share knowledge in person if possible as this offers a range of other benefits.
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