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Step 5 - Driving change through interest forums, MOGs and lead firms

Once the potential interventions have been technically assessed and prioritized, and implementation strategies developed, this next sub-step explores how facilitators can support certain groups of market actors to help deliver them effectively. These include interest forums, market opportunity groups (MOGs) and lead firms, who together can support the delivery of the interventions to achieve deep, structural changes in the selected energy system, increasing energy access for a large number of people.

  • Interest Forums +

    Interest forums are typically made up of representatives of the whole market system brought together to address certain barriers and opportunities in their selected energy system. They might focus on a single, or multiple issues, within the market chain, the supporting input, services and finance or the enabling environment, or combinations of each. Interest forums can include existing and well-established organisations, institutions and networks, such as large companies, chambers of commerce or government agencies, as well as newly created multi-stakeholder platforms, as well as working groups, market opportunity groups and lead firms. These interest forums need to come together regularly to share their progress and build synergies between them.

    Sometimes latent or hidden interest forums exist that facilitators need to pay attention to such as grassroots organisations, political parties, the police, religious groups, local radio stations, primary schools or groups of teachers. All interest forms can be potentially powerful mechanisms for influencing and driving change within the selected energy market system, so it is important for the facilitation team to assess a wide range of interest forums, from the more formal to informal.

    The facilitation team can start by identifying the value of each interest forum in terms of their influence and relevance to the group of market actors carrying out each planned intervention. This is in terms of making change easier, faster, more sustainable, more appropriate or less expensive, making sure they keen an open mind and never underestimating or writing off market actors too soon.

    Action: It is important for facilitators to assess a range of issues relating to each interest forum, using the template in Annex 6, including the level of commitment of its members, and their willingness to give time and resources to lead, coordinate and finance an intervention. The assessment of interest forums can be carried out during the participatory planning events to establish whether they are suitable to be leveraged or revitalized.

    Note: As a rough guide, if an interest forum scores less than 35 out of a possible 65, it may be worth facilitating the creation of a new interest forum, rather than trying to bring it on-board. However, this exercise is intended to promote reflection, and the facilitation team needs to use its intuition and experience regarding whether a poorly performing forum can be supported.

    Once interest forums have been assessed they can be used to support the recently designed, as well as continuing to build trust and relationship between the market actors. This can lead to side meetings, networking and the development of new business arrangements between individual actors. Interest forums can also support the widespread adoption of new business models through the networking of their members, and by communicating successful innovations.

    Note: Although facilitating interest forums to support the implementation of interventions is often a complex and messy process, it can lead to sustainable impacts in a quick and low cost way.

    The following section outlines the 5 main ways to support interest forums.

    Build their Foundations

    Whether it is better to support the revitalisation of an existing platform or to establish a new platform depends on the context. The first can achieve concrete results quicker, as they’re able to draw on existing capacity and track record instead of starting from scratch. However, either way, it is important for effective interest forums to have strong foundations, and experience has shown that the following are important in building them:

    • Nominate a dynamic and committed leader to represent them
    • Choose a location carefully so that most actors are able, and are attracted, to attend
    • Effective coordination from dedicated core forum members
    • Transparency in the way core members are selected and the forum is managed, leading to trust and a fair representation of marginalised actors and gender equality
    • Promotion of forums as having a ‘pro-poor’ focus, but also being inclusive and effective with the engagement of all levels of members, not just the marginalised
    Interaction of Members

    Experience shows that the nurturing of greater interaction between forum members is a virtuous cycle. As forum members interact with each other, they build their relationships through networking, collaboration, support and learning increasing their capacity to implement the intervention activities, leading to further engagement and interaction. Although no interest forum is free from occasional conflicts and tensions, as its members start to directly benefit from its activities they will continue to invest in and nurture it.

    It is important that facilitators help identify and communicate any successes of a forum from early on, and help manage any conflicts before they cause damage. Experience has shown the following factors are particularly important in nurturing this interaction:

    • Focus on Critical Issues: Facilitators can help the forum members identify these ‘golden opportunities’ most important to its members, thereby maximizing its member’s participation.
    • Foster a Helpful Environment: Facilitators can encourage members to help each other with individual needs, which will start to build moral and a supportive environment. Small team achievements, even on low priority issues, can help strengthen the commitment of members towards each other, building trust.
    • Shared Responsibility: From the beginning, it is important that members feel a sense of responsibility towards the forum, including sharing its costs even if they don’t contribute equally. Facilitators can help encourage a shared sense of commitment and investment from all members.
    • Organisational Buy-In: Facilitators should encourage forum members to identify themselves as part of an organisation rather than just as individuals, to foster a sense of ownership and commitment. This will lead to greater sustainability of the forum. Facilitators can support this through internal mobilisation and communication strategies.
    Management and Capacity

    Interest forum needs to be managed soundly, so its members have confidence in its management structure. Facilitators can support in the following areas:

    • Participation and Transparency in Decision-Making: Encourage wide participation of members in key decisions, including those involving the way the forum is managed. Where participation is not possible, ensure transparency with frequent communication and accessible minutes of meetings.
    • Let Participants take Responsibility: The daily operation of the forum (e.g. arranging meetings, members follow up, producing minutes, etc.) should be undertaken by the members themselves; however, facilitators often need to provide direct support early on, but making clear that the members need to take over as the forum gains momentum and credibility.
    • Help Forum Seek Market-Based Support: If the forum needs technical support, such as financial management or other management aspects, facilitators should aim to seek professional, market-based services rather than delivering it themselves wherever feasible, to ensure its sustainability.
    • Ensure Formalisation: As the forum grows it may need to seek legal or formal registration, although this depends on the local context.
    • Action Commitment Mechanisms: Being able to capture commitments made by members ‘on paper’ is a powerful mechanism to encouraging them to keep to their words, and communicate with other members if they can’t.
    Effective Communication

    How the forum communicates with different audiences has a big impact on its effectiveness, and facilitators can help the forum build their capabilities in the following types of communication:

    • Member-to-Member: Building opportunities for members to network within the forum increases trust, coordination and collaboration increasing the members’ confidence in the forum.
    • Internal Communication: communication between the forum’s secretariat and its members is one of the most challenging types of communication, but is critical to its success. It can also help the forum tap into the resources and expertise of its members, and to scale up its initiatives. The facilitator needs to monitor how this communication is happening and provide support to improve it.
    • Communication with Other Market Actors: A forum often needs to forge relationships with key market actors who are not members, for example government decision-makers, large companies and other development programmes relevant to the forum. These networks and contacts can prove critical for forums to meet their objectives, but their strategic benefit can vary greatly, from collaborative alliances to entry-points for lobbying and advocacy, so they need to be carefully communicated with as required.
    • Communication with Potential New Members: When forums first get off the ground some strategic market actors are not involved, so the forum needs to carefully communicate with potential new members to attract them to join, ideally using evidence of its progress to date (e.g. agreed action plans, implementation of activities, investments made by actors).

    Not all forums need to exist indefinitely. Some come together around a specific issue with its members choosing to close it when the issue has been addressed. Other forums continue to develop and evolve to tackle new opportunities as they arise. In either case this decision needs to be consciously made by the forum members.

    As with all facilitation activities, facilitators should keep in mind how the forums will sustain themselves after the roadmap process. If members want the forum to continue to exist, it is very important that the forum is able to manage and determine itself by the time the facilitators end their support. The following factors are particularly important:

    • Organisational Buy-In: Facilitators should encourage members to commit themselves to the forum as an organisation rather than as individuals. This is often challenging but it will contribute to greater sustainability in the event of staff turnover.
    • Strategic Thinking and Participatory Planning: Each forum needs to be able to respond and adapt to new challenges and opportunities as they arise. They must be able to strategize and manage change. Facilitators can support forums by helping them create their visions, goals and objectives, as well as supporting peer-learning to increase the participatory nature of the forums, leading to commitment and buy-in of its members and their sustainability.
    • Defining a Forum’s Unique Value: Forums are often more effective when they have a unique role to play in a market system, which others become aware of and respect, increasing their chances of attracting interest and support. Forum leaders need to clearly identify their unique value and ensure they stick to it, or evolve as required.
    • Management, Capacity and Communication: Each forum needs to be able to manage itself soundly including its communications, as well as seeking market-based support when required.
  • Market Opportunity Groups (MOGs) +

    As well as engaging with existing interest forums, facilitators also need to specifically support the marginalised market actors. They can often be effectively engaged through the continued support to the market opportunity groups (MOGs) previously discussed in Step 3 of the roadmap. Facilitators can mobilise marginalised actors within an existing MOG, or through the establishment of a new MOG if required, to tackle the major tensions and attentions identified by the marginalised actors in the participatory market mapping or planning events, in the following ways:

    • Make sure representatives from the MOGs are invited to the mapping and planning events, as well as the interest forums.
    • Support the MOG’s to effectively communicate the opportunities and challenges they face and their ideas or solutions on the interventions, to the rest of the market actors.
    • If time and resources permit, support the MOGs to carry out their own preliminary and participatory market mapping events with their own members, using all the relevant information gathered during the roadmap steps. This will allow the MOG to carry out participatory planning with their marginalised constituents including the identification and prioritisation of agreed intervention actions that they can start to mobilise their members around.
    Note: The MOG’s also need to effectively communicate these plans and ideas to the marginalised actors they represent to convey their issues and knowledge into the interest forum, to try and ensure that the marginalised actors are equitably included in the planned interventions, and on an equal footing. The MOGs also need to disseminate the knowledge and plans made within the interest forums back to their members to gain their support and mobilise action around the agreed intervention decisions.
  • Lead Firms +

    Lead firms are strategic market actors who are well connected, have a significant influence over other market actors, and are able to lead or mobilise processes of structural change within the selected energy system through their networks. They can become important enablers of energy systems through leveraging changes in the market system through the implemented actions, as well as testing and scaling up new business models in a more cost effective and sustainable way.

    If facilitated in the right way lead firms are often willing to commit finance, personnel or time towards creating positive change within the market system. A lead firm’s influence can come from not just their size (often they are not even large organisations), but also their distribution networks, political contacts, consumer and supplier loyalty, as well as their innovative nature.

    Note: Although lead firms are typically individual companies, when marginalised actors organise themselves into an effective MOG, coordinating their efforts and build economies of scale, they can become a lead firm in their own right.

    When engaging a lead firm within the participatory planning process, experience has shown that it’s important for the facilitators to carry out the following:

    • Provide lead firms with evidence of the benefits to their business from the potential changes in the market system if they engage
    • Gather this evidence first and present it to them using appropriate business-focused language
    • Provide evidence of how the current situation of inefficiency, marginalisation of producers and consumers, and low productivity has a negative impact of all market actors including the lead actors
    • Highlight how participating in the planning process will give the lead firms a competitive advantage over their competitors. This is through allowing them to build relations with other market actors, and creating opportunities to significantly increase the productivity, quality or efficiency or the system as a whole, providing a win-win for all market actors
    • If they commit, lead firms will often want to know what will be expected of them in return, including their time and any resources, so it is important for facilitators to present this as well

    Some lead firms may have some issues on confidentiality of their participation in the process, particularly if overcoming market barriers will help their competitors as well. However, these can normally be overcome by focusing on the positives of their involvement and relationships, including the trust and loyalty they’ll be building with a range of other market actors.

    There is some risk that lead firms will end up monopolising one area of the energy system, but this is likely to only be in the short term until their competitors catch up. However, it is important to remember that a stronger market system benefits all market actors, often increasing competition rather than decreasing it.

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