Ben Simmons-Telep, GHD’19: Summer Field Project at TechnoServe

I am writing this reflection at an interesting transition point in my work. For the first 8 weeks of my internship, I was almost exclusively focused on the Women in Business (WIN) program. The program, which is still in its inception phase, is using a Market Systems Development (MSD) approach to drive growth for women-owned MSMEs in one or more of four key sectors: textiles, agro-processing, childcare services, and cross-border trade. Last week, the WIN team completed and submitted a major deliverable to the donor organization SIDA, and so with my contribution essentially over, I am transitioning my time to 2 other initiatives for the remaining 4 weeks.

During the inception phase of the program, the WIN team conducted in-depth analyses of each the 4 sectors mentioned above, and produced formal, detailed reports documenting the market dynamics, opportunities and constraints for women-owned businesses. Our diagnostic team included several local consultants from Mozambique as well as a consultant from Zimbabwe, a representative from TechnoServe’s office of strategic initiatives, a management consultant from the U.S., and a U.K. based
gender expert. The team was led by a Kenyan Market Systems Development expert who has extensive experience applying the MSD framework to projects within the Kenyan dairy and agriculture industries.

Prior to my arrival, the WIN team had completed an analysis of the textile sector and was working on the agro-processing sector. Upon my arrival in May, I was handed the responsibility of taking the lead on the childcare sector. Under the mentorship of the team leader, we put together a research plan and began to identify the information that we would need to obtain in order to complete the analysis. As I mentioned in a previous reflection, Market Systems Development is a unique approach in that it uses a
remarkably intersectional framework to assess market challenges. Practitioners study the political landscape, cultural context, gender and class dynamics, and the institutional climate in addition to the micro and macro economy in an attempt to diagnose critical market constraints. For our analysis of the childcare sector, our research questions were more or less: is their latent demand for childcare and preschool families in Mozambique? Are there key constraints, asymmetries, or deficiencies preventing this sector from growing? To what extent does sector-wide growth have the potential to generate opportunities for women-owned businesses?

Children at a childcare center in Quelimane

To answer these questions, we turned to a wide range of sources. We used publicly available economic data to establish domestic and regional benchmarks. We obtained data from the Ministry of Child, Gender, and Social Action detailed the composition of the childcare sector. We conducted key informant interviews with Ministry officials, university researchers, other NGOs, heads of professional associations, and H.R. representatives from companies that employ large numbers of women. We ran a large
stakeholder convening as well as a series of focus groups with mothers in an effort to better understand the drivers of demand as well as its price elasticity and the substitutability between alternatives to formal childcare. We studied the regulatory environment to understand the laws governing childcare delivery. We also conducted lots of field research, interviewing a large sample of childcare businesses,
collecting data on their business models and cost structures, their perception of demand, as well as Mozambican gender dynamics in business and childcare. During early July, my supervisor sent me and a colleague up to the North of Mozambique, to the provinces of Nampula and Zambezia, to conduct field research at childcare centers and meet with a number of stakeholders. It was an awesome experience to
get out of Maputo and see more of the country.

After the research phase was complete and I had produced a draft of the report, I turned my attention to co-authoring the cross-border trade report, the fourth and final sector study. Just as with the childcare analysis, we used a diverse range of sources and research methods to collect data and understand the dynamics of cross-border trade. Under the pressure of an impending deadline, the whole team worked long hours to complete the report so that we could submit it to SIDA, marking the end of the project’s inception phase. Currently, the team is waiting for feedback from SIDA in order to determine which sectors to stage an intervention in. This break in the action presents a natural transition point for me to catch my breath, nurse my sore fingertips, and prepare for my next marching orders.

Members of WIN Team with the owner of a childcare center in Quelimane

Working on the WIN program was immensely satisfying. Firstly, being a part of the inception phase for a big budget development project was a great learning experience. Secondly, I found the MSD approach to be compelling and relevant. It has also felt very rewarding to encounter concepts and topics that I learned over the past year in GHD. Now that the metaphorical smoke has cleared, I am recognizing how much I have absorbed. I can hold semi-intelligent conversations about results chains and theories of
change, can brainstorm strategies for measuring impact and can download and format World Bank data in under 5 minutes. My enthusiasm for discussing Dutch Disease with anyone who will listen is taking a toll on my popularity around the office. In the cross-border trade market assessment, my proudly crafted 2-page discussion about how capital inflows and the resulting currency appreciation could crowd out the manufacturing sector was edited down to a paragraph. “This isn’t a term paper”, I was told.

Looking ahead to the final 4 weeks, I am transitioning to two awesome projects. The first project involves developing a feasibility study to assess the viability of establishing either a local or pan-regional TechnoServe advisory board. The project came about through several conversations with the country director, Jane Grob, who has been considering adding an advisory board as part of a newly minted 10- year country strategy. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be interviewing regional TechnoServe staff, the Country and Regional directors for the South African region, as well as a number of potential board members. My deliverable will be to produce a strategy deck, some supporting tools and resources, as well as a SOW for someone to carry the project forward.

 

OLAM, a cashew processing facility in Nampula Province

The second project materialized rather fortuitously, by way of a conversation related to the advisory board initiative. After speaking with the Program Director for the ConnectCaju Program in Nampula province, he decided that he could use my support developing a strategy for forming Public-Private Partnerships to help fund an ICT tool that tracks data from small-holder farmers in the cashew value chain. This project will involve a 2-week stint in Nampula doing fieldwork and meeting with stakeholders. Now that I am on double duty, these last several weeks are promising to be busy and action-packed. But, I am thrilled to be getting such a diverse lens into TechnoServe’s work in Mozambique, I am looking forward to going out with a bang!